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Metropolitan Commission of Sewers
The Metropolitan Commission of Sewers was one of London's first steps towards bringing its sewer and drainage infrastructure under the control of a single public body. It was a precursor of the Metropolitan Board of Works.
Drawing together seven separate local bodies (but excluding the City of London – whose own Commission of Sewers dated back to 1669), it was formed by Act of Parliament (the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers Act) in 1848 (the City operated under its own City Sewers Act), partly in response to public health concerns following serious outbreaks of cholera. Commissioners included Sir Edwin Chadwick and Robert Stephenson.
The Commission surveyed London's antiquated sewerage system and set about ridding the capital of an estimated 200,000 cesspits, insisting that all cesspits should be closed and that house drains should connect to sewers and empty into the Thames (ultimately, a major contributing factor to “The Great Stink" of 1858).
The Commission was notable in that it employed Joseph Bazalgette, first as assistant surveyor (from 1849), taking over as Engineer in 1852 after his predecessor died of "harassing fatigues and anxieties". Bazalgette was then appointed chief engineer of the Commission's successor, the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1856, and by the end of the decade – after “The Great Stink” - his proposals to modernise the London sewerage system were being implemented.
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