1902 Encyclopedia > London > Sanitary Regulations - Early Regulations; Commission of Sewers; Metropolitan Board; Thames Conservancy; Street Sanitation; Cemeteries

(Part 13)


Early Sanitary Regulations. Commission of Sewers. Metropolitan Board. Thames Conservancy. Street Sanitation. Cemeteries.

Until 1531 no provision was made for the construction of underground main sewers, notwithstanding that in 1290 the exhalations from the Fleet overcame the incense burnt at the altars in the neighboring churches, and that in 1307 the river, on account of the accumulation of filth, had become inaccessible for ships. The Act of Henry III in 1531, which provided for the appointment of a commission of ewers, was renewed in 1548 by Edward VI., and extended in its application by James I. in 1607; and subsequently separate commissions were granted as the population extended to other districts. The most important work of the old commission of sewers was the bridging over of the Fleet in 1637. In 1841 this sewer, which drained an area of over 400 acres, was widened at a cost of about 47,000 pounds, and at its mouth an iron culvert was provided which carried its discharge into the middle of the Thames. Other main sewers were constructed, but the bridging of them over was carried out slowly and in a very imperfect manner. In early times the nuisances were carried away by the scavengers and the sewage received into wells, which when full were pumped into the kennels of the streets. Until 1848 the discharge of house sewage into the main drainage was forbidden, and the construction of cesspools enforced, the majority of which were unprovided with overflow drains, but after 1810 there was considerable improvement in connection with the introduction of better arrangement for a supply of water. Under the auspices of the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers, created by the Act of 1848, a more satisfactory system of local drainage was enforced; but its action in regard to the main sewage discharge was so dilatory that the pressure of public opinion led to the Metropolitan Local Management Act of 1855 providing for the creation of the Metropolitan Board of Works, in which was vested the care of the main sewers, and to which was entrusted the construction of works for their discharge at a distance from London regarded as sufficient to prevent the pollution of the river. Works were commenced in 1859, and completed in 1865 at a cost of 4,607,000 pounds, providing three lines of intercepting sewers on the north side of the river, which convey the discharge 11 miles below London Bridge, and two lines on the south side, which convey their discharge 4 miles farther down. These works comprise 80 miles of main intercepting sewers, in addition to four pumping stations to raise the sewage from the lower levels. The total length of the main street sewers entrusted to the board was about 165 miles, one-fifth of which consisted of offensive open sewers, while many of the others were of most defective design or out of repair. The total cost of repairing these sewers, and connecting them with the new main drainage system, was estimated at 800,000 pounds, and works to the value of 750,000 pounds have been executed. The sum expended on main drainage and main sewers up to 31st December 1881 was 5,684,470 pounds. The opinion seems to be increasing that the present method of getting rid of the sewage of London is radically wrong, and undoubtedly the sewage discharge may reach proportions which may absolutely demand a new supplemental scheme. For the four years ending 1878 the average daily sewage discharge was 122 _ millions of galloons, in 1878 it was 15 _ millions, and it is now estimated at 180 millions.

The conservancy of the Thames was in 1857 transferred from the corporation to a body of twelve, nominated by various authorities, and presided over by the lord mayor; and in 1867 the conservancy of the upper reaches from Staines to Cricklade was vested in a board of which the conservators of the lower reaches formed the majority. Under the auspices of these two boards not only has the navigation of the river been very much improved, but very stringent care has been exercised to prevent its unnecessary pollution. In 1868 the Lea was also placed under the control of a conservancy board. The expenses of the boards are defrayed by tonnage dues, tolls, pier dues, fines, and licences, and contributions from the canal and water companies.

The sanitary condition of the streets and houses is under the care of vestries and district boards, but great variety exists in regard to the efficiency with which the work is performed.

An Act passed in 1845 provides for the prohibition of interment in any of the cemeteries within the metropolitan area by order in council, and forbids the construction of new burial grounds within 2 miles of the metropolis except on the approval of the secretary of state. The power of constructing cemeteries for their several districts is granted to the vestries, who may borrow money for this purpose from the Public Works Loan Commissioners, and are required to appoint a board for their management. The commissioners of sewers for the City of London are the burial board for the City parishes. The secretary of state has the power to issue regulations in regard to the construction of cemeteries and the arrangements connected with interment. Among the more important suburban cemeteries are Kensal Green (in which many eminent persons have been interred), Brompton, Hampstead, Highgate, Abney Park, Nunhead, and Norwood.

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