Who Was Joseph Bazalgette?

In the mid 19th century, London’s River Thames had become an open sewer. Since the growth of the Victorian city was largely unplanned; the introduction of factories coincided with new homes to house workers – leading to human waste being disregarded in cesspools and sewers that dispersed into the river.

The sweltering summer of 1858, served politicians a pungent wakeup call to the epidemic of cholera that gripped the capital. “The Great Stink” that seeped into the nostrils of the country’s MPs was an avatar for the thousands dead; a desperate plea for help. No longer could parliament ignore the city’s turmoil; thus they turned to Civil Engineer, Joseph William Bazalgette for a solution.

The Sewer King

Born in Einfeld, London, 1819 at a time when urban life expectancy resided at a mere 35 – Bazalgette began his career as a railway engineer, gaining considerable experience in land drainage and reclamation. The Metropolis Management Act of 1855 sought to improve conditions in the chaotic city and elected Bazalgette as chief engineer.

It wasn’t until the putrid July-August of 1858 that the government was urged to propel the newly formed Metropolitan Board of Works to reinvigorate the roads and sewers. Immediately, Joseph Bazalgette’s ideas deviated from the small glazed pipes proposed by previous engineers. He instead pushed for a labyrinth of large brick-built sewer tunnels – providing longevity to his design; creating a system set to accommodate Londoners for centuries to come.

Overthrowing King Cholera

Costing £6.5 million; the scheme is the biggest civil engineering project on the planet, and over the next 16 years; most of the city is connected to a sewer network consisting of 82 miles of intercepting sewers and 1100 miles of street sewers. With four steam-powered pump stations and two-treatment works that expel the water into the Thames Estuary at high tide – Bazalgette’s system is a true marvel of engineering.

Despite this incredible contribution to the health of Londoners – Joseph Bazalgette’s name is one that is somewhat lost to history. For the man that dethroned ‘King Cholera’ from the Victorian streets – monuments to the engineer’s achievements are sparse; however, one could argue that the true mausoleum to the legacy of this British pioneer, resides beneath us. A 150-year-old entanglement of tunnels that, to this day, are still functional.

In The Pipeline

Even though Bazalgette’s construction was highly innovative; the ageing pipes struggle to handle the amount of fats, oils and greases (FOG) that modern Londoners flush into the network. One could argue the Victorian system isn’t to blame for the ‘fatberg’ phenomenon; they were constructed with anticipation of future population expansion, but to predict the contemporary “throw-away society” – particularly its immeasurable scale – would have been impossible a century and a half ago.

Thus the responsibility falls upon us; let’s honour the achievements of our ancestors and the brilliance of Joseph William Bazalgette, simply by watching what we flush! eco WMT are at the forefront of the country’s battle against fatbergs; harnessing the power of bacteria, our eco-friendly product is able to digest FOG. By removing the ‘glue’ intrinsic to the formation of these underground monstrosities; we’re able to keep our fantastic Victorian sewers ‘fatberg’ free!

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