Manhole Cover of London Drains

A Brief History of London’s Drain Systems

London’s drainage system as we see it today is incredibly different from what it once was. A key part of the water infrastructure that serves the vast majority of Greater London and is operated by Thames Water, the sewage system was once the cause of disease and destruction as human waste was unloaded directly into the river.

Before it was redesigned by respected architect Joseph Balzagette, in the early 19th Century it resulted in 1000s of people across the capital contracting diseases such as cholera as the River Thames acted as an open sewer. An event also known as the Great Stink, the hot weather exacerbated the smell of human waste throughout the city, making it an unbearable place to live – no matter what class you were of.

The contamination of the water alongside proposals made in the early 1700s were some of the reasons as to why the need for it to be redesigned became so prevalent. It was, however, delayed until the influential Metropolitan Board of Works was created in 1856 due to the costs associated with the construction. The costs and proposals to modernise the drainage system, weren’t, however, agreed by parliament until after the horrific Great Stink of 1858.

As gravity resulted in the sewage flowing towards the east, located such as Deptford, Abbey Mills and Chelsea required an additional installation. Pumping stations were created to help provide sufficient flow and to raise water levels.

The Impact of Joseph Bazalgette

As mentioned above, Joseph Bazalegette was an architect who helped to redesign the London drainage system. But he was also the chief engineer in the Metropolitan Board of Works in the mid to late 19th Century and had an incredibly significant impact on the design and effect of the drainage system. Directly improving its appearance, as well as resulting in an improvement in the health of London’s residents, his actions are an important part of London’s history.

Joseph Bazalgette was elected as chief engineer, supervising public works in an extraordinary way across the city. By 1866, London’s drainage system was transformed to include a series of connected sewer networks which was devised by Bazalgette himself. Diverting the water from the underground rivers and sewers to low-level sewers built behind the embankments, before the waste ended up in the Thames Estuary, it was an incredible and drastic change that was much overdue.

In 1870, the Victoria and Albert Embankments were opened. These were designed to replace the Thames shore which was once only tidal mud with the reclaimed and supportive ground. Protecting the low-level sewers, underground railway and service subway, it was a welcome addition that kickstarted an array of other embankments being built – such as the Chelsea Embankment which was completed four years later.

London’s Drain System Today

We no longer have to worry as much about drainage as we once did. The chance of an event such as the Great Stink is, most likely, a thing of the past which won’t happen again. Throughout the 20th Century, major improvements to the drainage system continued to occur which in turn reduced the pollution that began to occur in the North Sea and the Thames Estuary.

Proposals for projects such as the Thames Tideway Scheme is underway to increase the capacity of London’s sewage system. As the population grows, as does the need for improvements to the structure. And this development is just one of the steps needed to keep up with the demand for an efficient and fully-functional sewerage system in the capital.

Now something that we take for granted, it is fascinating to discover the history of the drainage system and how it has transformed over the years thanks to innovative minds such as Joseph Bazalgette.

Blocked Drains London 

Even though blocked drains might not seem as big of a worry in the present day, it is something that still occurs. At Quick Clear Drainage we work on fixing any blocked drain issues that occur throughout the city. Experts in drainage London, we have years of experience with London drains and understand the need to effectively fix the issue as quickly as possible.

As soon as you notice a drainage issue, whether it is within your business or home, get in contact with us and we will be on hand to help. If you have a blocked toilet or sink, we are your first port of call every time. Using our expertise and state-of-the-art technology, we offer a high-quality service that’s affordable and efficient. A trusted company that puts our customers first, we have an array of glowing reviews on Google.

Want to find out more about the drainage services we offer? Give us a call today on 0203 633 3897 or by email on info@quickcleardrainage.co.uk.

Photo by Frank Albrecht on Unsplash.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *