The Info List - Sir Joseph Bazalgette

Sir Joseph William Bazalgette, CB (/ˈbæzəldʒɛt/; 28 March 1819 – 15 March 1891) was a 19th-century English civil engineer. As chief engineer of London's Metropolitan Board of Works his major achievement was the creation (in response to the Great Stink of 1858) of a sewer network for central London
which was instrumental in relieving the city from cholera epidemics, while beginning the cleansing of the River Thames.[1]


1 Early life 2 Sewer works 3 Private life 4 Awards and memorials 5 Other works 6 Notable descendants 7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links

Early life[edit] Bazalgette was born at Hill Lodge, Clay Hill, Enfield, London, the son of Joseph William Bazalgette (1783–1849), a retired Royal Navy captain, and Theresa Philo, born Pilton (1796–1850), and was the grandson of a French Protestant immigrant. He began his career working on railway projects, articled to noted engineer Sir John MacNeill and gaining sufficient experience (some in China) in land drainage and reclamation works for him to set up his own London
consulting practice in 1842. By the time he married his wife, Maria Kough, in 1845, Bazalgette was deeply involved in the expansion of the railway network, working so hard that he suffered a nervous breakdown two years later. While he was recovering, London's Metropolitan Commission of Sewers ordered that all cesspits should be closed and that house drains should connect to sewers and empty into the Thames. As a result, a cholera epidemic (1848–49) killed 14,137 Londoners. Bazalgette was appointed assistant surveyor to the Commission in 1849, taking over as Engineer in 1852, after his predecessor died of "harassing fatigues and anxieties." Soon after, another cholera epidemic struck, in 1853, killing 10,738. Medical opinion at the time held that cholera was caused by foul air: a so-called miasma. Physician Dr John Snow had earlier advanced a different explanation, which is now known to be correct: cholera was spread by contaminated water. His view was not then generally accepted. Championed by fellow engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Bazalgette was appointed chief engineer of the Commission's successor, the Metropolitan Board of Works, in 1856 (a post which he retained until the MBW was abolished and replaced by the London County Council
London County Council
in 1889). In 1858, the year of the Great Stink, Parliament passed an enabling act, in spite of the colossal expense of the project, and Bazalgette's proposals to revolutionise London's sewerage system began to be implemented. The expectation was that enclosed sewers would eliminate the stink ('miasma'), and that this would then reduce the incidence of cholera. Sewer works[edit]

The old Abbey Mills Pumping Station

Interior of the Octagon at Crossness Pumping Station
Crossness Pumping Station
showing its elaborate decorative ironwork

