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Abbey Mills Pumping Station Grounds Newham

Abbey Mills Pumping Station Grounds

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Abbey Mills Pumping Station was built in 1865-8 and was originally surrounded by formal, landscaped gardens. Named for its proximity to the former site of Stratford Langthorne Abbey, the pumping station was built to lift lower level sewage into the Northern Outfall Sewer that took sewage from all over London to Beckton. An extravagantly ornamented building it was nicknamed 'the Cathedral of Sewage'. Its 2 Moorish-style chimneys were demolished in WWII for fear they would be used as bomber landmarks; they had been unused since steam power had been replaced by electric motors in 1933. The new pumping station to the south was built in 1994-7, since when the old Pumping Station has been used as standby, for example in times of storm.
Previous / Other name:
Site location: Abbey Lane
Postcode: E15 2RW
Type of site: Institutional Grounds 
Date(s): 1865-68
Listed structures: LBII*: Abbey Mills Pumping Station. LBII: Abbey Mills Stores Building, Offices (former Superintendent's House), Gate Lodge, Gate and Gate piers at entrance, Bases of former Chimney Stacks, Ancillary Pump House, Nos 116-30 Abbey Lane (4 pairs of semi-detached houses), C Station with associated Valve House
Borough: Newham
Site ownership: Thames Water
Site management: Thames Water
Open to public? By appointment only
Opening times: The historic part of the site has opened for London Open House.
Special conditions:
Public transport: London Overground/Rail/DLR/Tube (Central, Jubilee): Stratford then bus. DLR: Pudding Mill Lane
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/02/2006
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Fuller information:

Land at Millmeads was acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works for sanitary purposes in c.1860, prior to which it was used in part by the London Omnibus Company for grazing their horses. The earliest development of the site took place in 1865-8 when Abbey Mills Pumping Station was built as Station A, designed by architect Charles Driver under Joseph Bazalgette, chief engineer for the Metropolitan Board of Works, who was responsible for the Northern Outfall Sewer that took sewage from all over London to Beckton. In common with other early sites owned by the water industry, the buildings had landscaped grounds, with trees and grass planted, and flower borders laid out, and immaculately maintained. The Superintendent at Abbey Mills also had a garden. In recent years the grounds have received less attention although in 2006 the grass was being cut several times a year, leaves collected and trees pollarded as required. The Pumping Station was designed to lift lower level sewage into the Outfall and housed 8 steam-driven beam engines; it still houses pumps as standby for the new aluminium-clad pumping station, Station F, which was built by Thames Water to the south in 1994-7. The new facility was designed by architects Allies and Morrison and the surrounding area has been landscaped with shrubs and trees. The old Abbey Mills Pumping Station and the new pumping station are both visible from The Greenway (q.v.). The remaining part of Thames Water's landholding here is now occupied in part by allotments, with part now a nature reserve.

Stratford Langthorne Abbey was founded in 1135, within whose precincts was an Abbey Mill which had previously been known as Wiggen Mill. Wiggen Mill was the earliest tidal mill in West Ham and in the early C12th had been given to Barking Abbey (q.v.) by Queen Maud as part of an endowment for the upkeep of Bow and Channelsea Bridges. It was later bought by the Stratford Abbey, in whose ownership it remained until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the C16th. Mainly used for corn milling, the mill was rebuilt in 1768 and again in the 1860s but was burnt down during WWIIII and most of the ruin was removed in 1967.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry, Charles O'Brien, Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 5: East', (Yale University Press, 2005 ed); Lower Lea Project leaflets; John Archer/Ian Yarham, Nature Conservation in Newham, London Ecology Unit, 1991; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Information from Archivist at Abbey Mills Pumping Station, 2006.
Grid ref: TQ387833
Size in hectares:
On EH National Register : No
EH grade :
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
On Local List:
In Conservation Area: Yes
Conservation Area name: Three Mills
Tree Preservation Order: No
Nature Conservation Area: No
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation: Green Space

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