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London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): GB 0074 ACC/2558/KE/07

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1839-1905

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 3.13 linear metres

Name of creator(s): Kent Waterworks Company


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Kent Water Works Company was incorporated in 1809 to supply Deptford, Lee, Greenwich, Lewisham and Rotherhithe with water from the River Ravensbourne. In order to get the Kent Water Works Bill through Parliament, its promoters were compelled to purchase the Ravensbourne Water Works at Deptford (established in 1701) from the descendants of John Smeaton who had acquired this undertaking in 1772.

When the Kent company took over, the water works included a water wheel and pumps installed by Smeaton. The area supplied included the town of Woolwich, the Royal Ordnance and Artillery Barracks, the Royal Arsenal, H.M. Dockyards, and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. The company erected a small rotative beam engine by Boulton and Watt on the west bank of the Ravensbourne, near the water wheel in 1810, and a second engine in 1826. Mains extended to the dock area at Woolwich, the company having acquired the water supply powers of the Woolwich Town Commissioners in 1812. Slow sand bed filtration was introduced at the Deptford works in 1845.

Increasing demand for water and the deterioration in its quality induced the directors of the company to seek a new source of supply in the 1850s. The company engineer advised the sinking of a well at the Deptford works which proved successful. In 1861 the company's area was for the first time entirely supplied from wells, then situated at Deptford and Charlton, and the supply from the River Ravensbourne was abandoned. The well water which was of a high degree of purity could be delivered to the consumers without filtration.

In 1864 the North Kent Water Company was amalgamated with the Kent Water Works Company by Act of Parliament. It had been incorporated in 1860 to serve a large area comprising Dartford, Crayford, Bexley, Erith, Eltham and Chislehurst, but had received insufficient financial support. Over the next twenty years acquired the water supply powers of the Dartford Local Board of Health, and the sanitary authorities of Bromley, Dartford and Sevenoaks, increasing the Kent company's statutory area of supply to some 170 square miles.

The company's most important well stations at the end of the century were situated at Shortlands (1866), Crayford (1867), Orpington (1880), Wilmington (1888), Southfleet (1899) and Deptford.

As a result of the Metropolis Water Act 1902, the Metropolitan Water Board took over the functions of the Kent Water Works Company in 1904.


Scope and content/abstract:

General papers of the Kent Waterworks Company including press cuttings; papers relating to the Royal Commission on Water Supply; legal case papers and indexes.


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:

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
Kent Waterworks Company

Deptford | London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
Greenwich (district) | Greenwich | London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
Lee | London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
Lewisham (district) | Lewisham | London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
Ravensbourne, river | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
Rotherhithe | London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
Woolwich | London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe