How London got its Victorian sewers

The Five Billion Pound Super Sewer is a documentary series describing a major upgrade to London’s sewer network. But how did the existing system come into existence?

Inside a London sewer — sub-urban.com under Creative Commons BY-ND 4.0 license

1858 — A city in crisis

A cast iron section of tunnel retrofitted to carry the Fleet Sewer across the Metropolitan Railway — sub-urban.com under Creative Commons BY-ND 4.0 license

Why were they so desperate?

London’s water supply problem

Cholera arrives

Death rows on the polluted River Thames in a cartoon from Punch Magazine (1858) — Copyright free: Public domain
A cartoon of the imagined content of a drop of London water by Punch magazine (1850) — Copyright free: Public domain

Would the Houses of Parliament have to be abandoned?

The Houses of Parliament, that were being completed in 1858, could hardly be closer to the Thames — Copyright: Robert Everett (Used with permission)

Joseph Bazalgette reviews the options

The ‘Great Stink’ forces action

Bazalgette’s engineering masterpiece

A map of Bazalgette’s 1858 scheme
The restored interior of the pumping station at Crossness — sarahtarno under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
A memorial to Sir Joseph Bazalgette on Victoria Embankment, London — Steven Vacher under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license

But you’re still dumping all the sewage in the Thames!

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