The Thames flows through the heart of London. During the Victorian era it was an essential part of day-to-day life, providing water for everything – from drinking to cooking to bathing. But it was also disgustingly polluted. And for many thousands, it proved somewhat deadly.
In 1815, they started to allow human waste to be pumped into the river. So when they started to use the same water in their homes, it resulted in some pretty unpleasant side effects. Cholera became widespread, thousands died. Thinking that the cause of the disease was breathing in infected air, less attention was initially paid to the real reason – infected water.
In 1858 there was an unusually hot summer. The sewage in the river combined with the heat meant bacteria thrived. The stench from the brown water became overwhelming for London residents. The House of Commons with its close proximity to the riverbank was significantly affected as a result of the unbearable smell. They had to soak the House curtains in chloride of lime to try and hide it.
The conditions were written about extensively in the publications of the time, with many satirical images such as the one here. Thankfully, the Victorians with all their technological advances also managed to develop a new sewage system that helped combat the problem.
We like to think of our Deathly Gent, strolling along the Thames riverbank. He may not have liked the smell, but when you have a top hat as good as that, what would it matter...
Check out our Deathly Gent for yourselfYou're History
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