Abbey Pumping Station

Abbey Pumping Station, looking towards the south facing side.

Abbey Pumping Station, looking towards the south facing side.

This impressive Victorian building is a fitting tribute to the importance of the hygienic disposal of sewage. Abbey Pumping Station was designed by local architect Stockdale Harrison. The four highly decorative beam engines were built by Gimson and Co. and remain in place today. 

When the Public Health Act of 1848 came into force, Leicester Town Council was compelled to take responsibility for sewerage.  Plans were made for the cleansing of the town and for the refuse to be disposed of and used for agricultural purpose.  Sewage works were built on the banks of the River Soar and the number of main sewers was extended.  The mode of treatment of the sewage presented many problems and by 1884 the level of pollution in the River Soar below Leicester was a cause of grave concern.  In 1885 the Borough bought land in Beaumont Leys which was farmed directly by the Corporation through a farm manager.  Its essential purpose as a sewage farm, which turned sewage into fertiliser, was disguised by naming it ‘City Farms’.

Construction of the Abbey Pumping Station on Corporation Road began in 1885 and it was finally opened in 1891 to pump the sewage, by means of four huge beam engines, to the ‘City Farms’. Abbey Pumping Station is now Leicester's Museum of Science and Technology and has exhibitions on light and optics, historic transport and public health.  It is also possible to see the magnificent beam engines in action on special steam days.