Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Safe as Castles

Stoke Newington's former Pumping Station, no
w a climbing centre

The Alhambra of Pumping Stations: Crossness

My boon companion and I walked along the Parkland Walk, the 4.5 mile path that follows the course of an abandoned railway track in North London. From Finsbury Park we found a canal to walk alongside (though actually a river called New River, though it's not new any more – it opened in 1613) where we didn't see a soul for at least an hour, rejoined the canal after crossing over Seven Sisters Road, then eventually stumbled across Stoke Newington's castle, pictured top.

From the grand Water Treatment buildings at Hampton to the opulent Pumping Stations at Abbey Mills in East London and Crossness in South East London (pictured above), both designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and Charles Henry Driver, only the Victorians made their ancillary buildings like palaces and castles, and indeed many are now Grade I and II listed buildings.

The Victorians sure loved their bricks and took as much pride in their service buildings as their public ones, but they weren't built as mere follies. The River Thames was an open sewer in Victorian times, resulting in numerous outbreaks of cholera and culminating in The Great Stink of summer 1858, when sweltering London smelt very bad indeed and even affected the fine gentlemen in the Houses of Parliament, causing them to appoint Joseph Bazalgette chief engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works to commence work on the London sewerage system.

The sewerage system, along with its pump houses and treatment works, needed to symbolise strength, safety and health, so what better way than with these bold, beautiful buildings?

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