Abbey Wood pumping station aiming for prosperous future

11:40 13 August 2012

Crossness Pumping Station

Crossness Pumping Station


How much do we know about our local history? Almost 150 years of it is on your doorstep at Abbey Wood’s Crossness Pumping Station and it is the jewel in the crown of the Industrial Revolution

Oiling is Ray FlemingCrossness Oiling is Ray Fleming

The steam-powered Victorian water pumping station sits by the side of The Thames in Belvedere Road borne from the idea of civil engineer Joseph Bazalgette in 1865.

Due to open next year is the Great Stink exhibition. The title refers to the summer of 1858, when a hot summer and polluted Thames convinced Mr Bazalgette that the river needed cleaner water.

It will feature a display cabinet of artefacts and interactive screens which can be modified and updated over the next few years.

Project manager Simon Hodges, one of the volunteers keeping the historical site running, said: “It’s important that places like this are treasured. I live in Abbey Wood and was born and grew up in Plumstead so the local history is very important. We can learn things for how we live today.”

Crossness volunteer Simon HodgesCrossness volunteer Simon Hodges

But £1m of Heritage Lottery funding earmarked for the exhibition showing a key part of the history of the site has been put on hold because there is no satisfactory access road. Visitors have to enter the site via Thamesmead Golf Course.

It is an unwelcome disruption but Thames Water has agreed to pay for the road and has assured Crossness there will not be complications. However it could mean the exhibition is delayed.

Mr Hodges is praying it’s only a hurdle and if the funding does go ahead there are prospects for the station to bring employment to the area.

“The money might necessitate employing a couple of full-time members of staff and the station will need a site manager,” he explains.

The point of the pumping station was to scoop sewage from the Thames and pump it into the outgoing tide. Alongside opening on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, it holds about half a dozen steaming days a year so visitors can get a feel for the pumping station in action.

In addition, an education pod was built in 2011. The Victorian age plays a key part in school history curriculums and Crossness gives children the chance to experience it first hand.

Once opened, the paid-for exhibition will bring in much needed revenue for the pumping station. But first there are surveys, consultations and planning applications to be submitted.

Mr Hodges remains optimistic that the Heritage Lottery funding will come through to give Crossness a new lease of life for future generations.

“The lottery funding will help us develop and turn into a fully-fledged museum. Hardly anything has been preserved from the Industrial Revolution and we need to keep this going,” he says.

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