Thursday, 2 July 2009
Summer in the City
It's been pretty uncomfortable at Westminster this week - it's been quite a heatwave. But any discomfort is nothing like the summers in the Victorian period. Air conditioning hadn't been invented. As the industrial age developed - and more people moved towards the growing city of London - the Thames became horribly polluted.
1858 saw an unusually hot summer. The smell, particularly of the sewerage, was so great that the work at Westminster was affected. Interim measures included draping curtains soaked in chloride of lime around the Palace. There was even talks of temporarily removing Parliament up to Hampton Court.
When the weather eventually broke, conditions improved. A Commons select committee was set up to study the causes, and produce solutions to the problems. Subsequently a bill was rushed through Parliament and became law in 18 days, to provide more money to construct a massive new sewer scheme for London, and to build the Embankment along the Thames in order to improve the flow of water and of traffic.