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Joseph Bazalgette; construction of the sewers

60 second histories

This video covers:  The work on the sewers, one of the biggest civil engineering projects ever undertaken at the time.

By the time I was finally given the go-ahead, thirty thousand Londoners had died from cholera and thousands more were dying around the country from cholera outbreaks. Over the next sixteen years we were to construct eighty-two miles of main sewers, one thousand one hundred miles of street sewers together with four pumping stations and two treatment works. Looking to the future I calculated the size and diameter of the tunnels needed to take the waste of every citizen and then I doubled it. To avoid digging up half of London I proposed we build huge embankments along the river Thames that would contain the massive sewer pipes needed for the job. These low-level pipes were to take contaminated water from existing sewer pipes and divert it to the treatment works and away to the tidal River Thames. The Observer described it as “The most extensive and wonderful work of modern times”. My design was such that the tunnels were built of brick in the shape of an upside down egg, this was so they would be able to stand the weight of the city above.
Medicine & Health
Victorian Reformers
Key people
Victorian Reformers
Medicine & health
Joseph Bazalgette
Key words: 
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