Stinkpipes and Sewers of Cambridge
By alecjw on Monday 27 May 2013, 20:49 - Permalink
A while back, I spotted a mystery object near where I lived. Here it is below, the location is 51.772587,-0.202331: (More pictures here)
I asked around for identification and eventually a friend of mine told me it was a stinkpipe. But what is a stinkpipe? To quote Teakay, "Stinkpipes (or stenchpipes) are the overground remnants of a Victorian invention to vent stink from inefficient sewer systems so that it could skip the bit of airspace that contained people's nostrils."
Since spotting this, I've been keeping my eye out for stinkpipes elsewhere. And just recently, I've noticed a few in Cambridge. While the weather was nice today, I decided to go out stinkpipe spotting.
I started at Homerton College (my home) and noticed there were a few in the small roads just off Hills Road. The southernmost one I found was on Cavendish Avenue. Its base had no manufacturer's markings: And the top was lost in the trees, but still had its distinctive stinkpipe crown:
After these first three, I cycled around for a bit trying to find where the sewer went next. Did it cross the railway and continue along Hills Road? Maybe it took a right onto Cherry Hinton Road. I went a short way down CH road without finding any stinkpipes, so I turned around and came back. But on the way back, I found this one, sneakily hidden behind a telegraph pole so I didn't see it coming from the other direction.
A few pipes later, the clues ran out this side of the railway line beyond Cromwell Road. I'd previously seen a pipe at Jesus Green, so I figured there might be some sort of confluence there. Because of this, I hazarded a guess that the sewer might veer left and cross the railway here. Sure enough, I found another on Silverwood Close. This one was painted a different colour to the others, but also had a different marking, John Spencer Ltd, Wednesbury. A quick google reveals that John Spencer existed from 1882-1935, so that gives us some sort of date range for this sewer's construction.
After this I went back to Jesus Green to photograph a stinkpipe I'd spotted there previously. This is the only Ham Baker one I've found in Cambridge: The bottom's been repainted, but the top is still in flaking, rusty green.
I did a search of the perimeter of Jesus Green and noticed that there were
another few on the other side of the river. Further to this, I also noticed a
black pipe running across the bridge - perhaps this is a sewage pipe?
So that's just about it. I haven't listed all of the findings here, just the interesting ones, you can see all of them on this map:
View Stinkpipes of Cambridge in a larger map
East of the train line you can see there's very clearly a sewer going N-S. Whether it ducks under the train line and re-emerges on Silverwood Close or if that's a separate sewer isn't quite so clear. The trail runs a bit thin from here. There's clearly something running along Chesterton Road, and google tells me that this is the Chesterton to West Cambridge Sewer. Perhaps this crosses the river and there's some sort of confluence under Jesus Green? If anyone has any thoughts, or spots any other stinkpipes in Cambridge, let me know in the comments!
Edit 2014-04-06: Just a quick update - as you can see from the map above, I've found lots more stinkpipes since I wrote this blog post. The pipes seem to form at least 3 lines radiating outwards from the old sewage pumping works. A couple of the stinkpipes I found (nos 35 and 38 on the map) have been cut off just above the base and filled in. For #35 (Thoday Street) it seems to have quite a long shadow in google satellite view, so perhaps this is recent? The Cambridge Historian tells me that the iron railings around Parker's Piece were collected and melted down as part of the war effort, so perhaps that would explain where #38 went.