Segments in this Video

Joseph Bazalgette (04:57)


The cholera outbreak of 1848 is the greatest since the Great Plague. The sewer system begins flooding underprivileged people’s homes. The Metropolitan Commission of Sewers starts taking submissions for plans.

Disease Theory (04:42)

Bazalgette has no luck creating a sewage plan; Dr. William Farr believes the disease is carried by miasma along with scarlet fever, influenza, measles, and smallpox, but Dr. Edwin Chadwick believes smells carry disease. As many children and poor people are dying, British Parliament will not grant funds for the new sewage system.

Cholera's Return (04:17)

More than 14,000 Londoners died of cholera in 1849, but Dr. John Snow notices only one side of a certain street is affected; hear excerpt from “The Lancet” describing the epidemic. Snow believes cholera is a waterborne disease because only certain water pumps cause people to take ill.

Joseph Bazalgette's Sewage Plan (07:49)

Farr continued to believe miasma theory, but Snow was still able to remove the SoHo pump effectively ending cholera in the area. Bazalgette and Percy Boulnois plan is now to let the sewage out into the Thames Estuary to flow safely into the sea, but the Chief Commissioner of works rejects their plans.

Support From Parliament (03:53)

Bazalgette’s sewer plans are rejected five times as London journalists condemn him. Members of parliament flee Westminster from the great London stink and cholera; they decide to grant the engineer three million pounds to break ground immediately.

Working in the London Sewers (04:39)

Hear an excerpt from “Illustrated London News;” Using the cut and cover method and mining, Bazalgette’s men begin work on the new system. They used precisely mixed Portland cement to keep London from crushing the sewers; disaster strikes as the men move into the royal artillery’s practice ranges.

Joseph Bazalgette in the Press (05:17)

The union bricklayers strike halting the engineering project and Bazalgette is blamed for the Clerkenwell and Shoreditch accidents; hear excerpt from “The Times.” To end his vilification in the press, Bazalgette invites them to the successful joining of two tunnels at Woolwich; now the sewage can flow to the pumping station at Crossness.

Opening at Crossness (03:36)

The James Watt steam engines at the Crossness exit are the largest in the world, and Albert Edward, Prince of Wales is the first to turn them on. cholera returns to the East End where the sewer system is not functioning.

John Snow's Discovery (05:42)

The Russell family’s contaminated water pump helps Dr. Farr understand cholera is a waterborne disease, and the London Water Company is dishonest about its filtration system. While no one doubted the disease’s connection to sewage, Dr. Snow understood the nature of cholera exactly; Bazalgette goes on to reshape London through marvelous engineering.

Credits: The Sewer King (00:57)

Credits: The Sewer King

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The Sewer King

Part of the Series : Seven Wonders of the Industrial World
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $300.00
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $450.00
3-Year Streaming Price: $300.00



In the hot summer of 1858, a window was opened in the Houses of Parliament—and Britain’s great government suddenly ground to a halt. Disraeli and other leading MPs fled from their chambers, overwhelmed by the fearsome stench of decaying sewage. Fleeing "The Great Stink" for the country, MPs realized that they had to deal with the horrors and filth of London’s sanitation that had been literally building up on their doorstep for centuries. This is the story of how the problem began and killed thousands in a series of epidemics.

Length: 50 minutes

Item#: BVL141235

ISBN: 978-1-64198-249-8

Copyright date: ©2003

Closed Captioned

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