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Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 ACC/2558/MW/CE
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1734-1974
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 56.02 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Metropolitan Water Board


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Metropolitan Water Board was established in 1902 under the terms of the Metropolis Water Act of the same year with a statutory area of 576 square miles, of which it directly supplied 540. Its Board met for the first time in 1903 and was composed of 66 members from every local authority concerned (some smaller authorities had joint representation) and the Lee and Thames Conservancies. This number was increased to 88 in 1956 (due to population growth) but reduced to 39 on the reorganisation of local government in 1965.

During 1903 and 1904 arbitration appeals were heard regarding compensation for the companies' shareholders and in 1904 the 'appointed days' for transfer of the undertakings took place, July 25 for the New River Company and June 24 for the rest. The new undertaking also included the areas covered by the Urban Districts of Enfield and Tottenham which had retained their own powers of supply (from wells) although they had also been heavily dependent on the New River and East London companies.

Its first task was to complete schemes inherited from the companies and effect the rationalisation of the eight separate undertakings, primarily in engineering, staffing, administration and water rates. To this end Staines reservoir was opened in 1904, the Kempton Park works in 1906, Walton reservoir in 1907, Honor Oak reservoir in 1909, and Island Barn reservoir in 1911.

Progress on the financial and administrative side was slower and politically sensitive especially in the rationalisation of water charges. Criticisms of the Board continued through the 1910's and eventually in 1919 it agreed to the setting up of a committee by the Ministry of Health under Sir Horace Monro to review the workings of the 1902 Water Act. The committee reported in 1920, largely supporting the Board's management of the undertaking and the resulting Metropolitan Water Board (Charges) Act of 1921 strengthened its financial position.

In 1914 the Round Pond was closed after three hundred years in operation and on its site in 1920 the Board's new headquarters at New River Head were opened. In 1936 another connection with the early history of the capital's water supply was broken with the decision to allow the lease on Hampstead and Highgate ponds to lapse. It had been in existence since 1543.

In 1947 a Departmental Committee was set up by the Ministry of Health on Greater London Water Supplies with a remit "To examine the present system of water supply administration in the Greater London area and to consider and report on the question whether changes in that system are desirable in the public interest and if so what should be the constitution, powers and duties of the new body or bodies in which control should be rented". The Board was in favour of, in effect, a single regional body based on the hydro-geological area of the London Basin but there was a great deal of opposition to the proposal and nothing of substance was enacted although indirectly it led to the creation of the Thames Water Authority in 1974.

The post war period saw the inauguration of a number of major schemes including the opening of the George VI reservoir at Staines in 1947, the William Girling reservoir at Chingford in 1951, the Ashford Common works in 1958, the Thames to Lee Valley trunk main (to supplement supplies from the River Lee) in 1960, the Elizabeth II reservoir at Walton in 1962 and the Coppermills Works (the last great project completed) in 1972. By 1974 the daily amount of water supplied by the Board had risen from an original 220 million gallons in 1904 to 420 million gallons (with peaks up to 500 million).

The Thames Water Authority came into existence under the 1973 Water Act on 1st August of that year. The last meeting of the Metropolitan Water Board took place on 29th March 1974 and the Authority assumed full control three days later.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Metropolitan Water Board Chief Engineer's Department, including letter books of the Chief Engineer; personnel papers; contracts; Chief Engineer reports; volumes relating to districts of the Board (Southern District, Northern District, Kent District, New River District, Eastern District, Western District); papers relating to the Staines Reservoir Communications Works; reports on reservoirs and equipment trials. Also Registry files on a variety of subjects including accidents, burst mains, contracts, pumping stations, British Waterworks Association, chemical treatment, complaints, drownings, filtration, examination of water, hydrants, water supply, the Institution of Water Engineers, computers, mains distribution, Parliamentary bills, sewage, recreational use of reservoirs, statistics, improvement of supply and floods.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The records of this Department have been arranged in 22 series.

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 to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

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

Allied Materials

Related material:

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:
November 2009 to February 2010

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