Sewers are a triumph of Victorian engineering.
Until the new sewer system
was built, raw sewerage went directly into the Thames which was also used for
As a result cholera was rife, and one of the worst epidemics
killed over 10,000 Londoners in 1853.
Drastic action was needed following
the 'Great Stink' of 1858 when the smell was so bad that the problem reached crisis
The government called in top engineer, Joseph Bazalgette, to create
an underground complex of sewers.
He and his team built 82 miles of intercepting
sewers parallel to the River Thames, and 1,100 miles of street sewers at a cost
of £4.2 million.
Work started on this ambitious enterprise in 1859
and was virtually complete by 1868, a major achievement for its time.
drove himself to the limits in realising his subterranean dream.
was made harder by having to work alongside the developing underground railway
system and emerging above ground railway systems.
Bazalgette used 318 million
bricks to create the underground system and dug up more than 2.5 million cubic
metres of earth.
Originally built to serve two and a half million people,
the sewers were already serving four million by their completion.
tunnelling under the West End, Bazalgette reclaimed land by the Thames to create
the Victoria Embankment.
Today the extended system serves a population of
eight million and is essential to the smooth-running of London.