THE traverser of the London streets rarely thinks, perhaps, of the far extended subterranean architecture below his feet; yet such is indeed the case, for the sewers of London, with all their imperfections, irregularities, and even absurdities, are still a great work; certainly not equal, in all respects, to what once must have existed in Rome, but , perhaps, only to the giant works of sewerage in the eternal city.
The origin of these Roman sewers seems to be wrapped in as great a mystery as the foundation of the city itself. The statement of the Roman historians is that these sewers were the works of the elder Tarquin, the (apocryphal) king of Rome. Tarquin's dominions, from the same accounts, did not in any direction extend above miles, and his subjects could be but banditti, foragers, and shepherds. conjecture is, that Rome stands on the site of a more ancient city, and that to its earlier possessors may be attributed the work of the sewers. To attribute them to the rudeness and small population of Tarquin's day, it is contended, is as feasible as it would be to attribute the ruins of ancient Jerusalem, or any others in Asia Minor, to the Turks, or the ruins of Palmyra to the Arabs, because these people enjoy the privilege of possession.
The main sewer of Rome, the Cloaca Maxima, is said to have been lofty and wide enough for a waggon load of hay to pass clear along it. Another, and more probable account, however, states that it was proposed to the great sewer to these dimensions, but it does not appear to have been so enlarged. Indeed, when Augustus "made
|Rome marble," it was of his great works also, under the direction of Agrippa, to reconstruct, improve, and enlarge the sewers. It was a project in the days of Rome's greatness to turn navigable rivers into vast subterraneous passages, larger sewers, along which barges might pass, carrying on the traffic of Imperial Rome. In year the cost of cleansing, renewing, and repairing the sewers is stated to have been talents of gold, or upwards of Of the yearly cost we have no information. Some accounts represent these sewers as having been rebuilt after the irruption of the Gauls. In Livy's time they were pronounced not to be accommodated to the plan of Rome. Some portions of these ancient structures are still extant, but they seem to have attracted small notice even from professed antiquarians; their subterranean character, however, renders such notice little possible. In places they are still kept in repair, and for their original purpose, to carry off the filth of the city, but only to a small extent.|
Our legislative enactments on the subject of sewers are ancient and numerous. The oldest is that of Henry III., and the principal is that of Henry VIII., commonly called the "Statute of Sewers." These and many subsequent statutes, however, relate only to watercourses, and are silent as regards my present topic—the Refuse of London.
It is remarkable how little is said in the London historians of the In the folio volumes of the most searching and indefatigable of all the antiquarians who have described the old metropolis, John Stow, the tailor, there is no account of what we now consider sewers, inclosed and subterranean channels for the conveyance of the refuse filth of the metropolis to its destination —the Thames. Had covered sewers been known, or at any rate been at all common, in Stow's day, and he died full of years in , and had of them presented but a crumbling stone with some heraldic, or apparently heraldic, device at its outlet, Stow's industry would certainly have ferreted out some details. Such, however, is not the case.
This absence of information I hold to be owing to the fact that no such sewers then existed. Our present system of sewerage, like our present system of street-lighting, is a modern work; but it is not, like our gas-lamps, an English work. We have but followed, as regards our arched and subterraneous sewerage, in the wake of Rome.
As I have said, the early of sewers relate to watercourses, navigable communications, dams, ditches, and such like; there is no doubt, however, that in the heart of the great towns the filth of the houses was, by rude contrivances in the way of drainage, or natural fall, emptied into such places. Even in the accounts of the sewers of ancient Rome, historians have stated that it is not easy, and sometimes not possible, to distinguish between the and the , and Dr. Lemon, in his English Etymology, speaks of sewers as a species of aqueducts. So, in some of our earlier Acts of Parliament, it is hardly possible to distinguish whether the provisions to be ap- plied to the management of a sewer relate to a ditch to which house-filth was carried—to a channel of water for general purposes—or to an open channel being a receptacle of filth and a navigable stream at the same time.
That the ditches were not sewers for the conveyance of the filth from the houses to any very great, or rather any very general extent, may very well be concluded, because (as I have shown in my account of the early scavagers) the excrementitious matter was deposited during the night in the street, and removed by the proper functionaries in the morning, or as soon as suited their convenience. Though this was the case generally, it is evident that the filth, or a portion of it, from the houses which were built on the banks of the (as it was then called, as well as the Fleet Ditch), and on the banks of the other "brooks," drained into the current stream. The Corporation accounts contain very frequent mention of the cleansing, purifying, and "thorough" cleansing of the Fleet Ditch, the Old Bourne ( Brook), the Wall Brook, &c.
Of all these streams the most remarkable was Fleet Ditch, which was perhaps the main sewer of London. I give from Stow the following curious account of its origin. It is now open, but only for a short distance, offending the air of Clerkenwell. At period it was to afford a defence to the City! as the Tower-moat was a defence to the Tower, and fortress.
