Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Metropolitan Board of Works

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Preceded by the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers

1855 The sixth Commission of Sewers for London was established but still there seemed no end to the dilemma of London's waste

An Act of Parliament was passed which put an end to all Commissions by creating the Metropolitan Board of Works.

Sir John Thwaites was selected as chairman

1856 Championed by fellow engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Joseph Bazalgette was appointed chief engineer of the Board of Works, a post he retained until the Board was abolished and replaced by the London County Council in 1889.

1856 Two commissions were appointed:

  • One to enquire into the whole subject of the drainage of London; members included Captain Galton, R.E.; Mr. James Simpson, C.E.; and Mr. J. E. Blackwell, C.E.
  • The second to consider the abstract question of the possibility of utilising the sewage matter; members included Lord Portman, the chairman, a land-owner in Dorset and experimentalist with chemical manures; Mr. Ker Seymer; Mr. Brunel; Mr. Rawlinson; Professor Way, the agricultural chemist; Mr. T. B. Lawes manufacturer of manure; Dr. Southwood Smith, the sanitary reformer.

1858 - the year of the "Great Stink" - Parliament passed an enabling act, in spite of the colossal expense of the project, and Bazalgette's proposals to revolutionise London's sewerage system began to be implemented. The expectation was that enclosed sewers would eliminate the stink, and that this would then reduce the incidence of cholera.

Although Thwaites had wanted to build the Victoria Embankment as part of the project, this was delayed by the development of the Metropolitan District Railway, so he proceeded with the drainage scheme on its own.

By 1862 Brassey and Co, contractors for the Main Drainage works, were progressing with various tunnels[1]

1865 The system was opened by Edward, Prince of Wales, although the whole project was not actually completed for another ten years.

The scheme involved major pumping stations at Deptford (1864) and at Crossness (1865) on the Erith marshes, on the south side of the Thames, and at Abbey Mills (in the River Lea valley, 1868) and on the Chelsea Embankment (close to Grosvenor Bridge; 1875), north of the river.

1889 The Board was abolished and replaced by the London County Council; Bazalgette retired from the post he had held since the Board was established.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Apr 05, 1862