The Crossness Engines

I've had a fair few people take in interest in the series of photo's I've taken of the Crossness Engines Pumping Station. I've been posting them up fairly regularly on the NAPP website and my own site but thought I'd put them here along with a bit of a potted history of the Engines themselves.


Derived from 'A Popular History of Crossness' by Ian G Hampson.)

In the early nineteenth century, London's water supply and the Thames were heavily polluted with sewage. This resulted in several cholera outbreaks during which up to 20,000 people died annually. In 1858, Parliament instructed the newly formed Metropolitan Board of Works to remedy this situation.
Joseph Bazalgette, the then Engineer of the MBW, was charged with finding a solution to these problems. He built 85 miles of new sewers which intercepted the many smaller sewers that ran into the Thames, and took the effluent to the East of London where it was discharged into the Thames and flowed out to sea. This required a number of pumping stations. The shell of the pumping station at Abbey Mills, North of the river, still exists but none of the original pumping plant remains. South of the river there was a pumping station at Deptford, which has essentially disappeared, but the station at Crossness remains relatively untouched except for the ravages of time.

The sewage was pumped up into a 27 million gallon reservoir, and was released into the Thames at high tide.The station contains the four original pumping engines, which are thought to be the largest remaining rotative beam engines in the world, with 52 ton flywheels and 47 ton beams. The engines are named: Prince Consort, Victoria, Albert Edward, and Alexandra. Prince Consort was returned to steam in 2003 and now runs on Trust Open Days. The other engines are not in working order, although work has begun on the restoration of Victoria. 
The Crossness Pumping Station was officially opened by Edward, Prince of Wales in April 1865 and the Beam Engine House is now a Grade I listed building featuring spectacular ornamental cast ironwork – it has been described as "A masterpiece of engineering – a Victorian cathedral of ironwork".The pumping station was abandoned in the 1950s, and the building and engines were left to suffer considerable vandalism and decay.

Prince Consort was thought to be the last engine to run, in 1953, and it is this engine on which the restoration activity has concentrated. After some fifteen years of effort the engine is now working again and is run on the open days organised by the Trust.