1934 – 2002 The Perry Oaks Sludge Works

The Perry Oaks Sludge Works
The Perry Oaks sludge works.

Travel in time

Backwards in time Forwards in time

One of the earliest phases of the archaeological work at T5 was the recording and interpretation of the disused sludge works at Perry Oaks. Built in the 1930’s the development of the plant is testament to the unprecedented population growth seen in the late 20th century.

When the plant was constructed in 1934 it was the equal of any of the most advanced plants found in Germany and the USA. By the time of its demolition in 2002 the plant had undergone a series of changes reflecting the development of waste treatment techniques.

The early circular concrete tanks were supplemented in 1952 with large rectangular tanks and later by a series of lagoons. The introduction of centrifuges in the late 1990’s eventually made such features redundant.
In 1965 the manual process of emptying the 72 acre drying beds was mechanised by the installation of mobile shovels and a traveling elevator.

The site also saw changes in the way that sludge was transported. In 1937 a portable 2ft gauge railway was in use on the beds. Dried sewage “cake” was, until 1940, dumped on site but the shortages during WWII created a demand for the material as an agricultural fertilizer. By the 1960s a special dried sludge storage area had been constructed. This was augmented by the installation of a conveyor system in 1965 but again both were made obsolete by the introduction of centrifuges able to discharge directly into parked trailer units.

Both the construction and operation of these works were described in detail in Institution of Civil Engineers papers 5120 and 5599.

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10 Responses to 1934 – 2002 The Perry Oaks Sludge Works

  1. Lee Sotheron says:

    I am just reviewing some pages about the history of Perry Oaks for my Dads upcoming 70th birthday. He worked there for a large part of his career and as a family, we lived there (3 Perry Oaks Drive) whcih was one of 4 houses between the Southern Perimeter Road of the airport and the Stanwell Moor Road. We lived there until the properties were acquired by the airport to build terminal 5.

    I would be reallyu interested to hear any stories or to answer any questions anyone has, it s fascinating reading about the history.

    Lee S

  2. Liz says:

    How can I ask for permission to use the aerial photo of the Perry Oak sludge works in a publication by a natural history charity that is just sent out to members, but will also be accessible online? It’s for a paper about bird watching there before the terminal was built. I’ll need the name of the person or organisation that took the photo for the acknowledgements.
    Thanks very much.

  3. Malcolm Adlam says:

    It’s amazing to hear about people that lived in this area. I was born at no, 1 Perry oaks cottages in 1947. We moved when I was four to 2 Perry oaks drive about 3km to the west (the other end of the sewage works). These were newly built houses which went with the job at the sewage works, which my dad worked for. We lived there till 1968, lovely memories.

  4. Charles Overton says:

    I lived there for about a year in 1956. I remember seeing the hares chasing each other on the airfield four at a time. My twin brother and I started school at Harmondsworth in 1956 and on 1st October, while walking home with some other children from the four ministry houses, we stopped to watch men in the misty distance on a cabbage field retrieving the wheels of an Avro Vulcan that sadly crashed after landing short on a round the world flight. Father was an air traffic control officer. not sure which number we lived in (2 or 3 not at the end). My West lived in one and Mr Appleby lived in another.
    Crawling up the bank to peer into the sludge lagoons was an eerie, fascinating and awe inspiring event for five year olds… what mother must have thought I don’t know… no fences or health and safety then.

  5. Gavin Johnson says:

    In the 70s I used to live in one of the four cottages that were located in wessex road directly behinde the sewage works but were part of Heathrow Airport. As my dad used to work for the airport he was offed one of the cottages which were known as PerryOaks Cottages.

  6. Gemma says:

    My Grandparentd lived at number 2 Perry Oaks until they had to move to make way for Terminal 5. I’m desperately trying to find some pictures to show my children what it used to be like. It was a very unique area, me and my Grandad used to go for walks and there were often port-a-cabins to explore! There was a concrete cutters round the corner I think. If anyone has any photos please share

  7. Ann says:

    I was really interested to read that you lived in Perry Oaks until 1964. I had no idea families were living there until then. It sounds very strange (and no doubt even stranger to you) that you lived where Terminal 5 now stands. I admit that I have become slightly obsessed with what Heathrow and the surrounding area was like pre airport and yours is the only first hand account I can find so far. Would love to hear more and see the photograph!

  8. Edward says:

    My family lived at number 4, for years has anyome got pictures of Perry oaks?

  9. Richard says:

    Between 1957 and 1964 I lived with my family at 1, Perry Oaks. This was one of only four MOD houses sandwiched between the sewerage works and the airport.The planes, very noisy then, went right over our houses to land.Number 4 Perry Oaks had it’s chimney knocked off by one ! I have a photo of the flower-filled front garden ,which as a child I used to play in, now Terminal Five.The airport was superb for mushrooms, I used to hop over the fence and pick some for breakfast.In 1963 we were snowed in for days, the snow right above the doors of the house.

  10. admin says:

    These images shows the T5 construction project in relation to the Treatment Works.


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