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History & Timeline

You can find a summary of Crossness’ history here.

1830
1831/32

First outbreak of Cholera

In 1831 a terrifying new epidemic arrived in London. London was a city overwhelmed by the waste products of its ever-growing population, the majority of whom lived in the squalor of overcrowded slums. Human waste piled up in courtyards and overflowed from basement cesspits into the gutters and waterways.

Over 6,500 die. Population of London approx. 1.5 million.

1842
1842

Edwin Chadwick makes a link between disease and poor living conditions

1848
1848

A Bill is passed requiring all drains and cesspits to be connected to the sewers

1849
1848/49

Cholera strikes London again. This time over 14,000 die.

1854
1853/54

A third cholera outbreak kills over 10,500.​

1858
1858

The Great Stink.

The Silent Highwayman

The hottest recorded day up to that point in history was the 16th of June, 1858, when the temperature reached 94.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade resulting in the terrible conditions that affected Parliament. This prompted the Metropolis Management Amendment to be made which allowed Joseph Bazalgette to go ahead with his intercepting sewage system.​

1859
1859

Work commences on the intercepting sewers.​

1865
1865

Starting the first engine by the Prince of Wales

Work on the southern side of the Thames is completed, the site at Crossness consisting of the beam engine house, boiler house, workshops, 208ft chimney and 25 million gallon covered reservoir begin work. The engine was started by HRH The Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, who subsequently became King Edward VII.​

1866
1866

Cholera outbreak in a part of London not covered by Bazalgette’s system.​

1868
1868

Abbey Mills pumping station on the north side of the river is completed.​

1874
1874

Sir Joseph William Bazalgette

Joseph Bazalgette is knighted by the Queen on Tuesday 12th May 1874.

1875
1875

Bazalgette’s system is completed.​

1878
1878

Princess Alice disaster.
On the 3rd of September the SS Princess Alice was making what was billed as a “Moonlight Trip” from Swan Pier, near London Bridge, downstream to Sheerness, Kent, and back. Approaching Gallions Reach the collier SS Bywell Castle  collided with the Princess Alice who was returning to from Sheerness. The Princess Alice sank within four minutes. Unfortunately the incident occurred just as the Crossness and Beckton were discharging the ra sewage into the Thames close by. Over 650 lives lost. The problem of dumping sewage into the river was subsequently addressed​.

1888
1888

THe Sludge Boat Bazalgette

After extending the reservoir to allow for settlement, the precipitation engine house (PEH) opens. Dumping of raw sewage into the river ceases and sludge vessels, also known as Bovril Boats, took the sewage out to sea. Between 1887 and 1977 seventeen boats were built including Bazalgette and Sir Joseph Bazalgette. In 1990 the practice was banned following concerns that the sewage was contaminating beaches and affecting fishing stocks.

Population of London now approx. 3.8 million.

1891
1891

Obituary of Sir Joseph Bazalgette London Illustrated News

Sir Joseph Bazalgette dies.​

1895
1895

Triple expansion engine house (TEEH) is built on the front of the 1865 building. This housed two triple expansion engines and reciprocating pumps. Installed to allow upgrades to the beam engines to be carried out.​ The 12 Cornish boilers were replaced by 10 Lancashire boilers.

1898
1898

Work commences on the Triple Expansion Engine House in preparation of upgrades to the beam engines, plunger pumps and boilers.​

1901
1901-03

Beam engine house upgrades are completed.​

1917
1916/17

Boiler house extended to house 4 additional Lancashire superheated boilers. The Centrifugal engine house (CEH) opens, fed steam by from the new boilers.​

1920
1920

The beam engines were reduced to standby status.

1947
1947

The triple expansion engines are removed from the TEEH. Replaced with diesel engines driving centrifugal pumps. By now, the beam engines are hardly used.​

1953
1953

The beam engine house, boiler house and TEEH are now redundant due to the new treatment works.​ One beam engine (Prince Consort) is steamed for the last time to help deal with flood waters.​

1958
1958

Chimney demolished.​

1980
1980

In 1980 the Engine and Boiler House was given a Grade 1 Listing, while the Fitting Shop and Valve House were given a Grade 2 Listing by English Heritage

1985
1985

On 10th September 1985 following a meeting at Bexley Council offices a working group called The Crossness Beam Engines Preservation Group (CBEPG) was set up with the aim of restoring the buildings and engines to therir 1901 condition.

1986
1986

The first public Open Day was held on 10th May 1986.

1988
1988

The Crossness Engines Trust is formed as a registered charity.​

 

1990
1990

Peter Bazalgette, the great great grandson of Sir Joseph Bazalgette joins the Trust.

1999
1999

The dumping of sewage at sea finally ends​ on 31st December.

2003
2003

Prince Consort is back in steam and is started by HRH The Prince of Wales, now Charles III, and Sir Peter Bazalgette.​ These two are the respective great great grandsons of HRH The Prince of Wales (Edward VII) and Sir Joseph Bazalgette who were at the opening of the pumping station.

2016
2016

Thanks to Heritage Lottery funding, The Great Stink Exhibition in the boiler house is opened.

Present Day

Work has continued on the buildings, grounds and countless projects around the site including a narrow gauge railway (RANG). The restoration of Victoria, the second beam engine is underway with plenty of work for all those involved. One half of the old valve house has been cleaned and repainted and now houses a collection of small engines and pumps restored by our volunteers.

The use of the buildings for corporate, filming and private hire has also given the Trust another revenue source.

We now open many times a year for public and private open days and tour