Abbey Mills Pumping Station

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Abbey Mills Pumping Station
Abbey Mill Pumping station.JPG
Abbey Mills Pumping Station is located in Greater London
Abbey Mills Pumping Station
Location within London
Alternative names "The Cathedral of Sewage"
General information
Status in use
Type pumping station
Architectural style Italian Gothic
Address Abbey Lane
Town or city London
Country England
Coordinates 51°31′51″N 0°00′03″W / 51.5307°N 0.000835°W / 51.5307; -0.000835
Construction started 1865
Completed 1868
Design and construction
Architect Charles Driver, Edmund Cooper
Engineer Joseph Bazalgette
Listed Building – Grade II*
Designated 6 November 1974
Reference no. 1190476

The original Abbey Mills Pumping Station, in Abbey Lane, London, is a sewage pumping station, designed by engineer Joseph Bazalgette, Edmund Cooper, and architect Charles Driver. It was built between 1865 and 1868, housing eight beam engines by Rothwell & Co. of Bolton. Two engines on each arm of a cruciform plan, with an elaborate Byzantine style, described as The Cathedral of Sewage.[1] Another of Bazalgette's designs, Crossness Pumping Station, is located south of the River Thames at Crossness, at the end of the Southern Outfall Sewer. A modern pumping station (F Station) was completed in 1997[2] about 200m south of the original station.


The pumping station was built at the site of an earlier watermill owned by the former Stratford Langthorne Abbey, from which it gained its name. It was first recorded as Wiggemulne in 1312, i.e., "the mill of a man called Wicga", an Old English personal name, and subsequently became associated with the abbey.[3] The Abbey lay between the Channelsea River and Marsh Lane (Manor Road). It was dissolved in 1538. By 1840, the North Woolwich railway ran through the site, and it began to be used to establish factories, and ultimately the sewage pumping stations.[4]


The pumps raised the sewage in the London sewerage system between the two Low Level Sewers and the Northern Outfall Sewer, which was built in the 1860s to carry the increasing amount of sewage produced in London away from the centre of the city.

Two Moorish styled chimneys – unused since steam power had been replaced by electric motors in 1933 – were demolished in 1941, as it was feared that a bomb strike from German bombs might topple them on to the pumping station.

The building still houses electric pumps – to be used in reserve for the new facility next door.

The main building is grade II* listed and there are many grade II-listed ancillary buildings, including the stumps of the demolished chimneys.

Modern pumping station[edit]

The modern pumping station (F Station) was designed by architects Allies and Morrison. The old building (A Station) has electrical pumps for use as a standby; the modern station is one of the three principal London pumping stations dealing with foul water.

One of the world's largest installation of drum screens to treat sewage was constructed as part of the Thames Tideway Scheme. The site is managed and operated by Thames Water.

Lee Tunnel[edit]

Thames Water are boring a sewage tunnel from Abbey Mills to Beckton Sewage Works to handle the 16 million tons of overflow sewage that is discharged into the River Lea each year.[5] Construction is expected to be completed in December 2015, and the tunnel boring machine's name, 'Busy Lizzie', was chosen via a competition open to local school children.

As a film location[edit]

B Station represented Arkham Asylum in the 2005 film Batman Begins.[6][7] and was also used as the location for the "Cosy Prisons" video shoot by Norwegian pop band a-ha on 4 March 2006.[8]

In 2007, the second show in season 1 of Derren Brown's Trick or Treat series was partially filmed at the site in which two of three paintings were cut with a knife as part of a trick.

The disused and stripped out C Station was used in the 2008 film, Franklyn.

The C Station was used in Series 2 Episode 4 of the TV series Primeval.

In 2009, the station was used by British rock band Coldplay as a set for the music video to their song "Lovers In Japan".[9]



  1. ^ McConnell, Sara (4 January 2006). "An Olympic walk in East London". The Times. Retrieved 11 February 2011. of London's most startling sites – Abbey Mills Pumping Station with its red and green Moorish domes. Built in 1863 as part of London's then new sewage system, it was nicknamed the Cathedral of Sewage.  
  2. ^ "ABBEY MILLS PUMPING STATION - Allies and Morrison". Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  3. ^ Mills, A.D. (2010). A Dictionary of London Place-Names. Oxford University Press. p. 1. ISBN 9780199566785. 
  4. ^ West Ham: Stratford Abbey, A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973), pp. 112–14. Retrieved 20 February 2007
  5. ^ "Lee Tunnel – London Tideway Improvements". Thames Water. 19 July 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  6. ^ Claudia Kalindjian (2005). Batman Begins: The Official Movie Guide. Time Warner International. pp. 144–45. ISBN 1-932273-44-1. 
  7. ^ "Photo of Abbey Mills Pumping Station as Arkham Asylum Laboratory in Batman Begins — Movie Maps". Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  8. ^ "'Cosy Prisons' video London!". News. Official a-ha website. 5 March 2006. Archived from the original on 29 October 2006. Retrieved 22 February 2007. 
  9. ^ Tifosi (31 August 2012). "Coldplay's Oracle tackles questions on the Lovers In Japan video, birthday boy Phil Harvey, MX style/wardrobe and more... - Coldplay Community". Retrieved 9 October 2015. 

External links[edit]