Victorian Sewage Works & Other Romantic Rendevous

I’ve posted before about the Resident Engineer’s idea of a romantic weekend – Liverpool in January last year, anyone? Our recent trip at the beginning of May, however, has had people rolling their eyes even more wildly. (They were deluded, Liverpool was great and so was the pumping station!)

So, here goes: I was treated to a visit to Crossness, a Victorian sewage pumping station on the Thames. Why? You might well ask… but of course it was in steam that Sunday and the volunteers were literally all hands to the pumps. Being at least as nerdy as the Engineer I already knew about The Great Stink of the summer of 1858 when London was overwhelmed by the combination of heat, millions of people, and effluent with nowhere to go and I knew about Joseph Bazalguette who was brought in to do something about it. What he did was to design a network of sewers and a pumping station that would empty into the Thames. Not great by our standards, but far better than just chucking a bucket out somewhere.I know I laugh at the Engineer’s hobbies though he has to put up with mine – for instance trying to find out how long/if at all it would take a few pigs to devour a complete corpse. (Always a jolly topic at tea time in our house.) However, the Victorian pumping stations that survive are the most wonderful feats of engineering and in some cases are temples to the skill and ambitions of their builders. They’re also not all for sewage!

Best I’ve seen so far is Papplewick in Northamptonshire, which is magnificent. Although it wasn’t in steam when we saw it, I was in awe of the design – an Egyptian temple with lotus flowers all done in wrought iron and painted brightly. (This is their website) Picturehttp://www.papplewickpumpingstation.co.uk/index.htm (Not sewage, this one!)

The recent visit to Crossness revealed a massive site being slowly restored by dedicated volunteers. The only downside is that the modern sewage works is right next door and it’s a bit smelly, but the upside is that it scours your sinuses clean and you walk through a nature reserve to reach the Victorian buildings.  You find yourself on the south bank of the Thames about five miles east of Woolwich, which is where we stayed for a couple of nights. If we had a few million to spare, and wanted to live in London anyway, we’d have a flat in the old Woolwich Arsenal area. That’s where we spotted these fabulous Anthony Gormley statues :

Our local pumping station at Twyford, outside Winchester, is where the Engineer volunteers on a Sunday, and is nowhere near as spectacular as the Temples to Effluvia pictured above and – in fact – has nothing to do with sewage anyway, but the site is interesting as it has a multitude of birds, fish and creatures, as well as a 2′ gauge railway once used to carry coal and chalk. It dates from 1905 but they’re working towards getting the boiler in steam and meanwhile they have regular open days which are quite fun. https://www.twyfordwaterworks.co.uk/

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This not-very-good photo is of the three tiny seascapes I sold on Bank Holiday Monday when our Art Workshop held our annual exhibition. The couple who bought them own a flat on the Isle of Wight and thought the little pictures would go well there.

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