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By: BDS Drainage

History of Drainage Systems: Historical Development of Sewers in London

Drainage systems are something that we have become heavily reliant on.

Not only is it something that we have been dependant on in our everyday lives, but it is something that we have grown up with.

As soon as something goes wrong with our drainage system, we panic and half the time, don’t know the first thing we should do to solve the problem. I doubt the majority of us think twice about where the drain water goes, what happens in the toilet system when we flush the loo or where that grubby water goes when we pull the plug from the bath or sink.

It is time to open our eyes to the drainage system and to learn its fascinating history.

Read on to find out the history of drainage systems.

The First Flushing Toilet

It was in the 16th century that the flushing toilet was invented through a design made by Sir John Harrington.

However, it wasn’t until 200 years later that the patented bowl was then created.


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How Sewer Systems Started

It was during 1858 – the year of The Great Stink, where the smell of the untreated human waste reached unimaginable heights during the hot weather – that Parliament agreed to install a London sewage system despite the great expense of the project.

When was the London Sewage System Built?

The majority of London had an underground sewage system running through it in by 1866.

Who Built London Sewers?

When Parliament realised that sever action needed to take place to remove the smell of human waste, Joseph Bazalgette who was the top engineer (both a civil engineer and a chief engineer), had a meeting to discuss plans for an underground sewer.

When did Bazalgette Build the Sewers?

Bazalgette designed the London drainage system, which were then starting to be built in 1859.

Work for the London drainage was then pretty much complete in 1868.

How Long did London Sewers Take to Build?

Bazalgette and his team of engineers built a 82 mile long sewer, which ran alongside the River Thames, along with 1,100 miles of sewers that ran along the streets.

It took 318 million bricks to build the underground system for our drainage. Meanwhile, over 2.5 million cubic meters of earth was dug up in the process.

In total, the sewers cost £4.2 million and it took about eight years to build.

When was the First Sewer System Invented?

During the 19th century, the River Thames acted like an open sewer. During 1865, there were suggestions made about modernising the current sewerage system, however, due to lack of money, these ideas were put on hold.

Drainage Services Today

Today, the biggest problems we have to worry about is blocked drains and ensuring we only flush away items that have been approved for flushing.

The London sewer system has experienced many fatbergs, one of the biggest being in 2013 with the fatberg being the size of a bus blocking the sewers, built up of fat and oils being washed down the sink, along with wet wipes, condoms, food and many more items.

If you are experiencing a blocked drain, why not give BDS Drainage a call today on 07597939206 and our emergency plumbers will take care of all your clogged drain problems, providing you with professional drainage solutions.

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