Brighton's Victorian Sewer


Useful Information

Location: Brighton. Starts under the Palace Pier, ends at a manhole in the middle of the Old Steine Gardens.
Open: May Tue, Thu 18:30, Sun 9:30, 11.
Jun to Sep Wed 18:30, Sun 9:30, 11.
[2011]
Fee: Adults GBP 12, Children (11-16) GBP 6, Children (0-11) not allowed, Students GBP 8.50, Seniors (65+) GBP 8.50.
[2011]
Classification:  Sewage System
Light: lamps provided.
Dimension:  
Guided tours: D=1h.
Photography:  
Accessibility:  
Bibliography:  
Address: Sewer Tours, Communications Department, Southern Water, Southern House, Yeoman Road, Worthing BN13 3NX, Tel: 01903-272606.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
Last update:$Date: 2015/08/30 21:55:07 $

History

 
1860decision to build sewer system and start of surveys.
1865begin of construction.
JAN-1871work on intercepting sewer draining started by Mr Matthew Jennings.
MAY-1871works stopped.
AUG-1871new contract with Messrs John Aird and Son.
JUN-1874completed.
1876shaft with chimney and furnace constructed to draw a continuous flow of air through the sewer.
1885additional ventilator added.
1960sbegin of tours been held from May to September.
1973operation and maintenance passed to the Southern Water Authority following the Water Act.
1989Southern Water privatised.

Description

The city Brighton, part of the city of Brighton and Hove, has an extensive system of Victorian sewers. The sewers are operated by Southern Water, who run tours for the public during the summer and Brighton Festival. The tours must be pre booked and are very popular, so they are generally booked out for several months. The tours are guided by engineers of the Southern Water, who tell about the technology, the history and numerous curiosities of the system. Participants are equipped with hard hat and lamp, and we recommend appropriate clothes. Wellingtongs, old clothes, raincoat, sweater are definitely useful.

In the first decades of the 19th century the number of inhabitants of the small town Brighthelmstone rose from 7,000 to 60,000 in 1849. The town became a popular sea bath and numerous now historic buildings like the Royal Pavilion, the Volks Railway, the Aquarium, and the Palace Pier were erected. The fast growth also caused problems, as the sewage and household waste was mostly drained into cesspools at the back of the buildings. This caused smell and health problems, not good for a city dependent on visitors.

The earliest sewers were brickwork in lime mortar with a diameter of 22cm called gun barrel drains. They drained only certain spots and were not connected. Others were constructed of hewn chalk with a slate bed, intended for rainwater only and ending at the upper part of the beaches. It was forbidden to connect household drains to them, but illegal connections resulted in stinking sewage on the beaches, so they were gradually extended further out to the sea.

As a result the town council decided in 1860 to build a sewer system to drain waste water into the sea. They started with a survey and in 1865 the construction started. About 71km of sewers were laid, ranging from salt-glazed ware pipes with a diameter of 30cm to 2.4m circular brick tunnels. The plan was to collect the water and transport it to three outfalls, one at the western boundary, one at the town centre (Albion) and one using an existing outfall at Black Rock. But the inhabitants of Brighton were not happy with this plan and in 1869, public pressure grew. The alternative was a main trunk sewer into which all sewers drain and which transports all the waste water outside the town. There were several alternatives, the finally adopted plan by Sir John Hawkshaw included an intercepting sewer draining into an outfall at Portobello. So the waste water went into the sea more than 6km east of the borough boundary.


See also


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