HRH The Prince of Wales celebrates 150 years of London’s sewers

WaterAid’s President has been visiting Abbey Mills pumping station in Stratford, to mark the opening of Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s historic London sewer system in 1865.


18 Feb 2015

WaterAid's President, HRH The Prince of Wales, helped celebrate the 150th anniversary of London’s sewer system today with a visit to the Abbey Mills pumping station in Stratford.

The station formed the central feature of Sir Joseph Bazalgette's Victorian sewerage system, which was opened in 1865 by HRH The Prince of Wales' great-great-grandfather King Edward VII.

The system revolutionised London’s water and wastewater network, effectively eradicating diseases like cholera which had begun to plague our cities.

The Big History Project

The story of London's transformation of its water and sanitation system forms a central part of our Big History Project, which aims to uncover the history of taps and toilets in the UK and show the impact prioritising these basic resources can have.

"You don't have to look back far in UK history to see what life was like without running water and sanitation," says WaterAid's Deputy Chair, Rosemary Carr.

"In the 19th century, sewage carrying deadly diseases ran through our streets and into our rivers, making water-related diseases a real threat. Our history shows how quickly you can eradicate those diseases if providing good sanitation is made a top priority."

HRH Prince Charles visits the Abbey Mills pumping station, Stratford.
HRH The Prince of Wales at the Abbey Mills pumping station, Stratford.
 Clearwater Photography

A modern milestone

Abbey Mills, which has been dubbed the 'Cathedral of Sewage' thanks to its remarkable architecture and ornate interior, is still in operation today, run by our water industry partner Thames Water.

Today's celebrations also marked a modern milestone for them: the completion of their work on the Lee Tunnel, the deepest ever constructed under the capital and a key step in cleaning up the polluted River Thames.

Later this year, Thames Water will hit its four-year target of raising £1m for our projects improving access to water, hygiene and sanitation in four Bangladeshi communities, and a further £1m for our global programme. 

Find out more about our partnership with Thames Water >