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Crossness - a Cathedral on the Marsh

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Crossness - a Cathedral on the Marsh

We have discovered some very unexpected venues while following the concerts on Continuo Connect. From medieval castles to warehouses, from beautiful pubs to Georgian family homes, and country churches tucked away in villages you might never have discovered were it not for the music… One of these hidden gems is Crossness Pumping Station in East London.

Crossness Engines

The Crossness Engines represent a unique part of Britain’s industrial heritage, an outstanding example of Victorian engineering called a ‘Cathedral on the Marsh’ by The Guardian. Built in 1865, Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s sewage treatment works was the first of its kind in the world and helped eradicate cholera in London. The pumping station was at the end of the Southern Sewage outfall, last used in 1952 and then abandoned. It is now a Grade I listed heritage site. The four giant steam-powered beam engines are surrounded by painted cast-iron columns, spiral staircases and screens ornamented with figs.

Prince Regent's Band at Crossness (credit Steve James)
Prince Regent's Band at Crossness (credit Steve James)

And if they needed any more convincing to try out this spectacular venue, lots of beautifully polished brass might have done the trick: in the summer of 2022, the Prince Regent’s Band chose Crossness as the venue for a concert entitled ‘Sound and Echo’ with a programme featuring an important collection of transcriptions of the vocal works of composers including Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn. Forming part of a three-concert tour to buildings of historic importance in different locations, this project was supported by a grant from Continuo Foundation.

Prince Regent's Band
Prince Regent's Band

Anneke Scott, horn player with the Prince Regent's Band, comments:

“It has been a goal of the Prince Regent's Band for some time to take our work out of the more normal concert venues and into more unusual, and potentially more relevant, settings. Crossness is a perfect example of this - a stunning 19th century industrial building which brought with it a very different audience to that of more traditional venues. The portability and resilience of 19th century brass instruments lend themselves to performances in a wider array of spaces, and Crossness gave us the opportunity to try out a model we hope to explore elsewhere.”

The Crossness Engines Museum may be visited throughout the year on Open Days or by Guided Tour, both of which must be booked in advance.

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