History & Timeline
You can find a summary of Crossness’ history here.
You can find a summary of Crossness’ history here.
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.
Edwin Chadwick makes a link between disease and poor living conditions
A Bill is passed requiring all drains and cesspits to be connected to the sewers
Cholera strikes London again. This time over 14,000 die.
A third cholera outbreak kills over 10,500.
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.
Work commences on the intercepting sewers.
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.
Cholera outbreak in a part of London not covered by Bazalgette’s system.
Abbey Mills pumping station on the north side of the river is completed.
Joseph Bazalgette is knighted by the Queen on Tuesday 12th May 1874.
Bazalgette’s system is completed.
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.
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.
Sir Joseph Bazalgette dies.
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.
Work commences on the Triple Expansion Engine House in preparation of upgrades to the beam engines, plunger pumps and boilers.
Beam engine house upgrades are completed.
Boiler house extended to house 4 additional Lancashire superheated boilers. The Centrifugal engine house (CEH) opens, fed steam by from the new boilers.
The beam engines were reduced to standby status.
The triple expansion engines are removed from the TEEH. Replaced with diesel engines driving centrifugal pumps. By now, the beam engines are hardly used.
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.
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
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.
The first public Open Day was held on 10th May 1986.
The Crossness Engines Trust is formed as a registered charity.
Peter Bazalgette, the great great grandson of Sir Joseph Bazalgette joins the Trust.
The dumping of sewage at sea finally ends on 31st December.
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.
Thanks to Heritage Lottery funding, The Great Stink Exhibition in the boiler house is opened.
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