The Great Stink

29 Dec, 2022 620 Engineering

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the stench from the River Thames in the hot summer of 1858 and how it appalled and terrified Londoners living and working beside it, including those in the new Houses of Parliament which were still under construction. There had been an outbreak of cholera a few years before in which tens of thousands had died, and a popular theory held that foul smells were linked to diseases. The source of the problem was that London’s sewage, once carted off to fertilise fields had recently, thanks to the modern flushing systems, started to flow into the river and, thanks to the ebb and flow of the tides, was staying there and warming in the summer sun. The engineer Joseph Bazalgette was given the task to build huge new sewers to intercept the waste, a vast network, so changing the look of London and helping ensure there were no further cholera outbreaks from contaminated water.

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  • Rosemary Ashton 10 episodes
    Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College London
  • Stephen Halliday No other episodes
    Author of 'The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis'
  • Paul Dobraszczyk No other episodes
    Lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London

Reading list

  • London Under
    Peter Ackroyd (Chatto & Windus, 2011) Google Books →
  • One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli and the Great Stink of 1858
    Rosemary Ashton (Yale University Press, 2017) Google Books →
  • London's Sewers
    Paul Dobraszczyk (Shire Publications, 2014) Google Books →
  • The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis
    Stephen Halliday (History Press, 2001) Google Books →
  • The Great Filth: The War against Disease in Victorian England
    Stephen Halliday (Sutton, 2007) Google Books →
  • An Underground Guide to Sewers: or Down, Through and Out in Paris, London, New York, &c
    Stephen Halliday (Thames and Hudson, 2019) Google Books →
  • London Labour and the London Poor
    Henry Mayhew (ed. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst) (Oxford University Press, 2012) Google Books →
  • The Growth of Victorian London
    Donald J. Olsen (HarperCollins, 1976) Google Books →
  • London's Lost Rivers
    Paul Talling (Random House Books, 2011) Google Books →

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Programme ID: m001gjcm

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Auto-category: 628.3 (Sewage and wastewater engineering)