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Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): WCS
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1659-1849
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 69.68 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Westminster and Middlesex Commission of Sewers


Administrative/Biographical history:

Early Commissioners of Sewers were solely concerned with land drainage and the prevention of flooding, not with the removal of sewage in the modern sense. In 1531 an Act of Sewers was passed which set out in great detail the duties and powers of Commissioners and governed their work until the 19th century. Gradually a permanent pattern emerged in the London area of seven commissions, five north and two south of the Thames, with, after the Great Fire, a separate commission for the City of London. The London commissioners had more extensive powers than those in other parts of the country; they had control over all watercourses and ditches within two miles of the City of London as well as newly constructed drains and sewers. After 1800 the London commissioners also obtained powers to control the formation of new sewers and house drains.

The first Commission of Sewers for the Westminster area issued under the 1531 Act appears to be that for "certen lymitts in and aboute Westminster in the countie of Midd" issued on 22 May 1596 (National Archives Crown Office Docquet Book, Ind. 4208). For the next 50 years the formula varied but the bounds of the commission always extended beyond Westminster. The first extant Letters Patent appointing a commission defines the limits as "extending from the Parishes of Hampton, Teddington, Twitnam, Isleworth, Hanwell, Cranford, Acton, Eling, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kensington and Chelsey in the County of Middlesex and the City of Westminster and precincts of the same and so to Temple Bar. And from thence within the Parishes of St. Giles in the Fields, Pancras, Marylebone, Hampstead, Wilsden, Paddington and to the River of Thames" (W.C.S. 1). It was not until 1807 that the area was defined by statute (Act 47, Geo. III, Sess I.c.7 (L. and P.)). It then included all parishes within what is now the County of London west of the City and north of the Thames as far as Stamford Brook, with part of Willesden.

Rapid building development in Westminster in the second half of the 17th century added greatly to the difficulties and duties of the Commissioners. By an Act of 1690 (Act 2, W. and M. Sess II.c.8) new sewers, when built, were subject to their supervision but statutory power to control the construction of new sewers or to build new sewers themselves was not obtained until 1807 (Act 47, Geo. III, Sess I.c.7 (L. and P.)). In 1834 the Commissioners obtained a Special Act (Act 4 and 5, W. IV, c.96) to enable them to construct a new sewer in Bayswater. By the 1840s they were conscious of the need to overhaul the whole of their organisation but the amending Act of 1847 (Act 10 and 11, Vic., c.70 (L and P.)) came too late for any effective action.


Scope and content/abstract:

Letters Patent appointing Commissioners, 1691-1837; minutes, agendas and reports, 1659-1847; minutes and reports of other Committees including the Committee of Accounts, Committee for Improvement of the Sewers, Committee of Rates, Committee of Works and Occasional Committee; petitions and reports, 1683-1798; papers presented to the Court, 1777-1847; Surveyor's Reports of work performed by leave of the Court, 1809-1847; information and reports from the Clerk of Works on cases of surreptitious drainage, 1810-1848; Surveyor's Reports of Work done at the charge of the District, 1775-1848; journal of large works in progress, 1838-1848; contracts and specifications, 1811-1847; presentments (a 'Presentment of the Jurors' was required before work could be carried out or a rate levied. With a few exceptions the Westminster presentments consist of lists of owners or occupiers of land and houses on whom rates could be levied), 1668-1843; decrees, (decrees gave authority for the levying of rates for work on the sewers), 1675-1847; abstracts by the Clerk of Works of work performed on the sewers, recording the amount of time spent and materials used, serving as a check on the contractors' bills, 1810-1846; copies of letters and notices sent by order of the Commissioners, 1776-1848; financial accounts, 1701-1847, including contractor's bills and payments to workmen; rate books, 1703-1848; law suits and legal opinion, 1820-1840; registers of sewers and drains, 1812-1845, including new sewers; printed reports and papers, 1830-1849, including financial accounts, statements of income and expenditure, opinions of Counsel, reports by solicitors, reports of Surveyors, proposals for changes to the management and structure of the Commission, regulations and memorandums; maps and plans of properties, sewers, districts drained by specific sewers, maps of parishes and maps of London and Middlesex, 1762-1847.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

WCS/1-36: Letters Patent; WCS/37-215: Committees; WCS/216-326: Petitions and reports; WCS/327-331: Contracts; WCS/332-429: Presentments, Decrees and Abstracts; WCS/430-444: Out letters; WCS/445-739: Accounts and Rate Books; WCS/740-747: Legal; WCS/748-754: Registers; WCS/755-912: Printed Reports; WCS/P and PR: Maps and 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:

Received in 1954 (AC/54/002).

Allied Materials

Related material:

Some presentments of the Westminster Commission of Sewers are now in the Guildhall Library.

For further records relating to sewers in London please see MCS: Metropolitan Commission of Sewers; PCS: Poplar Commission of Sewers; SKCS: Surrey and Kent Commission of Sewers; THCS: Tower Hamlets Commission of Sewers; WCS: Westminster and Middlesex Commission of Sewers; NSJSB: North Surrey Joint Sewage Board; O/080 and O/160: Westminster Commission of Sewers; ACC/2766: Crossness Pumping Station; GCS: Greenwich Commission of Sewers; HLCS: Havering Level Commission of Sewers; HFCS: Holborn and Finsbury Commission of Sewers; RMSB: Richmond Main Sewerage Board; STKCS: Saint Katherine's Commission of Sewers; WVA: Wandle Valley Main Drainage Authority and MBW: Metropolitan Board of Works. For the City of London see CLA/006: City of London Commissioners of Sewers.

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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