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Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 ACC/2558/CH/01
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1723-1904
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 24.88 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Chelsea Waterworks Company


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Chelsea Water Works Company was established by letters patent in 1723 "For the better supplying the City and Liberties of Westminster and parts adjacent". Under Royal Warrants of 1725 two ponds in Green Park were converted into reservoirs and a third reservoir was constructed in the Walnut Tree Walk, Hyde Park. The supply to these reservoirs was obtained from a system of small canals extending from the north of Victoria Station to the Thames at Chelsea.

Its expansion was initially assisted by its ability to supply the royal palaces, a responsibility which also forced it in 1742 to introduce an atmospheric pumping engine after severe shortages during the winter of 1739-40, the first economically successful steam pumping engine in London.

In 1809 it obtained powers to take water direct from the Thames (as the other companies already did) but the source was particularly polluted and liable to turbulence. This led the Company's chief engineer, James Simpson, to introduce the slow sand filtration system in 1829, a system still in use in 1974.

The deterioration in the quality of the water supply resulted in the company closing its works and moving from the tideway. In 1856, following the enforcement of the 1852 Metropolis Water Act, a new intake, filter beds and a pumping station were opened at Seething Wells, Surbiton. The filtered water was pumped to service reservoirs on Putney Heath. Water continued to be drawn at Surbiton until 1877 when an intake and four reservoirs were opened at Molesey, the water being pumped from here to Surbiton for filtration.

The Cheslea Water Works Company was the smallest of the Metropolitan water undertakings acquired by the Metropolitan Water Board in 1904, following the Metropolis Water Act of 1902.


Scope and content/abstract:

Corporate records of the Chelsea Waterworks Company, including Court of Directors minute books; General Board minute books; Committee of Accounts and Works minute books; Finance and Audit Committee minute books; Parliamentary Committee minutes; Secretary's report books; agenda books; correspondence; letter books; legal papers; register of stock and share holders; stock and share ledgers and other records; dividend books; registers of wills; bond records; contracts and specifications.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

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.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Prior to their transfer to the Greater London Record Office [now London Metropolitan Archives], the records of the Chelsea Water Works Company were housed in muniment rooms at Thames Water premises, Seething Wells, Surbiton and at New River Head, Rosebery Avenue, EC1.

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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