Jane B (knally) wrote,
Jane B

The Great Stink

I recently had a letter from Wateraid announcing it was the International Year of Sanitation. One of the examples they gave about sanitation was that is was exactly 150 years ago in 1858 that London was in the grip of the Great Stink, caused by the Thames basically being an open sewer. Since the Houses of Parliament face onto the river, MPs were greatly encouraged to extend the powers of the Metropolitan Board of Works so it could build the sewers that were so badly needed.

In a surprising coincidence the book I've just been reading is The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis by Stephen Halliday. Bazalgette did an amazingly good job in designing and building the sewers, planning enough capacity that they're still in use today. He was also responsible for the Embankments, and several London bridges that are still standing. I feel slightly embarrassed that I knew nothing about him before, and on my recent trip to London did actually take the time to find the memorial to him on the Embankment.


The preface to the book points out that before the sewers nearly half of the babies born in British towns didn't reach their fifth birthday. The blurb on the Wateraid site gives a figure of 1.8 million children dying each year before their fifth birthday from diarrhoea. Pumps, bogs, drains and sewers may not be the most glamourous of items, but what a difference they can make to life.

  • Lots of loans!

    I just made my 250th loan with Kiva.

  • Kiva Women Farmers

    Last month, Hilary Clinton wrote a piece in the Guardian which had the following paragraph near the beginning: Consider the world's typical small…

  • 8 Kiva gift certifcates available

    Available in the week before Christmas - 25 dollar Kiva gift certificates to the first eight people who contact me. Anyone who follows my…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.