End of the Line for London’s Effluent

Situated 11 miles down river along the Thames Path from London Bridge is a Victorian building containing the world’s largest rotative steam engines. Crossness Pumping Station, built between 1859 and 1865,  is the end point on the south bank of the river of Joseph Bazalgette’s sewer system.

There were four engines built by James Watt & Co. named Albert Edward, Alexandra, Prince Consort and Victoria, named after the leading members of the royal family, which lifted the raw, untreated waste around 30 feet to a reservoir, from where it was released into the river during the ebb tide, in theory ensuring it was taken well out of the reach of Londoners’ nostrils.

Inside is a splendid array of intricate and brightly painted ironwork, but for now the power station is closed now due to Covid-19. Keep an eye out for when the coronavirus is duly suppressed. Crossness is usually open for guided tours on Tuesdays and for ‘steaming’ when the restored Albert Edward is fired up on one Sunday each month. The closest railway station is Abbey Wood.

For now, the exterior of the building can be seen by taking a trip along the Thames to just beyond Thamesmead when heading out of London.

Ian McDiarmid is a qualified City of London Tour Guide who delivers guided walks and private tours in London. View all of Ian’s walking tours.


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