THE WATER MAINS OF OLD LONDON.
The exhumation not long ago of sundry wooden tubes or pipes in front of the new Law Courts in the Strand has drawn attention to some of the bygone conditions of the water supply of the metropolis. That wooden water pipes were also used in the provinces in past years is well known, and the records of the Hertford corporation contain sundry entries of money paid for the construction and repair of such pipes during the sixteenth century. To lay down a cast-iron main lor the conveyance of water would seem a very s mple and obvious contrivance. Yet the history of the water supply shows that it has required a long course of experience to bring the mode of distribution to its present point of refinement. There has been the leaden age, the wooden age, for a brief period the stone age, and now at last the age of iron. It seems like a curiousanticipation of the present schemes of local government and the possession of the metropolitan water supply by a municipal authority, that quite at the commencement of the thirteenth century the corporation of London intercepted certain springs leeding the water course known as the Tyeboufne, and gathered them into reservoirs situated near Marylebone lane. From this point the water was conducted in a six-inch lead pipe to Charing Cross, along the Strand and Fleet street, crossing the Fleet by means of the bridge which then existed at that spot, and proceeding up Ludgate Hill to Cheapside, where it was discharged into the conduit at the western end of that thoroughfare. This water was derived from the gravel beds forming the subsoil of Marylebone, and was doubtless free from any dangerous contamination. The degree of hardness attaching to it would also prevent any risk of lead poisoning. At the present time a portion of the water supply of the metropolis is drawn from the gravel beds which underlie the banks of the Thames above London, and the water companies are endeavoring to increase the quantity taken from this source. These Marylebone waterworks, if we may so term them, were the property of the corporation, the owner of the land whence the springs issued being induced, under royal influence, to make a grant of the water to the civic authority. The lead pipe was paid for by certain merchants of Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp, who received as a quid pro quo an exemption for a term of years from river dues and toils on the goods they imported into London. The king took his share of the benefit by having a gratuitous supply of water for his stables, situated on what is now the northeast corner of Trafalgar square. For many years the corporation paid an annual visit of inspection to the Marylebone springs and reservoirs, celebrating the event by a dinner held in a banqueting hall constructed on the arches by which the reservoirs were covered.
The supply of water to the people of London by means of conduits, utilizing local springs, proved insufficient as the metropolis grew in size. Traces of this obsolete method are preserved in the names of Conduit street, Lamb’s Conduit street and Conduit Vale. Towards the close of the sixteenth century recourse was had to the Thames, and as the main drainage works were then altogether out of the reckoning, the river at London Bridge was deemed a source sufficiently pure for a domestic water supply. This was the beginning of a new order of things, and brought with it what may be called the age of wood. An enterprising Dutchman, named Peter Morrys, having obtained the consent of the corporation, erected a tidal water wheel under one of the arches of old London Bridge, by means of which he worked a force pump, raising water from ihe Thames and driving it through leaden or wooden pipes laid in the streets, whence branch pipes conveyed water into the houses. This was fairly the germ of the system which now governs the metropolitan water supply. The tidal wheels under London Bridge were increased in number to meet the growing demand, until at last, in 1820. the works at the bridge supplied as much as 26,000,000 hogsheads of water during the year. As the London Bridge water-works came into operation soon after 1582, it is possible that wooden pipes 300 years old are to be found in some parts of the city. But although the supply went as far west as Fleet street, it is not certain that the Dutchman’s wooden pipes extended beyond Temple Bar. When the London Bridge water-works were discontinued, consequent on the pulling down of the old bridge, the New River Company made an equitable arrangement with the proprietors, and absorbed the Dutchman’s district into their own. The area served by the New River Company extends along Fleet street into the Strand, and wooden pipes have been dug up in Fleet street, apparently continuous with those opposite the new Law Courts.
It was not long after Peter Morrys set up his water wheels that the New river project was started, in some degree introducing a competing supply. It was a great achievement to bring the pure spring waters from the neighborhood of Ware, in Hertfordshire, into the reservoirs at Clerkenwell ; but it was also felt to be a difficult matter to distribute the water to the various parts of the metropolis where it was needed. “ This was done,” says ihe record of the time, “with all possible diligence, by pipes of elme and lead, but for the most part elme, from which pipes many high streets and lanes within the city are plentifully served.” This “ plentiful serving ” is exemplified by the circumstances that in 1816, in consideration of a certain sum to be paid yearly, Sir Hugh Myddleton granted to a citizen and his wife a lease for twenty-one years ‘‘of a pipe or quill of half-inch bore for the service of their yarde and kitchine by means of two swan-necked cocks.” Such a supply as could be obtained through a pipe “of the size of a goose quill ” was that which the King obtained from the corporation in recognition of the royal assistance in getting a grant of the water at Marylebone. Perhaps the supply was constant, in which case it would excel the present intermittent system ; and when the water flows continuously a goose quill will yield a considerable quantity. In the foregoing lease granted by Hugh Myddleton the ‘‘quill” is specified as being half an inch in diameter, which shows that the term had a technical meaning when not otherwise expressed.
Some singular relics of the old water supply of London were shown in the International Health Exhibition at South Kensington in 1S84. The New River Company sent a pail made out of an old wooden pipe dug up in Southampton Row, as also one of the actual pipes. The East London Company throw some light on the manufacture by exhibiting a set of cutters used in boring the wooden mains. These tools were said to be about a hundred years old. The Grand Junction Company sent a specimen of a wooden water main “as formerly in use in the London streets,” dug up about seven years previously. The Soutliwark and Vauxhall Company exhibited some old wooden pipes and stop valves taken out of the ground in Redcross street, Southwark, and supposed to have been fixed about the year 18×4-a somewhat late period. The West Middlesex Company sent specimens of stone pipes, “ as used by the company until rSo7 for supplying the water into the district.” The same company also furnished specimens of wooden pipes. They abandoned both stone and wood in 1807. Stone was tried as a substitute for wood, in the hope that it would prove less liable to leak. It probably proved the worse of the two, owing to the yielding of the joints under pressure. The West Middlesex Company appear to have entertained considerable hope at one time that stone pipes would answer, judging by the fact they laid down a quantity in various parts of their district, the diameters ranging from two inctfes to twelve. The Herilord records show that wooden pipes were sometimes strengthened by means of iron hoops. Elm was used at Hertford, as in London, and the process of boring is mentioned. The dale ol 1814, when the Hertford corporation resolved on using iron pipes instead of wooden ones, corresponds very closely to the time when the same change took place in London. The necessity of having mains of large diameter, and the general requirement for water at high pressure, would help to render wood an obsolete material. The East London Company laid iron pipes at the commencement of the present century, in lieu of the old wooden ones used by ihe Shadwel! and West Haul companies, the complaint being tliat the wooden mains ” were totally inadequate to withstand the pressure.”-Tht Standard.
ANOTHER HELPLESS Village.-The village had no “adequate protection against fires,” is the explanation in the case of Vernon Centre, near Utica, where a family was burned up yesterday morning. The same may he said of most small places throughout the country. The comparative cost of a fire engine and a place in which to keep it would have been little for Vernon Centre, and the tragedy probably averted. Every year fire losses in almost any village arc more than sufficient to meet all necessary rxpense for providing the means for promptly putting out contligrations. All that is needed is a little public enterprise on the part of the people to insure the procurement of the necessary fire apparatus. Why not have it?-Troy Times, November 12.