Our mission is to find, map, photograph and catalogue every stinkpipe in the Greater London area, though out of London is welcome too. Please send your stinkpipe pics here or to stinkpipes@gmail.com Twitter: @stinkpipes Holder of 6Music's Geek of the Week accolade, 1st October 2011

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Stinkpipes of St Albans / Finchley

These pics and descriptions of stinkpipes were received through our Facebook account "London Stinkpipes"

thanks to Andrew Smith, via Facebook
One of many in the Finchley area by J RODGERS of WATFORD This one on Finchley High Rd is the famous "OLD SMOKEY" which is the best preserved example of the many in Finchley.


That third one looks a bit like the one I photographed in Welling...

The History of the Stinkpipe

The Great Stink [BBC, ]
After Thomas Crapper’s groundbreaking invention around 1850, public water closets became increasingly commonplace in London. Eventually the primitive sewers of the time could not cope with the volume of faeces and it came to standstill. A great festering, stinky standstill, known from then till now as The Great Stink, which occurred during June of 1858. Faeces was backed up everywhere. There was no escape, even Parliament suffered.

New Sewage System
Two engineers were called in to solve the problem. Joseph Bazalgette was given £3m to build a sewer network that did not deposit London’s personal effluent into the Thames and he ended up spending over £20m.
Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, of Cornwall, was the other. He was asked to do something about the smell emanating from the sewers. His solution was to  attach a pipe to the sewer, strapped it up the side of Big Ben's clock tower and stood at the top with a match.
Another source relates the following: He thought he could burn off the noxious gases [sewer gas]. So he connected the main Victorian sewer to the chimney in the Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament. 

Christopher Jones in his book, 'The Great Palace of Westminster' takes up the story.

"Unfortunately the gases would not light. Next, Gurney put a coal fire at the base of the Clock Tower and tried again; this time the gases burned. One day though when Mr Joseph Bazalgette, the chief engineerat the Metropolitan Board of Works, was examining the pipe that led from the main sewer to the Clock Tower, he discovered that there was a leak from a fractured coal-gas pipe into the sewer, and only a trap-door in the sewer was stopping the coal-gas from reaching the furnace at the bottom of the Clock Tower. There had already been one small explosion, although no one was hurt and no damage done. If the full blast of coal-gas and sewer gas had reached the furnace, then the chances are that the Clock Tower would have taken off for the moon, and the rest of the Palace would have been destroyed with it. Gurney, who so nearly blew up the Palace of Westminster, died knighted and respected in his bed. Guy Fawkes, a bumbling plotter of ludicrous incompetence, died in excruciating agony on the scaffold not far away, in Old Palace Yard."
and tantalisingly, but with little detail, and no evidence:
“Not everyone realises that Britain's iconic symbol, the Westminster Clock, not only serves as national timekeeper but as a sewer ventilation chimney.”
So any further info on that would be gratefully received!

Joseph Bazalgette designed an extensive underground sewerage system that diverted waste to the Thames Estuary, downstream of the main centre of population. Six main interceptor sewers, totalling almost 100 miles (160 km) in length, were constructed between 1859 and 1865, some incorporating stretches of London's 'lost' rivers.

Sewers north of the Thames feed into the Northern Outfall Sewer, which feeds into a major treatment works at Beckton. South of the river, the Southern Outfall Sewer extends to a similar facility at Crossness.

However, while parliament and the great and the good were saved from the horrific stink, Bazalgette's work had not solved the problem entirely. 

Despite Bazalgette’s ingenuity, the system still dumped tons of raw sewage into the Thames - sometimes with unfortunate results. The death toll from the sinking of the pleasure boat Princess Alice in 1878 would certainly have been smaller if it had sunk elsewhere on the Thames. As it was, it went down close to one of the main sewage outfalls. Approximately 640 passengers died, many poisoned rather than drowned. Horror at the deaths was instrumental in the building of a series of riverside sewage treatment plants. [Science Museum]

Clearly, Gurney’s ventilation pipe principle was put into practice along much of the length of the Victorian sewers, as you can still see the pipes in place today more or less following the route of the main sewers and on many of the connecting sewers too.

