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The Greenway
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The Greenway  
The Greenway was created as a linear footpath and cycleway along the top of the Northern Outfall Sewer Embankment, which was built between 1860-65 by Joseph Bazalgette for the Metropolitan Commissioners for Sewers at a cost of 164,000. By the 1850s the Thames in central London was effectively an open sewer since sewage drained directly into the Thames. The 'Great Stink' of 1855 caused Parliament and the Law Courts to seriously consider moving away from the river and the curtains on river-fronting windows in the Houses of Parliament were soaked in calcium chloride against the stench. The Metropolitan Board of Works was set up in 1855, with the construction of a sewage system as its primary task.

Joseph Bazalgette, who worked for the Metropolitan Commissioners for Sewers and later became chief engineer for the Metropolitan Board of Works, was responsible for the Northern Outfall Sewer which took sewage from all over London to Beckton, and for building the Abbey Mills Pumping Station designed to lift lower level sewage into the Outfall and which housed 8 steam-driven beam engines. Nicknamed 'the Cathedral of Sewage', the Pumping Station's two chimneys were demolished in World War II in order to prevent their use as bomber landmarks.

It was called Abbey Mills Pumping Station because it was close to the former site of Stratford Langthorne Abbey founded in 1135. The Abbey had a mill which had previously been known as Wiggen Mill. Wiggen Mill was the earliest tidal mill in West Ham which in the early 12th century had been given to Barking Abbey by Queen Maud as part of her payment for the upkeep of Bow and Channelsea Bridges. It was later bought by the Stratford Abbey, in whose ownership it remained until the Dissolution. Mainly used for corn milling, the mill was rebuilt in 1768 and then in the 1860s but was burnt down during World War II and most of the ruin was removed in 1967. The old Abbey Mills Pumping Station and the new pumping station are both visible from The Greenway. There are various landmarks of historic interest at points along the length of the Greenway as well as views across Newham. The northern end is near Old Ford Lock which marks a river crossing or ford over the river Lea dating from Roman times; there is now a nature reserve here. Between Stratford High Street and Manor Road, near Abbey Mills, the Greenwich Meridian crosses the Greenway, marked by a coloured gravel design of moons and planets. Near here at Abbey Creek is sited a piece of redundant pumping station machinery nicknamed 'The Snail'. Further south, the Greenway passes Memorial Grounds and the adjacent East London Cemetery; it passes St Andrew's church near Barking Road, and also runs close St Mary Magdalene churchyard, now East Ham Nature Reserve. A small Roman cemetery was discovered during the construction of the Northern Outfall Sewer in 1863, where judging by the coffins it appears wealthy Romans were buried.

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