Sir Joseph William Bazalgette (28 March 1819- 15 March 1891) was one of the great Victorian civil engineers. As the chief engineer of London's Metropolitan Board of Works, his major achievement was the creation of a sewer network for central London that helped relieve the city from cholera epidemics, while beginning the clean-up of the River Thames that had reached a nadir with the "Great Stink" of 1858.
He was born in Enfield, the son of a French immigrant, and began his career working on railway projects articled to noted engineer Sir John MacNeill and gaining sufficient experience (some in Northern Ireland) in land drainage and reclamation works for him to set up his own London consulting practice in 1842. In 1849, he joined the Metropolitan Sewers Commission.
Championed by fellow engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Bazalgette was then appointed chief engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1856 (a post he retained until the MBW was abolished and replaced by the London County Council in 1889). His appointment came after a cholera epidemic had killed over 10,000 people in central London (1853-54). In 1858 Parliament passed an enabling act and Bazalgette's designs began to be implemented.
At the time, the Thames was little more than an open sewer, devoid of any fish or other wildlife, and an obvious hazard to Londoners' health. Bazalgette's solution was to construct 83 miles of brick-built sewers to intercept sewage outflows, and 1100 miles of street sewers, to prevent raw sewage running into the river. These outflows were then diverted to east London where they could be dumped in the river with less adverse effect on the city's population (though there are now extensive sewage treatment works at both sites).
The scheme involved major pumping stations at Deptford (1864) and at Crossness (1865) on the Erith marshes, both on the south side of the Thames, and at Abbey Mills (in the River Lea valley, 1868) and on the Thames Embankment (1875), north of the river.
The system was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1865, although the whole project was not actually completed for another ten years.
Bazalgette was knighted in 1875, and elected President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1888.
He lived for some years at 17 Hamilton Terrace, St John's Wood, north London, where there is now a blue plaque in his honour.
His grave is in Wimbledon (the area where he died).
A formal monument on the riverside of the Victoria Embankment in central London commemorates Bazalgette's genius.
Victoria Embankment (1870)
Albert Embankment (1870)
Chelsea Embankment (1874)
Putney Bridge (1886)
Albert Bridge (1884; modifications)
Hammersmith Bridge (1887)
the Woolwich Ferry (1889)
Battersea Bridge (1890)
Charing Cross Road
early plans for the Blackwall Tunnel (1897)
proposal for what later became Tower Bridge