Abbey Mills Pumping Station

History of Abbey Mills Pumping Station

Abbey Mills Pumping Station, in Stratford, East London, is a sewage pumping station, designed by engineer Joseph Bazalgette, Edmund Cooper, and architect Charles Driver. It was built between 1865 and 1868, housing eight beam engines by Rothwell & Co. of Bolton. Two engines on each arm of a cruciform plan, with an elaborate Byzantine style, described as The Cathedral of Sewage. The pumps raised the sewage in the London sewerage system between the two Low Level Sewers and the Northern Outfall Sewer, which was built in the 1860s to carry the increasing amount of sewage produced in London away from the centre of the city.

Two Moorish styled chimneys – unused since steam power had been replaced by electric motors in 1933 – were demolished in 1941, as it was feared that a bomb strike from German bombs might topple them on to the pumping station.The building still houses electric pumps – to be used in reserve for the new facility next door. The main building is grade II* listed and there are many grade II-listed ancillary buildings, including the stumps of the demolished chimneys.

Our Visit

Having seen photos of this place for quite some time it had remained pretty high on my to-do list but I’d never managed to take a look inside. Permission visits are few and far between and according to the staff that spoke with us, only a couple of people had managed the tour the unofficial way (although I think they may be underestimating that). This pump house acts now more as an overflow facility that is still regularly engaged, however, it does not operate permanently. Internally the station has been modified in its operations but most of the original machinery and controllers remain on the site and have been incorporated into the newer modern controls. The ceilings and the level of the detail on both the exterior walls and the interior fixtures were stunning, my only regret is that we didn’t have more time to see some of the auxiliary buildings. Huge thanks to Andy of Behind Closed Doors for sorting out the access for the trip it was a belter! Well worth the wait!


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