THE Corporation of the City of London may be regarded as the Commission of Sewers in the exercise of authority over such places as regards the removal of the filth of towns. In time, but at what time there is no account, the business was consigned to the management of a committee, as are now the markets of the City (Markets Committee), and even what may be called the management of the Thames (Navigation Committee). It is not at all necessary that the members of these committees should understand anything about the matters upon which they have to determine. A staff of officers, clerks, secretaries, solicitors, and surveyors, save the members the trouble of thought or inquiry; they have merely to vote and determine. It was stated in evidence before a Select Committee of the on the subject of the Thames steamers, that at that period the Chairman of the Committee was a bread and biscuit baker, but "a very-firm-minded man." In time, but again I can find no note of the precise date, the became a of Sewers, and so it remains to the present time. Commissions of sewers have been issued by the Crown since the year of the reign of Henry VIII., except during the era of the Commonwealth, when there seems to have been no attention paid to the matter.
As the metropolis increased rapidly in size since the close of the last century, the public sewers of course increased in proportion, and so did Commissions of Sewers in the newly-built districts. Up to these Commissions or Court of Sewers were in number, the metropolis being divided into that number of districts.
The districts were as follows:—
. The City.
. The Tower Hamlets.
. St. Katherine.
. Poplar and .
. and Finsbury.
. and part of Middlesex.
. Surrey and Kent.
Each of these Commissions had its own Act of Parliament; its own distinct, often irregular
|and generally uncontrolled plan of management; each had its own officers; and each had its own patronage. Each district court—with almost unlimited powers of taxation—pursued its own plans of sewerage, little regardful of the plans of its neighbour Commission. This wretched system— the great recommendation of which, to its promoters and supporters, seems to have been patronage —has given us a sewerage unconnected and varying to the present day in almost every district; varying in the dimensions, form, and inclination of the structures.|
The commission districts, I may observe, had each their sub-districts, though the general control was in the hands of the particular Court or Board of Commissioners for the entire locality. These subdivisions were chiefly for the facilities of rate-collecting, and were usually "western," "eastern," and "central."
The consequence of this immethodical system has been that, until the surveys and works now in progress are completed, the precise character, and even the precise length, of the sewers must be unknown, though a sufficient approximation may be deduced in the interim.
To show the conflicting character of the sewerage, I may here observe that in some of the old sewers have been found walls and arches crumbling to pieces. Some old sewers were found to be not only of ample proportions, but to contain subterranean chambers, not to say halls, filled with filth, into which no man could venture. While in a sewer in the newly-built district of St. John'swood, Mr. Morton, the Clerk of Works, could only advance stooping half double, could not turn round when he had completed his examination, but had most painfully—for a long time feeling the effects—to back out along the sewer, stooping, or doubled up, as he entered it. Why the sewer was constructed in this manner is not stated, but the work appears, inferentially, to have been , which, had there been a proper supervision, could hardly have been done with a modern public sewer, down a thoroughfare of some length (the Woronzow-road).
But the conflicting and disjointed system of sewerage was not the sole evil of the various Commissions. The mismanagement and jobbery, not to say peculation, of the public moneys, appear to have been enormous. For instance, in the "Accountant's Report" (), prepared by Mr. W. H. Grey, , Lincoln's-inn-fields, I find the following statements relative to the of the several Commissions:—
"With respect to the accounts," says Mr. Grey, "the books produced are the most incomplete and unsatisfactory that ever came under my observation. The ledger is always thought to be a in book-keeping; but here it has been dispensed with altogether, for that which is so marked is no ledger at all."
Under these circumstances, the Report continues, "It cannot be wondered at that debts should have been incurred, or that they should have swollen to the amount of , carrying a yearly interest of , besides annuities granted to the amount of a year.
On the , the new Commissioners ordered all the books to be sent to the office in ; but it was not until the , that all the minute-books were produced. There were no indexes for many years even to the proceedings of the Courts; and the account-books of of the local Courts, if they might be so called, were in such a state that the book called "ledger" had for several years been cast up in pencil only.
This refers to what may be characterised, with more or less propriety, as or though in such mismanagement it is hardly possible to escape inference. I now come to what are direct imputations of , and where is flourishing or easy, no system can be other than vicious.
In a paper "printed for use of Commissioners" (), entitled "Draft Report on the Surrey Accounts," emanating from a "General Purposes' Committee," I find the following, concerning the parliamentary expenses of obtaining an Act which it was "found necessary to repeal." The cost was, altogether, upwards of , which of course had to be defrayed out of the taxes.
"This Act," says the Report, "authorized an almost unlimited borrowing of money; and , in , notices were issued for works estimated to amount to ; and others, we understand, were projected for early execution to the amount of ..... Considering the general character of the works executed, and from them judging of those projected, it may confidently be averred that the of , the progressive expenditure of which was stayed by the 'supersedeas' of the old Commission, would have been " [The are not those of the Reports.]
The Report continues, "It is to be observed that each of the district surveyors would have participated in the sum of percentage on the expenditure for the extension of the Surrey works. Thus the surveyors, with their percentages on the works executed, and the clerk, by the fees on contracts, &c., had "
Instances of the same dishonest kind might be multiplied to almost any extent.
After the above evidences of the incompetency and dishonesty of the several district Commissions —and the Reports from which they are copied contain many more examples of a similar and even worse description—it is not to be wondered at that in the year the district courts were, with the exception of the City, superseded by the authority of the Crown, and formed into body, the present Metropolitan Commission of Sewers, of the constitution and powers of which I shall now proceed to speak.
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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