Two Norwich engineering marvels that saved lives feature on The Victorian Society’s Top Ten Endangered Buildings list 2023

Trowse Sewage Pumping Stations in Bracondale in Norfolk is on The Victorian Society’s Top Ten Endangered buildings list 2023. The pair of rare Grade II listed Victorian sewage pumping stations from 1869 and 1909, designed by Alfred Morant, need significant investment to restore and reuse them if they are to survive.

Photo credit: Sam Barker @skyscout_ on Instagram 18/06/2023

Griff Rhys Jones, The Victorian Society President said: “These are truly exciting buildings. Pumping stations show the very best of Victorian practicality and simplicity of design and these are no exception. What great spaces they are. They need imagination and flair. This part of Norwich is a conservation area and its municipal buildings, the local pub and other structures all form an indelible part of its social history.”

Victorian Norwich had problems we would recognise today – the dumping of sewage into local rivers. In 1865, residents with riverside properties petitioned the Corporation urging it to take action to stop the pollution, threatening legal action. The Board of Health approached Joseph Bazalgette, the renowned engineer who had created central London’s sewer system. Bazalgette’s report in October 1865 proposed two intercepting sewers to dispose of the waste. The Corporation procrastinated due to the cost, before proceeding with their own engineer’s plan, that looked remarkably similar to Bazalgette’s. Trowse Pumping Station opened in 1869.

Unusually at this site just outside central Norwich the entire original complex of sewage pumping stations, boiler houses, workshops, smithy, and a terrace of workers’ houses all survived. It has an unusual combination of two listed engine houses remaining from two technological generations – the 1869 engine house built by the Norwich City Corporation, and its 1909 replacement.

The 1869 engine house’s stylish Italianate design reflects the high value placed on its important municipal function of dealing with sewage. The 1909 steam engine house is in a Free Renaissance style. Despite the loss of its machinery, the building has a complete exterior along with its internal layout.

The site was purchased from the Council in 2003 by a developer and was last used as a furniture workshop but is now derelict. If the developer cannot bring forward sensitive plans to re-use this historic site we urge them to sell to someone who will.

The full Top Ten list can be read here and includes an earl’s mansion that became a hostel for the homeless, a church where the congregation can’t hold services, two engineering marvels that saved lives through improving sanitation, and a club where newly enfranchised voters could meet. The Society have also included Liverpool Street Station and the former Great Eastern Hotel in London on the 2023 list of Endangered Buildings.

The list is based on public nominations from across England and Wales, and the buildings selected represent industrial, religious, domestic, and civic architecture from across the nation with unique historical and community significance and value. Nominated buildings must be dated between 1837 and 1914. The Victorian Society has announced its Top Ten Endangered List thirteen times.

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