The Architecture of Steam

Waterworks and the Victorian Sanitary Crisis

By James Douet

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Steam pumping stations are exceptional buildings, a rousing, eloquent architecture designed by engineers, and an industrial edifice intended to express civic pride.

They were invented, perfected and superseded in barely a century during the determined struggle to overcome the historic threat to urban life posed by industrialization. Of the buildings of the industrial period only train stations can compete with waterworks for stylistic bravura, carried over into the cool, tiled interiors and the sparkle and warmth of the cherished steam engine.

This first comprehensive account of a remarkable fusion of machinery and structure weaves together architectural fashions, shifting social conditions and engineering inventiveness to show why such care was taken by the communities that commissioned them and by the men who built them, and what makes us take such pleasure in them today.

British waterworks heritage is a global reference, for the historical significance of the sites themselves but also for the conservation of the many preserved waterworks, often extending to the reanimation of historic steam engines. No prior knowledge of architecture, sanitation or steam technology is required to enjoy this spirited and richly-illustrated account of a singular British building.

Key features

  • Explains for the first time why waterworks are the bravura example of Victorian industrial architecture
  • Illustrated with historic and current plans and photographs
  • A lively balance of architectural, social, and industrial history
  • Introduces the men who designed, built, and ran the Victorian steam waterworks


  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 Pre-industrial waterworks
  • Chapter 2 Industrialisation 1800-1840
  • Chapter 3 The sanitary crisis 1840-1860
  • Chapter 4 The Waterworks Style 1830-1860
  • Chapter 5 The architecture of sewage 1855-1875
  • Chapter 6 Water for everyone 1860-1880
  • Chapter 7 Pumping power and prestige 1880-1930
  • Chapter 8 Waterworks without steam 1930-1970
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Architecture of Steam

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Additional Information

  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Pages: 176
  • ISBN: 9781802077537 (Hardcover) | eISBN:9781802079272 (PDF)


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