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A woman dropping her porcelain tea-cup in horror upon discovering the monstrous contents of a magnified drop of Thames water; revealing the impurity of London drinking water. Coloured etching by W. Heath, 1828.

Heath, William
Date
[1828?]

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Free to use with attribution CC BYCredit: Wellcome Collection
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Description

The caricature shows a woman in fashionable dress looking into a microscope to observe little monsters swimming about in a drop of London Thames water. In the 1820s much of the drinking water of Londoners came from the river Thames, and the sewers emptied into the Thames. A Commission on the London Water Supply was appointed to investigate this dangerous situation, and it reported in 1828. After that report, the five water companies which served the north bank of the river improved their supplies by building reservoirs etc., but the people of Southwark (on the south bank of the river) continued to receive infected water. The problems were not solved until the 1860s when London's present sewerage system was installed by the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) and its engineer Joseph Bazalgette. Between the date of this caricature (1828) and the completion of the MBW sewers, London suffered two cholera epidemics, one in 1832 (part of the world pandemic of cholera) and one in 1854. Looking at a drop of water though a microscope was a popular entertainment provided by travelling showmen who carried the microscopes around in cases on their backs

Contributors

Publication/Creation

London (26 Haymarket where political & other caricatures are daily publishing) : T. McLean, [1828?]

Physical description

1 print : etching, with watercolour ; image 22 x 34 cm

Lettering

Monster soup commonly called Thames water, being a correct representation of that precious stuff doled out to us!!!

Type/Technique

Language

  • English


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License information

License information

You can use this work for any purpose, including commercial uses, without restriction under copyright law. You should also provide attribution to the original work, source and licence.

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) terms and conditions https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

Credit

A woman dropping her porcelain tea-cup in horror upon discovering the monstrous contents of a magnified drop of Thames water; revealing the impurity of London drinking water. Coloured etching by W. Heath, 1828. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY


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