Crossness Pumping Station: a Sewage Plant Fit For a King

To the casual observer, the gilded interior of London’s Crossness Pumping Station looks like an elegant throne room with a few large industrial tanks inexplicably scattered about. Despite the majesty of Crossness Pumping Station, the facility was built in the mid-1800s in order to solve an indelicate problem. In the 1800s, London experienced a mass influx of new residents who pushed the city’s antiquated infrastructure to the limit. By the 1850s, the stately River Thames overflowed with fetid raw sewage which contaminated drinking water and caused gruesome outbreaks of dysentery and cholera.

The ornate interior of Crossness Pumping Station in London.

The ornate interior of Crossness Pumping Station in London. Photo credit: Jay Peg/Flickr

In an attempt to beautify London and replace the smell of stinking sewage with the scent of blooming roses, engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette designed the state of the art Crossness Pumping Station which pumped waste out to sea swiftly and efficiently. The engineering marvel included towering archways and delicate ironwork reminiscent of Europe‘s finest castles, cathedrals, and Victorian parlors. Crossness Pumping Station even featured pumps with regal names, such as Victoria.

The interior of Crossness Pumping Station.

The interior of Crossness Pumping Station. Photo credit: David Edwards/Flickr

Crossness Pumping Station operated steadily until the 1950s. After being abandoned for several years, Crossness Pumping Station was renovated and reopened as a museum. A sewage pumping station may not sound like a desirable tourist destination that is on par with other British hot spots like Buckingham Palace or the Tower of London, but Crossness Pumping Station’s fine filigree truly rivals some of the most celebrated architecture in London.

When you’re strolling beneath the pumping station’s lofty archways, it is easy to forget that you’re touring a facility which was designed to help combat the pungent stench of raw sewage. Leave it to the Brits to construct an artful, enduring facility to combat an indiscreet problem. Crossness Pumping Station may be the only sewage plant on Earth that has been preserved and restored because it resembles a grand cathedral.

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