Thursday, 24 November 2011

Dirty work below Crossness

A recent article in the Crossness Record newsletter describes the last days of the ‘sludge ships’which ran from the south London sewage works until 1999.

This was the second part of a story the first half of which appeared in 2009 and which described how the ‘sludge fleet’ developed under the London County Council and its history until the mid-1950s. It told how the Victorian Metropolitan Boardof Works decided how to the sludge left over from sewage treatment process should be disposed of – they took it down river into the estuary and dumped in the Barrow Deep.

The vessels they used – were a fine sight – and kept up to standards expected of a major public authority. The original boats –described in the first article were steam powered but they were followed by a generation which was diesel powered and of larger capacity - 2,000 tons instead of 1,500.  The old original vessel, suitably named "Bazalgette", was scrapped in 1934 after 46 years in service.

A new "Bazalgette" was launched in 1963 and was the first of the diesel powered boats. It remained in service until 1985 when it was sold to an Irish buyer.  Crossness Record says that this new "Bazalgette", “heralded the arrival of the modem fleet of sludge vessels”.
Sir Joseph Rawlinson post collison

The GreaterLondon Council was formed and took over the functions of the London County Council in 1964 and a new vessel "Sir Joseph Rawlinson" was brought into service. The name is that of the then chairman of the Fire Brigade and Main Drainage Committee. Sadly, a year later, it was in a collision and sank. The boat was raised but the cost of repair was prohibitive and a new vessel was ordered.

Two vessels were already under construction by the Caledon Shipbuilding & EngineeringCompany of Dundee and a thus a third was added. The three vessels were the "Bexley", in service 1965, "Newham" in service 1966 and "Hounslow” in service 1968. They were diesels of 2,300 ton capacity.  In 1977 a fourth vessel was added to the fleet- "Thames" in 1977. By then ThamesWater had taken over the responsibility for sewage disposal. “Thames” was built by Ferguson Bros, of Paisley and was 2,700 tons.

By the late 1990 with changing ideas on sewage disposal the sludge vessels were no longer needed and gradually the remaining vessels were scrapped or sold to new owners."Newham" was sold in 1990, "Thames" ended service in 1998, "Bexley"went to India in December 1999 and "Hounslow" ended the service in 1999.

Crossness Record doesn’t say so – but the sludgeboats did a dirty job while maintaining high standards of public service –and they were something to be proud of  - real proper boats.

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