Victorian London - Health and Hygiene - Sewers and Sanitation - Condition of water

I am in better health, avoiding all fermented liquors, and drinking nothing but London water. with a million insects in every drop. He who drinks a tumbler of London water has literally in his stomach more animated beings than there are men, women and children on the face of the globe ...

letter from Sydney Smith to Lady Grey, A Memoir by His Daughter, Lady Holland, 1834

I am of the opinion, that not one half of the entire filth produced in the metropolis finds its way into the sewers, but is retained in the cesspools and drains in and about the houses, where it lies decomposing, giving off noxious effluvia and poisonous sulphuretted hydrogen and other gases which constantly infect the atmosphere of such houses from top to bottom, and which, of course, the inhabitants are constantly breathing ... There are hundreds, I may say thousands, of houses in the metropolis which have no drainage whatever, and the greater part of them having stinking overflowing cesspools. And there are also hundreds of streets, courts and alleys that have no sewers; and how the drainage and filth is conveyed away, and how the poor miserable inhabitants live in such places it is hard to tell. In pursuance of my duties, from time to time I have visited very many places where filth of all kinds was lying scattered about the rooms, vaults, cellars, areas, and yards, so thick, and so deep, that it was hardly possible to move for it. I have also seen in such places, human beings living and sleeping in sunk rooms, with filth from overflowing cesspools exuding through and running down the walls and over the floors. It is utterly hopeless to expect to meet with either civilization, benevolence, religion or virtue, in any shape, where so much filth and wretchedness abounds ... Morality, and the whole economy of domestic existence is outraged and deranged by so much suffering and misery.

John Phillips, surveyor of the Westminster Court of Sewers, report to Royal Commission 1847

THE WATER THAT JOHN DRINKS

This is the water that JOHN drinks.

This is the Thames with its cento of stink,
That supplies the water that JOHN drinks.

These are the fish that float in the ink-
y stream of the Thames with its cento of stink,
That supplies the water that JOHN drinks

This is the sewer from cesspool and sink,
That feeds the fish that float in the ink-
y stream of the Thames with its cento of stink,
That supplies the water that JOHN drinks.

These are vested int'rests, that fill to the brink,
The network of sewer from cesspool and sink,
That feed the fish that float in the ink-
y stream of the Thames with its cento of stink,
That supplies the water that JOHN drinks.

This is the price that we pay to wink,
At the vested int'rests, that fill to the brink,
The network of sewer from cesspool and sink,
That feed the fish that float in the ink-
y stream of the Thames with its cento of stink,
That supplies the water that JOHN drinks.

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1849

A RARE BEVERAGE

"WATER, SIR? YES, SIR? THE REAL THING OR THE SUBSTITUTE, SIR? REAL WATER VERY DEAR, SIR; A SHILLING A GLASS, SIR."

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1849

DRINKING WATER supplied by the water companies ought to be filtered before it is drunk. So prepared it is now more wholesome than the waters of springs and pumps, which are liable to the pollution of gas and sewage.

Murray's Handbook to London As It Is, 1879