London-sewers

Edwin Chadwick on sewage farms

Today, it is Joseph Bazalgette, father of the revolutionary sewage system for London that gets most attention from the press. But Bazalgette was really building on the earlier pioneering work done by the lawyer Edwin Chadwick (1800 -90), who pushed for sanitary reform from the 1840s, not just in London, where perhaps it was needed most, but in the non-metropolitan centres, and continued to work for the principle of clean water up to and beyond the 1880s, long after he had retired.

Here we have a letter from Chadwick, dated August 21st 1884, to a James Blackburn, who turns out to be the man who in the 1870s was dealing with the sewage coming from Aldershot Army Camp. Blackburn, who was then Ranger of Windsor Forest, had used the effluvia on 100 acres of mainly heather-strewn land, and so successful was he in growing crops on it that in 1879 he entered the Camp Farm for the Agricultural Society’s £100 prize for the best sewage farm in the United Kingdom. He didn’t win it, but Chadwick, evidently impressed by Blackburn’s methods, wrote to him from his home in East Sheen asking if he could visit him to discuss the latest thinking on metropolitan sewage disposal.

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