After five years in London I’ve done most of the obvious tourist hotspots. I’m always on the lookout for quirky and interesting things to do in this city so I was intrigued when I first heard about Crossness Pumping Station.
The Crossness Pumping Station was built by Sir Joseph Bazalgette in 1865. At the time, London’s water supply and the Thames were heavily polluted with sewage. Bazalgette was put in charge of finding a solution to this problem. He built sewers on both sides of the river which carried the sewage to East London, where it would be discharged into the Thames and carried out to sea.
This new system required a number of pumping stations, with Crossness being one of them. It was decommissioned in the 1950s and fell into disrepair. The Crossness Engines Trust was formed in 1987 to oversee the restoration and they host open days throughout the year so members of the public can visit.
I’ve always found Victorian architecture to be so impressive, and even the pumping stations were no exception. Crossness has been referred to as “a Victorian cathedral of ironwork” and it’s not hard to see why.
Crossness has four large steam driven pumps which were used to transport the sewage into a reservoir. Each engine was named after a member of the royal family – Victoria, Albert Edward, Prince Consort and Alexandra. Prince Consort was the last steam engine to run and has been the primary focus of the restoration activity. It was steaming when I visited, so although it is no longer pumping sewage you could see how the machinery worked back in the day.
- Crossness Pumping Station is located in Abbey Wood, South East London.
- The next open days are 15th October and 29th October. Check their website for more details and a full list of dates. Entry costs £8 but you can get your ticket stamped so you can come back and visit for free for a year.
- Abbey Wood station station is a 10 minute drive / 30 minute walk away but they will often operate a shuttle service to and from the station on open days. If you have your own transport there is on-site parking available.