Well, here's a dramatic photograph. The location is the banks of the River Ouse at Fulford: the date, July 1895. The domed building at the centre of the photograph has an almost classical beauty: less so the chimney next to it.

This is York's 'new' pumping station which, together with the Naburn sewage works nearby, was formally opened on July 16, 1895, by the Lord Mayor of York, William McKay. Look carefully and you can see, just to the right of the chimney and partly obscured by trees, St Oswald's Church.

The late Victorian sewerage system in York was apparently laid out in the 1890s by one James Mansergh, a London consulting engineer. He designed a system of trunk sewers which led to the 'terminal pumping station' at Fulford, from where sewage was pumped to the Naburn works. Not pretty, necessarily, but the key to a huge improvement in public health in the years to follow. Thank you Mr Mansergh. The photo comes from Explore York Libraries and Archives.

Stephen Lewis