AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 ACC/2558
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Date(s): 1582-1976
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 1210 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Chelsea Waterworks Company
Darenth Valley Main Sewerage Board
East London Waterworks Company
Grand Junction Waterworks Company
Kent Waterworks Company
Lambeth Waterworks Company
Lee Conservancy Catchment Board
Metropolitan Water Board
New River Company
Shadwell Waterworks Company
Staines Reservoir Joint Committee
Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company
Thames Water Authority
West Kent Main Sewerage Board
West Middlesex Waterworks Company


Administrative/Biographical history:

Early water supply to the city of London came directly from wells and rivers. However, as early as 1236 the fresh water supply was dwindling as the number of residents in the city increased; and works began to bring in fresh water from outside the city. The water brought in by pipes and conduits was free to all, although trade use was taxed. Warders or Keepers were appointed to manage the conduits; financed by local taxes. On special occasions such as coronations the conduits were made to run with wine.

The era of free water gave way to the era of commercial supply with the foundation of the New River Company (1612) and the London Bridge Waterworks (1581). Chelsea Waterworks Company was founded in 1723, and in 1746 laid the first iron water main (pipes were previously made of wood or lead). The Southwark Water Company was founded in 1760, the Lambeth Water Works Company in 1785, the Vauxhall Water Company in 1805, the West Middlesex Waterworks Company in 1806, the East London Waterworks Company in 1807, the Kent Waterworks Company in 1809 and the Grand Junction Waterworks Company in 1811.

From the 1820's concern was expressed over the quality of the water supply, which was heavily polluted, leading the Chelsea Waterworks Company to introduce sand filtration. Others were slow to follow and London began to suffer the first of many cholera outbreaks. The Poor Law Commissioner's Sanitary Report of 1842 described the woeful sanitary conditions of London's poor, and recommended a constant water supply to every house. In 1849 Doctor John Snow published his pamphlet explaining that cholera was water-borne, and impetus was provided for reform and renewal of London's water supply, especially provision of clean water and a constant supply. However as many Members of Parliament were also shareholders of the water companies, it took a long time for reforming bills to be passed, and those that did get passed were either ignored or did not go far enough in their reforms.

It was not until 1902 that the Metropolis Water Act was passed, leading to the creation of the Metropolitan Water Board. This took over eight private water companies, taking over the New River Company headquarters on Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell. The board was made up of 66 delegated members, 14 from the London County Council, 31 from the Metropolitan Borough Councils and City Corporation, and 21 from the authorities of localities outside the water companies' areas. From 1907 widespread reservoir and waterworks building was carried out.

From 1974 the administration of the Metropolitan Water Board was transferred to the new Thames Water Authority. In 1989 Thames Water became a private company and set up a principal operating subsidiary, Thames Water Utilities Limited, to supply water and sewerage services.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Thames Water predecessor companies (water supply) and local authorities (waste water management including sewer network), comprising the following:
ACC/2558/CH: Chelsea Waterworks Company
ACC/2558/DV: Darenth Valley Main Sewerage Board
ACC/2558/EL: East London Waterworks Company
ACC/2558/GJ: Grand Junction Waterworks Company
ACC/2558/KE: Kent Waterworks Company
ACC/2558/LA: Lambeth Waterworks Company
ACC/2558/LC: Lee Conservancy Catchment Board
ACC/2558/LL: London Local Authorities, Metropolitan Board of Works, London County Council and Greater London Council
ACC/2558/MW: Metropolitan Water Board
ACC/2558/NR: New River Company
ACC/2558/S: Shadwell Waterworks Company
ACC/2558/SR: Staines Reservoir Joint Committee
ACC/2558/SV: Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company
ACC/2558/TW: Thames Water Authority
ACC/2558/WK: West Kent Main Sewerage Board
ACC/2558/WM: West Middlesex Waterworks Company

The records include corporate records and minutes, staff records, clerk's papers, records relating to water supply and distribution, technical reports, purchase records, property records, legal papers, plans, substantial series of photographs, glass plate negatives and lanterns slides (especially clean water: under ACC/2558/MW/PH, ACC/2558/MW/GP and ACC/2558/MW/L and sewer and waste water: under ACC/2558/LL/PH) and financial accounts and ledgers.

Cataloguing of this collection has been funded by Thames Water. For more information about the cataloguing project which was completed September 2019, please see 'The Thames Water Treasure Trove' in 'Source' magazine, July 2016 (library reference: 24.217 THA). London Metropolitan Archives would like to thank Thames Water for funding the cataloguing of this collection.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The records of each company have been catalogued separately. 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:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in 1988, with further accessions received at various times since, including records received from Thames Water's former archive held at Abbey Mills between 2014 and 2016..

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

See The London Encyclopaedia (ed. Weinreb and Hibbert) for articles on water supply and brief histories of the individual water companies. The LMA and Guildhall libraries hold a number of contemporary pamphlets and books relating to the problems of water supply in London; as well as later histories.

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:
July to October 2009. Updated October 2019.

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"