The London Sewers

The Victorian era saw new challenges in the management and planning of the worlds first budding metropolises. As the standard of living grew and people migrated from the countryside to urban areas in search of wealth and opportunity the population in cities swelled. This posed quite a number of problems on a city whose population grew faster than it could cope.

Sanitation and sewage, though it doesn’t seem like all that big a deal nowadays with things like flush toilets and running hot water on demand, was a big problem back in the day. The disease and smell made some neighborhoods near unlivable, save for those who were completely desperate. There was, however, a lot of desperation back in the Victorian days and a lot of people lived in filthy squalor.

In London, for example, the River Thames was used as an open sewage system, and as a result a number of cholera outbreaks ooccurred in the early nineteenth century. After The Great Stink of 1858, Parliament finally decided to do something about their smelly city and resolved to create a modern sewage system. You can read more about the project and it’s fruition here.

The completed project is largely considered to be one of the seven wonders of the industrial world. To help you learn more about it, I’ve a short episode of the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World series that features the sewers. Watch, learn and enjoy!

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2 comments on “The London Sewers

  1. Luciano says:

    This was very informative-thank you for posting it! An interesting note-some historians surmise that the London sewer system was how Jack the Ripper was able to get around unseen. he could drop down a sewer hole, run down the vast array of walkable sidewalks down there, and pop up blocks away in a matter of minutes!

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