Seething Wells Water - Surbiton’s Hidden Heritagehttp://www.thecommunitybrain.org/PDFs/FromLondonSoupToClearBright.pdf

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How the waterworks worked

 



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The process was fairly straightforward. Water was pumped into the filter beds from the River Thames. It took 6 hours to slowly sink through layers of fine sand, followed by course sand, shells (from Harwich), fine gravel and finally course gravel. The shells overlapped and prevented sand sinking into the porous earthenware pipes below. This filtered any particles of dirt. Beneath all this were large ceramic pipes which drained the water to the pumping reservoirs.


Algae in the water and a layer of slime over the top consumed any living bacteria. In fact tests on working filters show bacteria can be reduced by up to factor of 10,000. The main reason for filtering was to get rid of any visible dirt. The effect of killing bacteria was unknown to Simpson and purely coincidental when Dr. John Snow used the water of Seething Wells to prove his theories in the spread of cholera.


The filter beds are still present. You can see them from Portsmouth Road. Some of them have been drained and the top level of slime is very clear and the undulating surface where the pipes lie beneath. The drains that conducted the water under the Portsmouth Road are still there and some still full of water. On the other side of the road, you can still see the Chelsea Coal Store with castle like tower, which is a lift shaft going underground.


The Nuffield health centre is within the Lambeth engine pump house, and is one of the oldest buildings on site. The original engines are still exist, but are found at Loughborough University.



Plans of the Chelsea Coal Storehttp://www.thecommunitybrain.org/PDFs/Coal-Store.pdf