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Somerset House

The Thames reshaped to cure the great stink

The Victoria Embankment

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The Victoria Embankment
The Thames reshaped to cure the great stink

Running under the Victoria Embankment run one of London's main sewers alongside a part of the underground Circle Line.

Victoria embankmentWork. on a new sewage system for London began to move ahead after the great stink of 1858 when members of parliament could bear no longer the foul smell from the Thames. At the time hundreds of sewers poured untreated waste direct into the river
Sir Joseph Bazalgette (1819-1891) was the chief engineer who came to the rescue and built the first city-wide sewage system.
The main sewers for London have to be big. Bazalgette's problem was to know where to put them without having to dig up vast areas of the city. His solution was to run the largest sewers along the banks of the Thames and then to cover them over to creat the Embankment.
EmbankmentThis solved another problem too because at the same time the city was starting to build its underground railway system. The tracks that are now part of the Circle and District lines could run along the river bank too.
This massive engineering work also helped to save the city from flooding while creating space for gardens, a promenade and new roads.

Submitted by: Andrew Hunt, 20 January 2007

Find out more about Bazalgette's project to solve London's sewage crisis.
See Somerset House before the building of the Embankment.
Look at this panorama of the Victoria Embankment Gardens

See also: Civil engineering Transport Sewage treatment

Project sponsors:

City sponsors:
ASE London Region
Nuffiled Curriculum Centre