Posted by Roger V. on June 11, 1998 at 23:39:06:
In response to This time a question on sources of water..., written by Peg on June 11, 1998 at 13:37:02
] I am assuming that people with enough property had private wells, but what did the people in London do for water? Neighborhood wells like in 'Angela's Ashes'? Would someone have delivered the water to wealthier customers? Would they keep it in a keg? Any help is appreciated. Peg
As has already been pointed out by Caroline B, most of the rivers and streams in and around London had essentially become open sewers by the 1850's. This was made even worse by the fact that the Thames is a "tidal" river, which means it rises and falls with the ocean's tide, and this impeded the flow of sewage downstream.
Shortly after the infamous incident where Parliament had to adjourn because the river smelled so badly, a monumental engineering project was undertaken to extend and re-route London's sewers. The basic plan was to build huge sewer pipes running parallel to the Thames. These intercepted existing sewers which had previously dumped straight into the river, and re-routed the sewage to a location well downstream from the city. There, it was held in large "ponds," which were pumped out when the tide was on its way out.
I can't remember the exact statistics, but once this project was complete, the rates of contagious disease in London dropped dramatically!
Numerous characters in Austen's works dislike London, and they had good reasons feel this way. London was a far more dangerous place than the country in many ways, the danger of infectious disease being only one factor... add to it crime, dangerous traffic, and the risk of fire among the closely-crowded buildings!
In a modern perspective, Marianne Dashwood's illness which came so close to killing her on her way home from London was far more likely to have been contracted before she left town. We now know that "chills" don't in themselves cause diseases, though they can make them worse, or possibly hasten their onset.
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