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Bazalgette family pays visit to super sewer

Descendants of Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who designed London’s original Victorian sewer system, have visited its modern-day equivalent at Tideway’s site in Bermondsey.  

Three generations of the Bazalgette family were welcomed to Chambers Wharf by Tideway CEO Andy Mitchell where they descended into the main ‘super sewer’ tunnel to see the system that will prevent millions of tonnes of sewage from polluting the River Thames. 

Describing the family gathering as a “flush of Bazalgettes,” Sir Peter Bazalgette, great, great grandson of Sir Joseph, called the Thames Tideway Tunnel a “magnificent infrastructure project” that would drive “the health and wealth of our great city” when fully operational in 2025.  

Sir Joseph Bazalgette was chief engineer of London's Metropolitan Board of Works, and, in response to the Great Stink of 1858, was responsible for the creation of the first sewerage system for central London, instrumental in improving public health and tackling epidemics such as cholera. He was also the designer of Hammersmith Bridge. 

Still in remarkable condition and in use today, the original sewer network was built for 4 million people at a time when London’s population was around 2 million. With close to 9 million people now living in the capital, in periods of heavy rainfall, the system becomes overwhelmed and is designed to flush directly into the Thames through Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), instead of backing up into streets and homes.  

The 25-kilometre-long Thames Tideway Tunnel, or ‘super sewer’, will intercept the most polluting of these overflows, reducing sewage pollution in the Thames by 95%. Primary tunnelling has been completed on the project with secondary lining underway in the final stretch from Chambers Wharf to Abbey Mills.      

The members of the Bazalgette family who visited the site in Bermondsey were Sir Peter Bazalgette, Justin Bazalgette - himself an engineer - Alex Bazalgette, and Jill and Andy Blane, making up three generations.  

Sir Peter Bazalgette said: “I think Sir Joseph would have been immensely proud and utterly flabbergasted at the scale and ambition of this project. He couldn’t have boring machines of the sort they have today, the quality of the hydraulics that are putting the secondary lining in. None of that would have been imaginable to him. But some things have stayed the same such as the need for pumps. That was the same principle Sir Joseph used.”  

Justin Bazalgette added: “It’s really reassuring to hear about the investment and engineering that’s gone into really help clean up the river, not just for now, but also for, hopefully, the next 150 years the same way that the Bazalgette sewers have kept working for the last 150 years. 

Tideway CEO Andy Mitchell said: “We’ve had the huge privilege of having three generations of the Bazalgette family with us. This has been the first time that any of them have been onto one of our sites and into the tunnels so it’s quite a special day.”  


Sir Joseph Bazalgette


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