Sir Joseph William Bazalgette, born 1819 in Enfield, is perhaps most known and recognised for the construction of London’s sewer network, in the 19th century, in response to the Great Stink of 1858 and the persistent outbreaks of cholera across the city.
The Thames, at the time, was actually a major health hazard to the population of London; an open sewer. The idea was to create a series of underground tunnels which would intercept and divert outflows along with the raw sewage that, at that point, flowed freely through the streets of London towards the Thames.
A number of pumping stations and sewage treatment works, across the capital, would also be built to channel, receive and then treat this waste. The whole network was first opened in 1865, although the project was not actually finished until almost a decade later.
Bazalgette’s vision allowed, to an extent, for the major unforeseen population increase, taking into consideration the amount of waste produced by households, giving each Londoner an allowance, determining the size of pipe needed, then doubling it.
He has famously been quoted as saying ‘we’re only going to do this once and there’s always the unforeseen’.
Known for his determination and attention to detail Bazalgette made sure he personally checked every connection to the sewage system, which is perhaps why he suffered bad health and illness soon after.
His famous engineering work can be seen throughout London today, as he didn’t spend his whole career underground:
- Albert Embankment
- Victoria Embankment
- Chelsea Embankment
- Maidstone Bridge
- Albert Bridge
- Putney Bridge
- Hammersmith Bridge
- The Woolwich Free Ferry
- Battersea Bridge
- Charing Cross Road
- Garrick Street
- Northumberland Avenue
- Shaftesbury Avenue
For more information about Bazalgette watch this dedicated episode from a recent BBC docudrama series…
London’s sewer network originates from the Victorian era. Before the system was initially installed sewage was simply discharged into the River Thames which, believe it or not, was also the main source of drinking water for the capitals residents. Evidently this regularly created wide spread outbreaks of disease and combined with ‘The Great Stink’ of 1858, lead to the government’s plan to take action.
Works started in 1859 when Joseph Bazalgette, a top engineer, was drafted in to create the London sewer network. It was initially planned, when work commenced, to serve two and a half million people, but after completion it was already serving four million. Since this time widespread work has been carried out expanding the existing system for the ever increasing population, most recently the Thames Tideway Tunnel.
London is now Europe’s most densely populated metropolis, with the greatest level of growth and some of the oldest infrastructure. Today’s network now serves over 8 million people and it’s estimated that it could easily stretch the length of the earth. Here at Hydro Cleansing we offer clients a comprehensive service, helping to ensure that our sewer network is more than capable of handling everything that is thrown at it.
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