"The gas is mainly hydrogen sulphide and it gives that rotten eggs smell, " said Gary Paley, of Darlington, who has been a sewerage engineer for 18 years in Yorkshire. "It usually occurs when sewage is being pumped long distances. It can become septic as it does not travel from A to B quick enough. It can also occur in flat areas where the speed of flow is slower."The gas will eat concrete if not dealt with. I remember that the sewer near the racecourse in Thirsk had been almost totally eaten by the gas and just the reinforcing bars from inside the concrete pipes were left. "

So the sewers were vented.

The pipes had to be tall so the noxious fumes escaped way above nose-level, and the Victorians were given a new canvas on which to show off their casting skills. As sewer gases can be heavier than air, it was necessary for the wind to disperse them before they could settle at ground level.

A number of manufacturers were able to build and supply the ventilation pipes, usually with ornate designs, probably massively over-engineered, and many ,many of which survive in place to the present day.

Companies such as J.Stone and co, founded in 1842 by Josiah Stone, George Preston and John Prestige. Marine, railway and general engineers, based in Deptford, London. Henry Edie and Co of Bow Foundry, in east London, established in 1843, AC Woodrow & Co; Frederick Bird & Co West Drayton near London, engineers; Ham Baker.

More about them next time.

The Northern Echo

Thursday, 31 May 2012

May Round-up

I missed posting a May round-up, but I certainly had a few items to go in it. so here they are!

an article in the Northern Echo which discusses stinkpipes up in the frozen north.

A stinkpipe here in Southwark, South London which I've known about for a while now, but have only just photographed. It's on Union Street, near where it joins the A300 road to Southwark Bridge. A fine specimen.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Email from a Lambeth stinkpipe appreciator


I have just stumbled across your blog.    As part of a pilot project in 2009, we painted a couple of the stench pipes in Lambeth.     We were then successful in getting some match funding from Thames Water and will be painting another 30 this year.

We have quite a few different types in Lambeth.  My favourites are the J Stone examples that still have their crown.

I have always been intrigued as to why there are so many different styles and have never been able to find out much about their history.

I attach a couple of lists in case you’re interested.    One was compiled provided by a man called Tony Nunn and covers the whole of London.   The other is our Lambeth one that shows the stench pipes we are painting.

Glad I am not alone in appreciating these marvellous structures!



Monday, 23 April 2012

I Am Not A Number

 This is a first. A stinkpipe with a number! See the photo below. I don't think I missed numbers on previous ones, but maybe i did.

Has anyone else seen a stinkpipe with a number on it?
embossed number 99 / 0165

A Seriously Neglected Ham Baker

What makes this discovery even more remarkable, in my opinion, is that I have been cycling past it for over three years and only today noticed it. But it is true to say that stinkpipes can remain unseen until they want to be discovered. And this one really bided its time!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

March Roundup & Update

Hello to all stinkpipe appreciators!

An unusual one to start. Here's a band in the United Sates called Stinkpipe. what a brilliant name for a band!

Nothing to with the subject at hand, mind you, so I shall continue.

And on March 25th friend of this blog, "Anomalies of Lost Street Furniture" blogged about a big old stinkpipe she found on Bellenden Road. It looks very much like a J.Stone & Co to me. all in orginal condition - more pics if you click the link above.

Source: anomalies of lost street furniture

Saturday, 25 February 2012

February Round-Up part 1

My first pick of the month is from the "Faded London" blog and was posted back in 2008. 
He takes a rather controversial view of the function of stinkpipes, without any evidence as far as I can tell, so as I have no evidence to the contrary, only hearsay, you make your own minds up.
to be honest I've a feeling it's a bit of a misnomer. After all could it really be possible that the manufacturers of London's sewage system would build in, at regular intervals, outlet pipes to waft the sickly -sweet hints of sewage across the neighbourhood? I doubt it. Actually, I believe that they were installed almost as 'safety valves' to prevent any dangerous increase in air pressure in sections of the tunnel. 
that said, I do have my own take on this. Firstly, the Victorians did not have modern standards of hygiene and had no environmental legislation to prevent smells and other nuisances. Even with nasty odours spewing out of these pipes, it would have been a big step forward from the old open sewers which had existed in living memory. Even in Dickens' times cities were very smelly places. Phil Stride, the head of London Tideway Tunnels, Thames Water, talks specifically about "odour control equipment" or lack of, in this article too.
Secondly, if there weren't noxious odours coming out of the pipes, why were they built so high. If they only spewed clean air then they could just have left holes in the ground with grating, like backward drains. No - think Faded London is quite quite wrong there...

This picture accompanied the post:

source: Faded London Blog

Stinkpipes were identified in Merton Road, and Southey Road, in Wimbledon, Lambton Road, Raynes Park, Vicarage Road, Hampton Wick and Garrat Lane, Wandsworth. 

Describing the slightly unusual pipe seen in Southey Road, Faded London goes on to say:
this unit was adapted to take an early electric light. Now very much defunct, I believe this design would date back to the early years of the last century, with the small pices of mirror reflecting the light back on the assers-by(sic) below
I like the idea that such a thing as "assers-by" exist in the leafy suburbs of Wimbeldon.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Putting Stinkpipes On the Map

Stinkpipe Map - Latest version
I was out around Chiswick, Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith this week where, it turns out, the streets are swarming with stinkpipes.

A reminder that this was the location for Steptoe & Son

A new stinkipipe design

it had its name plaque - attached but corroded

then I saw this giant

complete with a name plaque

Henry Edie & Co, The Bow Foundry

and this which I'd already seen in the south east

AC Woodrow & Co

and this

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Stinkpipe Round-up: January

I'm thinking of making this a regular monthly feature, assuming there continues to be plenty of material....

Thames Water made more than a passing reference to Victorian stinkpipes on its website

"On his way back from the Boat Race in Chiswick, the Head of London Tideway Tunnels spotted the original feature (pictured), now shrouded by a tree, close to the Hounslow/Hammersmith border.
Unlike the ones being designed to ensure that air can flow through the proposed Thames Tunnel, the Victorians’ structures did not include any odour control equipment."

I found this on here - an online photo archive
It's in North Finchley....

Horsham Avenue, N12

These surfaced on the Geograph website

a cluster of Adams Hydraulics in Ireland

In Fulham on the A3219 / Dawes Road

In Leamington Spa:

Leamington Spa

a stinkpipes in Kent discussion here

Friday, 6 January 2012

Ch ch ch changes

early Ham Baker
typical later Ham Baker
Winter is kind of off season for stinkpipe hunting, in my opinion at least. The dark evenings and the cold temperatures make tramping about on suburban streets, photographing the finer details of Victorian street furniture, a little difficult. People seem far more likely to be suspicious of that strange person photographing - what? a lamp post? after dusk? So I come to rely more on the archive material, my own, and anything I can find on the world wide web. Therefore, and in order to shoe horn in a song title by David Bowie whose birthday it is this Sunday, I am reflecting on the ch ch ch changes in the design of a stinkpipe that has evolved over the years.

Today I'm taking a look at the Ham Baker. First though, just to remind you of what a Ham Baker looks like - you see examples above, on the left and on the right.

Already you can differences, but these two are also very similar.

and here's a close up of the name plate. The one on the left is near Oval, and you've got to look pretty hard to see the legend on there. On the right is how its supposed to look, this one positioned out in the wilds of London Borough of Bexley. 

So we move on what I presume was the earlier design - with a little bit of a pattern. Nice.

and I believe this to be the oldest design, this one found in Camberwell. There is no name anywhere on this one: 

And finally - here's the design towards the bottom of the pipe here...entirely gone in the later version. cost cutting I guess.

I will try to find other examples of design changes as I collect more examples.

I would also like to assure my readers that this stinkpipe blog is still very much alive and there is a lot of work currently going on in the background to consolidate and examine the data I have already collected.

Keep on stinkpiping!!