Crossness Pumping Station
was constructed between 1859 and 1865 as part of the redevelopment of the London sewerage system. At the beginning of the 19th century, the River Thames
was heavily polluted with sewage largely as a result of the introduction of flush toilets which were discharged into local cesspits. The cesspits overflowed into the surface water sewers and the sewage was carried by local streams into the River Thames. As much of London's drinking water was extracted from the Thames, cholera and typhoid fever caused thousands to die each year from drinking contaminated water.
, Chief Engineer to the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers
, was tasked with the construction of main sewers north and south of the Thames to intercept the many existing smaller sewers which ran into the river. The new intercepting sewers carried sewage eastwards to outfalls at Beckton
in the north and Crossness
in the south. At Crossness Pumping Station, four large steam-driven pumping engines were used to pump sewage up from the Southern Outfall Sewer
into a 27 million gallon reservoir where the sewage was stored before being discharged into the Thames during ebb tide.
In December 1980 the buildings and engines were awarded Grade 1 listed
status, and in 1987 the Crossness Engines Trust
was set up to restore this outstanding example of Victorian engineering. The pumping engines are thought to be the largest remaining rotating beam engines in the world.
More information about the history and restoration of Crossness Pumping Station including visitor open days can be found here