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London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): GB 0074 ACC/2558/CH/05

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1837-1876

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 0.5 linear metres

Name of creator(s): Chelsea Waterworks Company


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Chelsea Water Works Company was established by letters patent in 1723 "For the better supplying the City and Liberties of Westminster and parts adjacent". Under Royal Warrants of 1725 two ponds in Green Park were converted into reservoirs and a third reservoir was constructed in the Walnut Tree Walk, Hyde Park. The supply to these reservoirs was obtained from a system of small canals extending from the north of Victoria Station to the Thames at Chelsea.

Its expansion was initially assisted by its ability to supply the royal palaces, a responsibility which also forced it in 1742 to introduce an atmospheric pumping engine after severe shortages during the winter of 1739-40, the first economically successful steam pumping engine in London.

In 1809 it obtained powers to take water direct from the Thames (as the other companies already did) but the source was particularly polluted and liable to turbulence. This led the Company's chief engineer, James Simpson, to introduce the slow sand filtration system in 1829, a system still in use in 1974.

The deterioration in the quality of the water supply resulted in the company closing its works and moving from the tideway. In 1856, following the enforcement of the 1852 Metropolis Water Act, a new intake, filter beds and a pumping station were opened at Seething Wells, Surbiton. The filtered water was pumped to service reservoirs on Putney Heath. Water continued to be drawn at Surbiton until 1877 when an intake and four reservoirs were opened at Molesey, the water being pumped from here to Surbiton for filtration.

The Cheslea Water Works Company was the smallest of the Metropolitan water undertakings acquired by the Metropolitan Water Board in 1904, following the Metropolis Water Act of 1902.


Scope and content/abstract:

Purchase records of the Chelsea Waterworks Company, including works day books; day books; Pipe Yard day book; stock books; and records relating to the delivery and consumption of coal.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

Within each company the records are divided as follows:
A (1) Corporate Records - including board minutes, parliamentary and legal papers.
B (2) Accounting Records - these are usually very extensive but do not include stocks and shares records which appear in section A.
C (3) Staff Records.
D (4) Water Supply and Distribution Records - including engineering and technical files.
E (5) Purchase Records - including stock books.
F (6) Property Records - many property matters are however dealt with in the legal papers in section A.
G (7) Miscellaneous Records.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Physical characteristics:


Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:


Archival history:

Prior to their transfer to the Greater London Record Office [now London Metropolitan Archives], the records of the Chelsea Water Works Company were housed in muniment rooms at Thames Water premises, Seething Wells, Surbiton and at New River Head, Rosebery Avenue, EC1.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in 1988, as part of a larger accession of records from Thames Water.


DESCRIPTION NOTES Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: November 2009 to February 2010

Business records | Documents | Information sources
Drinking water | Water
Man-made watercourses | Waterways | Transport infrastructure
Water companies | Utility companies | Companies | Enterprises
Water consumption | Water resources management
Water supply | Water resources management
Water utilities | Utilities | Service industries
Water-supply engineering | Engineering
Waterworks | Industrial facilities | Facilities
Company archives

Personal names

Corporate names
Chelsea Waterworks Company

Chelsea | London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
City of Westminster | London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
Surbiton | Surrey | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
Kensington and Chelsea
Kingston upon Thames