Drainage reports by Bazalgette in the Institution of Civil Engineers' archives

At that time, the River Thames
was little more than an open sewer, empty of any fish or other wildlife, and an obvious health hazard to the poor Londoners. Bazalgette's solution (similar to a proposal made by painter John Martin 25 years earlier) was to construct a network of 82 miles (132 km) of enclosed underground brick main sewers to intercept sewage outflows, and 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of street sewers, to intercept the raw sewage which up until then flowed freely through the streets and thoroughfares of London. The plan included major pumping stations at Deptford
(1864) and at Crossness
(1865) on the Erith
marshes, both on the south side of the Thames, and at Abbey Mills (in the River Lea
River Lea
valley, 1868) and on the Chelsea Embankment
Chelsea Embankment
(close to Grosvenor Bridge; 1875), north of the river. The outflows were diverted downstream where they were collected in two large sewage outfall systems on the north and south sides of the Thames
called the Northern and Southern Outfall sewers. The sewage from the Northern Outfall sewer and that from the Southern Outfall were originally collected in balancing tanks in Beckton
and Crossness respectively before being dumped, untreated, into the Thames
at high tide[2]. The system was opened by Edward, Prince of Wales in 1865, although the whole project was not actually completed for another ten years. Partly as a result of the Princess Alice disaster, extensive sewage treatment facilities were built to replace the balancing tanks in Beckton
and Crossness
in 1900. Bazalgette's foresight may be seen in the diameter of the sewers. When planning the network he took the densest population, gave every person the most generous allowance of sewage production and came up with a diameter of pipe needed. He then said 'Well, we're only going to do this once and there's always the unforeseen' and doubled the diameter to be used. His foresight allowed for the unforeseen increase in population density with the introduction of the tower block; with the original, smaller pipe diameter the sewer would have overflowed in the 1960s, rather than coping until the present day as it has. The unintended consequence of the new sewer system was to eliminate cholera everywhere in the water system, whether or not it stank. The basic premise of this expensive project, that miasma spread cholera infection, was wrong. However, instead of causing the project to fail, the new sewers succeeded in virtually eliminating the disease by removing the contamination. Bazalgette's sewers also decreased the incidence of typhus and typhoid epidemics.[3] Bazalgette's capacity for hard work was remarkable; every connection to the sewerage system by the various Vestry Councils had to be checked and Bazalgette did this himself and the records contain thousands of linen tracings with handwritten comments in Indian ink on them "Approved JWB", "I do not like 6" used here and 9" should be used. JWB", and so on. It is perhaps not surprising that his health suffered as a result. The records are held by Thames
Water in large blue binders gold-blocked reading "Metropolitan Board of Works" and then dated, usually two per year. Private life[edit] Bazalgette lived in 17 Hamilton Terrace, St John's Wood, north London for some years. Before 1851, he moved to Morden, then in 1873 to Arthur Road, Wimbledon, where he died in 1891, and was buried in the nearby churchyard at St Mary's Church. In 1845 at Westminster, he married Maria Kough (1819–1902). Lady Bazalgette died at her residence in Wimbledon on 3 March 1902.[4] They had children including:

Joseph William, born 20 February 1846 Charles Norman born 3 March 1847 Edward, born 28 June 1848 Theresa Philo, born 1850 Caroline, born 17 July 1852 Maria, born 1854 Henry, born 14 September 1855 Willoughby, born 1857 Maria Louise, born 1859 Anna Constance, born 3 December 1859 Evelyn, born 1 April 1861

Awards and memorials[edit]

Memorial to Sir Joseph Bazalgette
Joseph Bazalgette
on Victoria Embankment

Detail of Hammersmith Bridge, designed by Bazalgette

Bazalgette was knighted in 1875, and elected President of the Institution of Civil Engineers
Institution of Civil Engineers
in 1883. A Greater London Council
Greater London Council
blue plaque commemorates Bazalgette at 17 Hamilton Terrace in St John's Wood
St John's Wood
in North London,[5] and he is also commemorated by a formal monument on the riverside of the Victoria Embankment in central London. Dulwich College
Dulwich College
has a scholarship in his name either for design and technology[6] or for mathematics and science.[7] Other works[edit]

Albert Embankment
Albert Embankment
(1869) Victoria Embankment
Victoria Embankment
(1870) Chelsea Embankment
Chelsea Embankment
(1874) Maidstone
Bridge (1879) Albert Bridge (1884; modifications) Putney Bridge
Putney Bridge
(1886) Hammersmith Bridge
Hammersmith Bridge
(1887) The Woolwich Free Ferry
Woolwich Free Ferry
(1889) Battersea Bridge
Battersea Bridge
(1890) Charing Cross Road Garrick Street Northumberland Avenue Shaftesbury Avenue Early plans for the Blackwall Tunnel
Blackwall Tunnel
(1897) Proposal for what later became Tower Bridge

Notable descendants[edit]

Ian Bazalgette (great-grandson), RAF pilot awarded a Victoria Cross Peter Bazalgette
Peter Bazalgette
(great-great-grandson), television producer Simon Bazalgette (great-great-grandson), chief executive of The Jockey Club Edward Bazalgette (great-great-grandson), musician and television director


