Power Behind London's Victorian Sewers To Get A Makeover

By David Prudames | 02 December 2005
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Shows a photo of the exterior of Crossness Pumping Station, a series of brick 19th century buildings.

Crossness is a site of major importance in terms of engineering, the environment and sanitation history. Courtesy Crossness Engines Trust.

The pumping power behind London’s Victorian sewers looks set to be restored after the Heritage Lottery Fund announced it was earmarking a £1.4 million grant towards it.

Located on Erith Marshes in Bexley, Crossness Pumping Station was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette as part of a solution to cholera and typhoid outbreaks that crippled London in the 19th century.

The Crossness Engines Trust will now receive a £99,000 grant from the HLF to develop more detailed plans in the hope of winning an earmrked total of £1.4 million.

"The Trust’s volunteers have already restored one of the magnificent engines," said Peter Bazalgette, chairman of Crossness Engines Trust.

"Now they are a concrete step closer to realising their dream – the creation of an exhibition and steam centre at the heart of the community that will become the Thames Gateway."

Built in 1858, London’s sewer system comprised of 85 miles of sewers across the city. The pumping station at Bexley was hailed at the time as an engineering triumph, incorporating as it did the four largest rotary beam engines in the world.

In its current condition it is hard to reach for visitors and is deteriorating. However, with help from the HLF, the trust plans to rejuvenate and open it up to the local community to tell the story of a revolutionary drainage system that largely solved London’s health problems.

Shows a photo of the interior of Crossness Pumping Station, which is filled with a large amount of impressive and intricate, painted ironwork.

Crossness also contains stunning 19th century interior ironwork. Courtesy Crossness Engines Trust.

Plans are in place to restore the Boiler House, Beam Engine House and Triple Expansion Engine House (all Grade 1 listed), as well as creating new facilities including a café, car park, lecture room and library.

The website will be revamped and an exhibition exploring the social history of the site created to encourage visitors to celebrate the engineering heritage on their doorstep.

Much of the day to day running of the station will be done by volunteers, leading a range of activities for visitors, while a part time education officer will be appointed to get the local community involved.

"Bazalgette’s sewage system had an enormous impact on the health of Londoners and quality of the environment, and the proposed scheme will open up its history to as many people as possible," added Sue Bowers, HLF manager in London.

"The buildings at the Pumping Station are nationally important, and the regeneration of the site will be another milestone in the wider development and sustainability of the Thames Gateway."

The pumping station is currently only open to the public for 30 days a year, but once restored will open three days a week, spring to autumn, and two days a week in winter.

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