The Waterworks

The Southwark and Vauxhall Waterworks Company was formed in 1845 by the amalgamation of two earlier water companies; after competing against each other for years, they eventually decided that laying rival sets of pipes to all the houses was absurd, "an immense expenditure of capital in utter waste".

The newly amalgamated company might have been more efficient than the old, but unfortunately it was no cleaner. The water it supplied to the borough was described by one microbiologist as "the most disgusting which I have ever examined"; John Snow found that it contained "nearly forty grains of common salt per gallon". During a London-wide cholera epidemic in 1854, more than half of those who died were from households supplied by the Southwark and Vauxhall Waterworks Company.

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