^ Halliday, Stephen (2013). The Great Stink
Great Stink
of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis. The History Press. ISBN 0752493787.  ^ http://www.crossness.org.uk/history/londons-sanitation/how-the-system-worked.html ^ "'Dirty Old London': A History of the Victorians' Infamous Filth". NPR. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015. [the famous great sewer network of the mid-19th century] basically took away the possibility of wholesale cholera epidemics in the city, typhus and typhoid – they all were reduced.  ^ "Obituary – Lady Bazalgette". The Times (36706). London. 4 March 1902. p. 8.  ^ "BAZALGETTE, SIR JOSEPH WILLIAM (1819–1891)". English Heritage. Retrieved 20 October 2012.  ^ [1] Archived 17 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine. ^ Dulwich.org.uk[dead link]

Further reading[edit]

 "Bazalgette, Sir Joseph William". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.  Sir Joseph William Bazalgette (1819–1891): Engineer to the Metropolitan Board of Works
Metropolitan Board of Works
– D P Smith: Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 1986–87 Vol 58. London
in the Nineteenth Century: A Human Awful Wonder of God – Jerry White, London: Jonathan Cape 2006. The Big Necessity: Adventures in the world of human waste by Rose George, Portobello Books, ISBN 978-1-84627-069-7. book review (subscription needed for whole article) in New Scientist  Beare, Thomas Hudson (1901). "Bazalgette, Joseph William". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement​. London: Smith, Elder & Co.  Smith, Denis. "Bazalgette, Sir Joseph William (1819–1891)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Dictionary of National Biography
(online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1787.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Joseph Bazalgette.

BBC biography Newcomen Society paper (from Internet Archive) Battersea Bridge Crossness
Pumping Station Bazalgette family tree

Professional and academic associations

Preceded by James Brunlees President of the Institution of Civil Engineers December 1883 – December 1884 Succeeded by Frederick Bramwell

v t e

Metropolitan Board of Works


Fulham (dissolved 1886) Greenwich Hackney (dissolved 1894) Holborn Lee/ Plumstead
(re-named 1894) Lewisham Limehouse Poplar St Giles St Olave St Saviour's Strand Wandsworth Westminster Whitechapel

Headquarters at Spring Gardens

Incorporated vestries

Original vestries (1855)

Battersea Bermondsey Bethnal Green Camberwell Chelsea Clerkenwell Hampstead Islington Kensington Lambeth Mile End Old Town Newington Paddington Rotherhithe St George Hanover Square St George in the East St Luke Middlesex St Martin in the Fields St Marylebone St Pancras Shoreditch Southwark St George the Martyr Westminster St Margaret and St John Westminster St James Woolwich

Later vestries

Fulham (1886) Hammersmith (1886) Hackney (1894) Plumstead
(1894) Stoke Newington (1894)


Metropolitan Buildings Office Metropolitan Commission of Sewers Metropolitan Fire Brigade

Major works

Charing Cross Road Hammersmith Bridge London
sewerage system Northumberland Avenue Putney Bridge Southwark Street Shaftesbury Avenue Thames
Embankment Waterloo Bridge


Royal Commission on the City of London Metropolis Management Act 1855 Local Government Act 1888 London
Government Act 1899


Francis Fowler Frederick Marrable James McGarel-Hogg John Thwaites Joseph Bazalgette List of Members

v t e



John Backhouse Joseph Bazalgette Edmund Colthurst Great Stink London
sewerage system London
water supply Metropolitan Board of Works Metropolitan Water Board Hugh Myddelton William Chadwell Mylne New River Company New River John Snow (physician) 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak William Webster

Major projects

Abingdon Reservoir Thames
Tideway Scheme, including Thames
Tideway Tunnel and Lee Tunnel Thames
Water Desalination Plant Thames
Water Ring Main


Water Reservoirs Predecessor companies

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 57510614 LCCN: n97801559 ISNI: 0000 0000 8137 1268 GND: 123027462 SUDOC: 089357213 BNF: cb135633665 (data) ULAN: 500269001 SN