The above information appeared, but I am unable to specify the year (for Stow's works went through several editions, though it is to be feared he died very poor) between and . So did the following:—
Great, indeed, is the change in the character of the capital of England, from the times when the Fleet Ditch was a defence to the city (which was then the entire capital); and from the later era, when "great store of very good fish of divers sorts," rewarded the skill or the patience of the anglers or netters; but this, it is evident, was in the parts near the river (the Tower postern, &c.), and at that time, or about that time, there was salmonfishing in the Thames, at least as far up as Hungerford Wharf.
The Fleet Ditch seems always to have had a character. It was described, in , as
the flood being, in Queen Anne's and the George's days, the London Thames. This silver has been much alloyed since that time.
Until within these or years, open sewerditches, into which drains were emptied, and ordure and refuse thrown, were frequent, especially in the remoter parts of and , and some exist to this day; especially, open for a considerable distance, flowing along the back of the houses in the Westminster-road, on the right-hand side towards the bridge, into which the neighbouring houses are drained. The "Black Ditch," a filthy sewer, until lately was open near the , and other vicinities of the Blackfriars-road. The open ditch-sewers of Norwood and Wandsworth have often been spoken of in Sanitary Reports. Indeed, some of our present sewers, in addition to and Wall Brook, are merely ditches rudely arched over.
The covered and continuous street sewer was erected in London—I think, without doubt— when Wren rebuilt the capital, after the great fire of . Perhaps there is no direct evidence of the fact, for, although the statutes and Privy Council and municipal enactments, consequent on the rebuilding of the capital, required, more or less peremptorily, "fair sewers, and drains, and watercourses," it is not defined in these enactments what was meant by a "sewer;" nor were they carried out.
I may mention, as a further proof that open ditches, often enough stagnant ditches also, were the London sewers, that, after , a plan, originally projected, it appears, by Sir Leonard Halliday, Maior, years previously, and strenuously supported at that time by Nic Leate, "a worthy and grave citizen," was revived and reconsidered. This project, for which Sir Leonard and Nic Leate "laboured much," was "for a river to be brought on the north of the city into it, for the cleansing the sewers and ditches, and for the better keeping London wholesome, sweet, and clean." An admirable and it is not impossible nor improbable that in less than centuries hence, we, of the present sanitary era, may be accounted, for our sanitary measures, as senseless as we now account good Sir Leonard Halliday and the worthy and grave Nic Leate. These gentlemen cared not to brook filth in their houses, nor to be annoyed by it in the nightly pollution of the streets, but they advocated its injection into running water, and into water often running slowly and difficultly, and continually under the eyes and noses of the citizens. , I apprehend, go a little further. We drink, and use for the preparation of our meals, the befouled water, which they did not; for, more than seveneighths of our water-supply from the companies is drawn from the Thames, the main sewer of the greatest city in the world, ancient or modern, into which millions of tons of every description of refuse are swept yearly.
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|Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles|
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Metal Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Metal Trays, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Linen, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Curtains
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Carpeting, Flannels, Stocking-Legs, &c., &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Bed-Ticking, Sacking, Fringe, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Glass and Crockery
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Miscellaneous Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Musical Instruments
Of the Music 'Duffers'
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Weapons
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Curiosities
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Telescopes and Pocket Glasses
Of the Street-Sellers of Other Miscellaneous Second-Hand Articles
Of Second-Hand Store Shops
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Apparel
Of the Old Clothes Exchange
Of the Wholesale Business at the Old Clothes Exchange
Of the Uses of Second-Hand Garments
Of the Street-Sellers of Petticoat and Rosemary-Lanes
Of the Street-Sellers of Men's Second-Hand Clothes
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Boots and Shoes
Of the Street-Sellers of Old Hats
Of the Street-Sellers of Women's Second-Hand Apparel
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Furs
Of the Second-Hand Sellers of Smithfield- Market
|Of the Street-Sellers of Live Animals|
Of the Street-Sellers of Live Animals
Of the Former Street-Sellers, 'Finders,' Stealers, and Restorers of Dogs
Of a Dog-'Finder' -- A 'Lurker's' Career
Of the Present Street-Sellers of Dogs.
Of the Street-Sellers of Sporting Dogs
Of the Street-Sellers of Live Birds
Of the Bird-Catchers Who are Street- Sellers
Of the Crippled Street Bird-Seller
Of the Tricks of the Bird-Duffers
Of the Street-Sellers of Foreign Birds
Of the Street-Sellers of Birds'--Nests
Of the Street-Sellers of Squirrels
Of the Street-Sellers of Leverets, Wild Rabbits, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Gold and Silver Fish
Of the Street-Sellers of Tortoises
Of the Street-Sellers of Snails, Frogs, Worms, Snakes, Hedgehogs, Etc.
|Of the Street-Sellers of Mineral Productions and Natural Curiosities|
Of the Street-Sellers of Mineral Productions, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Coals
Of the Street-Sellers of Coke
Of the Street-Sellers of Tan-Turf
Of the Street-Sellers of Salt
Of the Street-Sellers of Sand
Of the Street-Sellers of Shells
Of the River Beer-Sellers, or Purl-Men
Of the Numbers, Capital, and income of the Street- Sellers of Second-Hand Articles, Live Animals, Mineral Producions, Etc.
