A five-year project to catalogue almost 20,000 Thames Water photographs has revealed a wide range of historic images charting the development of London’s water supply and sewer network in the 19th and 20th centuries.
They include images of the sewer network during construction, engineers called “flushers” descending into drains and a boat known as a “sludge vessel” which collected and disposed of waste, as well as “Don’t Waste Water” posters from the former Metropolitan Water Board, predecessor to Thames Water.
The initiative, which was carried out in partnership with the City of London, saw archive staff at London Metropolitan Archives repackage lantern slides and glass plate and photographic negatives dating back to the 1880s.
In total, 19,579 glass slides and transparencies were catalogued in acid-free photon envelopes and boxes to help protect these fragile formats from damage.
They are now stored at London Metropolitan Archives in Farringdon alongside Thames Water’s collections from London’s former water companies which date back to the 17th century.
Many of the images were also digitised by an external contractor and displayed online to be viewed by the public.
They show the development of London’s reservoirs in the Lea Valley and west London, historic maps of Clerkenwell showing the location of New River Head, the former offices of Thames Water, tree trunks which were hollowed out and fit together to create pipes to supply water, a navvy foreman from Chingford, members of the Metropolitan Water Board’s Fire Service and a young boy with a 23lb pike caught at Stoke Newington reservoir in 1928.
To view the images, visit https://archive.thameswater.co.uk