The Extraordinary Tale of… |

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The Extraordinary Tale of…

How sewage and smells led to Joseph Bazalgette’s ground-breaking reforms


The Thames had been home to the capital’s waste for centuries, so imagine how bad the smell must have got for the government to act

What do you get if you mix an industrialised capital city struggling with antiquated drainage, a river clogged by sewage and effluence dumped by a population on the rise, and an atypically hot and dry summer that could cook the tons of waste into a putrid stench? "The people of London found out in 1858 – and they dubbed it the ‘Great Stink’.

"The reek of the River "ames – described as a “pestiferous and typhus breeding abomination” – became so bad that it forced the suspension of Parliament. With the centre of the British Empire unable to function, something had to be done, leading to longawaited, ground-breaking and life-saving reforms, from which Londoners still benefit today.

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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

August 2016 issue of History Revealed.