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River Thames, Cross Ness lighthouse - - 574923.jpg
Cross Ness lighthouse, built 1895 by Trinity House, now operated by the Port of London Authority.
Crossness is located in Greater London
Location within Greater London
London borough
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Dialling code020
EU ParliamentLondon
London Assembly
List of places
51°30′30″N 0°08′18″E / 51.508288°N 0.138295°E / 51.508288; 0.138295Coordinates: 51°30′30″N 0°08′18″E / 51.508288°N 0.138295°E / 51.508288; 0.138295

Crossness is a location in the London Borough of Bexley, close to the southern bank of the River Thames, to the east of Thamesmead, west of Belvedere and north-west of Erith. The place takes its name from Cross Ness, a specific promontory on the southern bank of the River Thames. In maritime terms, the tip of Cross Ness, in the past referred to as 'Leather Bottle Point', marks the boundary between Barking Reach and Halfway Reach. An unmanned lighthouse on Crossness is a navigational aid to shipping.

Crossness is the location of a large sewage treatment works and the Victorian Crossness Pumping Station, built at the eastern end of the Southern Outfall Sewer as part of the London sewerage system designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and constructed between 1859 and 1865.

Crossness lighthouse is a steel lattice structure. The light is at an elevation of 41 feet (12.5 m) and gives a white 5-second flash visible for 8 miles (12.9 km).[1]

Crossness Nature Reserve is east of the sewage works.

The Ridgeway path, owned by Thames Water and built on top of the southern outfall sewer, stretches between Plumstead railway station and the Crossness sewage treatment works.

The Thames Path Extension - from the Thames Barrier to Crayford Ness - runs along the southern bank of the river through Crossness.[2]

Crossness sewage works[edit]

The sewage treatment works at Crossness (TQ487805) is located at the eastern end of the Southern Outfall Sewer. As originally conceived the works comprised reservoirs covering 2.6 hectares designed to retain six hours’ flow of sewage. No sewage treatment was provided and the sewage was discharged untreated into the River Thames on the ebb tide.[3] Following the Princess Alice disaster in 1878 a Royal Commission was appointed in 1882 to examine Metropolitan Sewage Disposal. It recommended that a precipitation process should be deployed to separate solids from the liquid and that the solids should be burned, applied to land or dumped at sea. A precipitation works using lime and iron sulphate was installed at Crossness in 1888–91.[4] Sludge was disposed of in the Barrow Deep and later in the Black Deep in the outer Thames estuary.[5]

Work began in the early 1960s to install a modern treatment plant capable of treating 450,000 cubic metres per day of sewage. The cost of the works was £9 million at 1963 prices. The plant comprised storm tanks, detritus channels, primary sedimentation, mechanical aeration, final sedimentation and sludge digestion.[6]

Treatment tanks at Crossness sewage treatment works, 1964
Service No. Type
Storm tanks Rectangular
Primary sedimentation tanks 16 Rectangular
Aeration tanks Mechanical aeration, 348 Rectangular
Final sedimentation tanks 32 Circular
Primary sludge digestion tanks 16 Circular
Secondary sludge digestion tanks 12 Circular

The treated effluent outfall from the plant is into the River Thames at the eastern end of the works. Following the 1964 upgrade the works at Crossness began to produce a nitrifying effluent whereupon sulphide disappeared from the tideway; an excess of nitrate provided a safeguard against sulphide formation in the river.[6] The practice of dumping sewage sludge at sea was banned in 1998. In that year a sludge incineration plant was commissioned. This provides 6 MW of power for use at the treatment works.[7]

In 2010–14 the Crossness works were upgraded to treat 44 per cent more sewage to reduce storm sewage flowing into the Thames during heavy rainfall. The works cost £220m (2010 prices). The upgrade involved the installation of new renewable energy sources including a 2.3 MW wind turbine and thermal hydrolysis plant, an advanced digestion plant and an odour control treatment system. The project enabled the plant to treat 13 cubic metres per second of sewage and incorporated new inlet works, primary settlement tanks, secondary biological treatment implementing the activated sludge process and final settlement tanks. It also included the installation of associated sludge thickening and odour treatment facilities. The hydrolysis plant burns combustible sludge flakes created after waste water treatment to 160°C, this produces 50 per cent more biogas prior to the anaerobic digestion process. The biogas is used to generate renewable energy. The project included the installation of eight new primary settlement tanks where sewage is collected to remove primary sludge passing through two 1.2 km-long culverts of 2 m diameter. Sewage passes through a pair of new aeration lanes into twelve final settlement tanks of 40 m diameter. The activated sludge plant includes six aeration lanes of 69 m with total volume of 86,000 cubic metres and a treatment capacity of 564,000 cubic metres per day. It includes anoxic zone mixers, a fine bubble diffused aeration system and five centrifugal blowers giving an air flow of up to 21,000 cubic metres per hour. Additional sludge storage and thickening facilities store the additional sludge. The five raw sludge gravity belt thickeners have a capacity of 6,055 cubic metres per day each[8].

See also[edit]

Crossness Pumping Station

Southern Outfall Sewer

Northern Outfall Sewer

Beckton Sewage Treatment Works

Mogden Sewage Treatment Works

Riverside Sewage Treatment Works, Rainham


  1. ^ "London river lights". Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  2. ^ Clapham, Phoebe (2012). Thames Path in London. London: Aurum Press. pp. 136–51. ISBN 978 1 84513 706 9.
  3. ^ Wood, Leslie B (1982). The Restoration of the Tidal Thames. Bristol: Adam Hilger. p. 34.
  4. ^ Wood, Leslie B (1982). The Restoration of the Tidal Thames. Bristol: Adam Hilger. p. 42.
  5. ^ Wood, Leslie B (1982). The Restoration of the Tidal Thames. Bristol: Adam Hilger. p. 62.
  6. ^ a b Wood, Leslie B (1982). The Restoration of the Tidal Thames. Bristol: Adam Hilger. pp. 105–07.
  7. ^ "Crossness sludge incineration plant". Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  8. ^ "Crossness upgrades 2010-14". Retrieved 1 April 2019.