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Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): MCS
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1847-1862
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 55.55 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Metropolitan Commission of Sewers


Administrative/Biographical history:

As a result of the rapid increase of population and of building in the last quarter of the 18th century and the first few decades of the 19th most of the scattered villages and hamlets in the areas covered by the 7 commissions of sewers in the neighbourhood of London had by the 1840s coalesced into one urban area for which the old piecemeal drainage systems were quite inadequate. Sewage accumulated in cesspools and open ditches and even on the surface of the ground, fouling the water supplies. Cholera epidemics increased in frequency and intensity until the government was forced to take action.

In 1847 a Royal Commission was appointed to "inquire whether any, and what, special means might be requisite for the improvement of the health of the metropolis, with regard more especially to the better house, street and land drainage.... etc.". One important conclusion of the Commissioners was that adequate provision for the sewerage of London could not be made until it became the responsibility of one competent body. The matter was treated as one of urgency and Her Majesty's Government acted on this advice in advance of legislation in November 1847, by the device of summoning the same 23 commissioners for each of the 7 districts (plus the extra Westminster district in the palatinate of the Savoy). The same chief officers were appointed for all the districts and so some unity of policy and organisation was already in being before the combined Metropolitan Commission of Sewers was appointed under the Act of September 1848 "to consolidate and continue in force for Two Years and to the End of the then next Session of Parliament, the Metropolitan Commissions of Sewers".

Further Acts "to continue and amend the Metropolitan Sewers Act" were passed in 1851and 1852. Both the powers and the resources of the Commission were however inadequate for the entire replanning and reconstruction of the main drainage of the London area which was what the situation required and in 1855, under the Metropolis Management Act, the Commission was superseded by the Metropolitan Board of Works.


Scope and content/abstract:

Letters patent appointing the commissioners; orders of court; minutes of various Committees including the General Purposes Committee, By-laws Committee, Committee on Claims, Disposal of Refuse Committee, Finance Committee, Trial Works Committee, Sewage Manure Committee and Ordnance Survey Committee; original contracts for the construction of new sewers, including plans, sections and elevations; registers of in-letters; letter books for out-letters; drainage applications; registers of applications to construct sewers and drains; registers of proposed drainage of buildings; registers of house drainage; register of complaints; applications for private works on sewers and drains; registers of streets showing existence or absence of sewers and drains; surveyor's report books; staff records; financial accounts; rate books; printed items bound into volumes, including reports (several written by Joseph Bazalgette), papers, resolutions, prospectuses, surveys and inspections on various subjects including sewers and drains, cesspools, sewage, manure, waterways, flushing operations, public health, industrial sites, public conveniences, subterranean surveys, tides and water supply; minutes of the Commissioners and plans and maps of sewers, drains and waterways.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

MCS/1-6: Letters Patent; MCS/7-41: Orders of Court; MCS/42-199: Committees; MCS/200-224: Contracts; MCS/225-243: Correspondence; MCS/244-343: Drains and Sewers; MCS:344-345: Staff; MCS/346-474: Financial; MCS/481-596: Minutes; MCS/P and MCS/PR: Plans.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Second accession received in 2004 (B04/090).

Allied Materials

Related material:

For the Metropolitan Board of Works, see MBW.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

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:
April to June 2009

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