Next month, six of London’s magnificent sewage and water pumping stations will be opened to the public for free tours, and tickets to go to several of them will be released tomorrow (21st August).

There’s also a rare chance to stand on top of a water reservoir with views across south London.

Littleton Pumping Station (c) Thames Water

Very nicely, the tours are spread out over a couple of weeks, so it’s quite possible to visit all of them in turn for a rare glimpse behind the ornate facades at the machines that keep London’s water and sewage flowing beneath our feet.

The tours are being organised by the two open day organisers, Open House London and Heritage Open Days.

In date order…

Nunhead Reservoir

Nunhead, SE15

Friday 8th and Saturday 9th September 2023

They are opening up Nunhead Reservoir for you to come along and enjoy the fabulous views of London and surrounding areas.

Details here

Abbey Mills Pumping Station

West Ham, E15

Sat/Sun – 9th, 10th, 16th & 17th September 2023

Entry by ballot – you need to log in to your account/open an account to enter the ballot

Abbey Mills Pumping Station (Pumping Station A), which is now Grade II*, is central to the sewerage system created across London by Joseph Bazalgette in the mid-19th century. Built to lift sewage from the low-lying sewers, it collects a huge amount of the capital’s wastewater, transferring it to our northern outfall sewer and on to Beckton STW. It has a very elaborate design with many interesting features including the recently restored interior paintwork scheme.

Details here

King George V Pumping Station

Enfield, EN3

Sunday 10th September 2023

Booking is NOT needed for this one

Designed to pump water from the River Lee into the King George V reservoir, the building houses three old disused gas Humphrey pumps, and two electric pumps currently in service. The buildings in the complex were opened in 1913 and were designed by William Booth Bryan for the Metropolitan Water Board.

The pumps, the invention of H A Humphrey, dispensed with the usual pistons, flywheels etc. and were provided with their momentum by the free movement or oscillation of water between pump and tower. They are the first example of their type in the world. They were used up until the late 1960s when they were replaced by electric pumps.

Details here

Streatham Pumping Station

Lambeth, SW16

Thursday 14 September 2023

In 1894, the Streatham pumping station was built by the Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company. Mr Thompson, the freeholder, made a planning condition that the station should be of an ornamental design; it’s him we have to thank for this stunning building.

Details here

Western Pumping Station

Victoria, SW1

Friday 15th September 2023

Western Pumping Station is a key part of London’s wastewater drainage system. It was built over 150 years ago in Pimlico and was part of a radical overhaul of the sewer system by Joseph Bazalgette.

Details here

Littleton Pumping Station

Staines, Surrey, TW18

Saturday 16th September 2023

Littleton originally had four steam-powered engines built in 1924 by Worthington-Simpson of Newark-on-Trent. There is one preserved in situ while the others have all been replaced by electric motor to drive the pumps. Littleton was a state of the art plant using a high-efficiency design of steam engine and ran until 1972.

Littleton Pumping Station supplies the adjacent Queen Mary Reservoir with water from the River Thames, near Weybridge.

Details here

Walton Water Treatment Works

West Molesey, Surrey, KT12

Sunday 18th September 2023

When construction started, Walton South was the deepest reservoir ever built by the Metropolitan Water Board. Led by chief engineer Henry Cronin, the project cost around £3,050,300 in total (plus £173,000 for the land). Even with the use of innovative building techniques, which needed far fewer labourers than other projects at the time, the reservoir still took five long years to complete – and that was three months ahead of schedule! Queen Elizabeth II finally unveiled it to the public on 30 March 1962.

Details here

And regularly open to the public are:

Crossness Engines

London Museum of Water and Steam

Kempton Steam Museum

Markfield Beam Museum


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