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London, England

The Cathedral of Sewage

This elaborate Byzantine-style building was designed for a not-so-pretty purpose. 

Built in the 1860s, the former Abbey Mills pumping station is a pretty fancy design for pumping sewage.

Designed by engineer Joseph Bazalgette, Edmund Cooper, and architect Charles Driver, the imposing pumping station has been nicknamed “The Cathedral of Sewage”, and while no longer in action, is considered a building of “Special Architectural or Historic Interest.” 

When the sewers of London began to overflow, the pumping house was built to alleviate the pressure by raising the waste up between two Low Level Sewers and Northern Outfall Sewer. Despite its grandiosity, it no longer can contain the flow, and is no longer the main artery of London’s sewer system. There is a new, much less decorated facility next door—but the “cathedral” is still armed with electric pumps, just in case. 

You can explore the semi-abandoned pumping station by booking a tour with Thames Water.