There are many architectures on the face of this planet that deserve to be on the list of wonders. Surprisingly, they are not. What’s more disappointing is that these marvels have been buried under the sands of time. The list of forgotten gems includes the Cistern Chapel. The Crossness Pumping Station is truly a gem. The industrial design hails from the Victorian era and is worth a visit. Cistern Chapel played a key role in driving out cholera from London. The revolutionary engineering would leave you in awe, as has been the case of everyone who has set their eyes on it. The purpose was unglamorous. But a small glimpse of the architecture would make you wonder why the structure has till now, been overlooked.
It Was Built To Relieve Londoners From The Foul Smell Of Thames River
The Crossness Pumping Station was built to relieve the people of London from The Great Stink. The Thames, the lifeline of London, became the pit for the disposal of liquid waste and sewage. The foul smell of the river and its disease-ridden water made the life of Londoners a living hell. The city was suffering from the sweltering of the 1858 summer and added to that, the overwhelming stench made things miserable.
There seemed to be no way out until Joseph Bazalgette, a civic engineer, built the Cistern Chapel to take the city out of this disaster, after a bill was passed to bring the Thames back to its pure form in just over two weeks. That’s still a record in itself. It was an emergency and Bazalgette had to answer the call.
The Sewage System Helped In Eliminating Waterborne Diseases
Bazalgette had a plan. He wanted to take the sewage far away from the city and therefore, chose the Erith marshes for dumping. Being a remote location, that was the eventual choice for him. During high tide, the waste was pumped into the river, which was then transported to the sea. Aside from carrying the waste away from the city, Bazalgette’s sewage system was successful in eliminating the waterborne diseases, especially cholera, that have been plaguing London for quite some time.
100 years down the line, orders were given to dismantle the pumping station. But rumor has it that none could take apart the massive engines. They were 80 feet tall and weighed around 250 tonnes. Dismantling them was practically impossible. The structure’s historic significance and industrial architecture, straight from the Victorian era, won the Cistern Chapel a Grade I status in the year 1970. The money that was kept aside to demolish the engines was later offered to the Crossness Engines Trust for restoration.
It’s An Engineering Marvel
The south London municipal building is a testimony to the brilliant work done by Bazalgette. The architect’s cutting-edge design – the dog-toothed brickwork exterior and the Romanesque interior will sweep you off your feet. The intricate ironwork is colorful. There are fig leaves designed on the top of the columns that are vermillion red in color. The stone carvings are one of a kind. There is a Bazalgette effigy as well. Once you step in, the decorative elements would certainly mesmerize you.
The stone benches have elaborate tilework all around and are covered with potted plants. A lot has been lost as well. The Cistern Chapel was known to have an amazingly designed chimney that was demolished back in the 50s decade of the 20th century. The mansard roof of the main building was removed in the 30s decade. There was also a turret clock that faced the Thames. That’s missing too.
London’s Aristocrats Visited It Quite Often
When the sewage plant was inaugurated in the year 1865, there were a lot of footfalls from the Victorian aristocracy. 300 MPs, 17 lords, as well as the Archbishops of York and Canterbury were present to grace the occasion. All of them were bowled out by the progressive design. No doubt, Bazalgette had poured all his love into creating this masterpiece. The four beam engines were named after the members of the British royal family.
The solution Bazalgette came up with is still a dominant structure in London’s cityscape. It’s a tangible memorial that would live on probably for another century. Bazalgette has always remained an unsung hero. The Crossness Pumping Station is a specimen of his brilliance and would keep him alive in every Londoner’s heart forever.