"no closer to having a drainage system"
Up until the 19th
century, London did not have a proper drainage system – the River Thames
was a great open sewer flowing through the city which wreaked havoc in terms of public health, spreading diseases such as cholera through contaminated drinking water. Waste was collected by nightsoil men (see bookmark below for page 49) and dumped in cesspits or directly into the river. The Great Stink of 1858
, when the smell of waste became unbearable in the summertime heat, prompted action to create a proper sewer system
. This was the first act of the Metropolitan Board of Works
, a forerunner of the London County Council which was put in place to modernise the city’s infrastructure. Joseph Bazalgette
, a civil engineer, designed a system featuring around 14,000 miles of main, local and interceptor sewers which ran underground and fed the waste into the Thames Estuary
, downstream of the city. Construction began in 1858 and was finished in 1865 – the original system is still in existence today, although having undergone much modernisation and expansion, and is regarded as an industrial architectural masterpiece.