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How the East End “fatberg” reveals the visionary brilliance of London’s Victorian sewage system

Grotesque as it may be, the mass of fat provides an opportunity to reflect on the engineering genius of Joseph Bazalgette

By Nick Hilton  

The ambition and artistry behind London's sewage system has allowed the city to grow.

‘Of the great sewer that runs beneath, Londoners know, as a rule, nothing, though the Register-General could tell them that its existence has added some twenty years to their chance of life.’

So wrote The Times in their 1891 obituary of Joseph Bazalgette, the engineering genius behind London’s Victorian sewers. In it, they evoke the image of Gustav Doré’s 1872 print ‘The New Zealander’, which shows a cloaked figure gazing across the Thames at the ruins of St Paul’s.…

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