Income, or 'Takinags' of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles
|Of the Street-Buyers|
Of the Street-Buyers
Of the Street-Buyers of Rags, Broken Metal, Bottles, Glass, and Bones
Of the 'Rag-and-Bottle,' and the 'Marine-Store' Shops
Of the Buyers of Kitchen-Stuff, Grease, and Dripping
Of the Street-Buyers of Hare and Rabbit Skins
Of the Street-Buyers of Waste (Paper)
Of the Street-Buyers of Umbrellas and Parasols
|Of the Street-Jews|
Of the Street-Jews
Of the Trades and Localities of the Street-Jews
Of the Jew Old-Clothes Men
Of a Jew Street-Seller
Of the Jew-Boy Street-Sellers
Of the Pursuits, Dwellings, Traffic, Etc., of the Jew-Boy Street-Sellers
Of the Street Jewesses and Street Jew-Girls
Of the Synagogues and the Religion of the Street and Other Jews
Of the Politics, Literature, and Amusements of the Jews
Of the Charities, Schools, and Education of the Jews
Of the Funeral Ceremonies, Fasts, and Customs of the Jews
Of the Jew Street-Sellers of Accordions, and of their Street Musical Pursuits
Of the Street-Buyers of Hogs'--Wash
Of the Street-Buyers of Tea-Leaves
|Of the Street-Finders or Collectors|
Of the Street-Finders or Collectors
Bone-Grubbers and Rag-Gatherers
Of the 'Pure'-Finders
Of the Cigar-End Finders
Of the Old Wood Gatherers
Of the Dredgers, or River Finders
Of the Sewer-Hunters
Of the Mud-Larks
Of the London Dustmen, Nightmen, Sweeps, and Scavengers
Of the Dustmen of London
Of the London Sewerage and Scavengery
|Of the Streets of London|
Of the Streets of London
Of the Traffic of London
Of the Dust and Dirt of the Streets of London
Of the Street-Dust of London, and the Loss and injury Occasioned by it
Of the Horse-Dung of the Streets of London
Of Street 'Mac' and Other Mud
Of the Mud of the Streets
Of the Surface-Water of the Streets of London
Of the Master Scavengers in Former Times
Of the Several Modes and Characteristics of Street-Cleansing
Of the Contractors For Scavengery
Of the Contractors' (or Employers') Premises, &c.
Of the Working Scavengers Under the Contractors
Of the 'Casual Hands' Among the Scavagers
Of the Influence of Free Trade on the Earnings of the Scavagers
Of the Worse Paid Scavagers, or Those Working For Scurf Employers
Of the Street-Sweeping Machine, and the Street-Sweepers Employed With it
Of the Cleansing of the Streets by Pauper Labour
Of the Street-Orderlies
Street Orderlies -- City Surveyor's Report
Of the 'Jet and Hose' System of Scavaging
Of the Cost and Traffic of the Streets of London
Of the Rubbish Carters
Of Casual Labour in General, and That of the Rubbish-Carters in Particular
Of the Casual Labourers among the Rubbish-Carters
The Effects of Casual Labour in General
Of the Scurf Trade Among the Rubbish- Carters
|Of the London Chimney-Sweepers|
Of the London Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Sweepers of Old, and the Climbing Boys
Of the Chimney-Sweepers of the Present Day
Of the General Characteristics of the Working Chimney-Sweepers
Sweeping of the Chimneys of Steam-Vessels
Of the 'Ramoneur' Company
Of the Brisk and Slack Seasons, and the Casual Trade among the Chimney- Sweepers
Of the 'Leeks' Among the Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Inferior Chimney-Sweepers -- the 'Knullers' and 'Queriers'
Of the Fires of London
Of the Sewermen and Nightmen of London
Of the Wet House-Refuse of London
Of the Means of Removing the Wet House-Refuse
Of the Quantity of Metropolitan Sewage
Of Ancient Sewers
Of the Kinds and Characteristics of Sewers
Of the Subterranean Character of the Sewers
Of the House-Drainage of the Metropolis as Connected With the Sewers
Of the London Street-Drains
Of the Length of the London Sewers and Drains
Of the Cost of Constructing the Sewers and Drains of the Metropolis
Of the Uses of Sewers as a Means of Subsoil Drainage
Of the City Sewerage
Of the Outlets, Ramifications, Etc., of the Sewers
Of the Qualities, Etc., of the Sewage
Of the New Plan of Sewerage
Of the Management of the Sewers and the Late Commissions
Of the Powers and Authority of the Present Commissions of Sewers
Of the Sewers Rate
Of the Cleansing of the Sewers -- Ventilation
Of 'Flushing' and 'Plonging,' and Other Modes of Washing the Sewers
Of the Working Flushermen
Of the Rats in the Sewers
Of the Cesspoolage and Nightmen of the Metropolis
Of the Cesspool System of London
Of the Cesspool and Sewer System of Paris
Of the Emptying of the London Cesspools by Pump and Hose
Statement of a Cesspool-Sewerman
Of the Present Disposal of the Night-Soil
Of the Working Nightmen and the Mode of Work