The Threatened Nuisance in the Greenwich Marshes

SIR, The danger to Greenwich of becoming polluted by all the abominable filth of the metropolis on the southern side of the Thames is imminent, more imminent than Mr. Bristow, by his explanation (!) given to the Local Board of Works, appears to believe it to be. The naiveté with which that gentleman expressed his faith in the assurance given to him at the Metropolitan Board of Works that the outfall is to be at Erith, notwithstanding instructions given to the engineer to prepare plans for the outfall at Greenwich (to which instructions he himself was a party) would be amusing, were it not alarming; as shewing how easily even one so watchful and so wary as our respected representative can be (to use an Americanism) “comfoozeled.” It is well known that corporations have no consciences, nor have they bodies to be kicked, nor souls to be dashed for who that has ever had anything to do with them has not found to his cost, their most solemn assurances but little regarded when either interest or necessity has warped or impelled them to set them at nought?
The Metropolitan Board of Works having adopted the principle of intercepting sewers on each side of the Thames, have now, to quote their Chairman’s word Shouldered the responsibility cast upon them by Parliament of constructing these sewers for three millions of money. Who, either out of the Board or even on the Board, believe that the works as contemplated can be constructed for that amount?
In the necessity then for saving, if possible, the enormous cost of tunnelling under the town of Woolwich, and extending the sewer to Erith, lies the peril to Greenwich; and you may depend upon it, Sir, that the outfall at Greenwich Marshes will not be abandoned without a struggle. I say abandoned, because I know, that notwithstanding all the late pribbles and prabbles about an outfall at a more remote point down the river, Greenwich has always been, and is now, the point most; desired for that purpose, as presenting the fewest engineering difficulties. There, this reservoir of seven acres will be placed to receive the daily contribution of six millions of cubic feet of ferrulent matter; there to fester, there to generate its noxious gases, and become, in effect, a Upas tree the plague spot of the Borough, unless the inhabitants exert themselves as one man to prevent it.
That your readers may not suppose that I exaggerate the danger of the terminus of this sewer being in Greenwich, either in the Marshes or at a point still more in the midst of the population of the Borough, I give some of my reasons for this my conviction. When at the end of the year 1854 I had the honour of representing Greenwich in the last of the Metropolitan Commissions of Sewers, I found the question, so far advanced that a line of sewer, extending from Battersea to the Greenwich Marshes, had been agreed upon by the Commission That immediately preceded the one on which I was appointed the temporary discharge of this sewer was to be at Deptford Creek! I lost no time in protesting against this monstrous proposition, as your report of the proceedings, and comments thereon at that period, will testify. The question, Sir, at the present moment, is just where I found it four years ago. Let the inhabitants of the Borough on over the following extracts from the report of Messrs to Bidder, Hawkesley, and Bazalgette, dated the 23rd November last, and couple these extracts with the resolution of the Metropolitan Board of Works, as quoted in my act letter, and then let them suffer themselves to be at lulled into a “fool’s paradise” if they like, but they shall not live the excuse that they had no warning. Extract be from the report referred to, page 86” On the whole we prefer Mr. Bazalgette’s arrangement, and being convinced that the existing state of the drainage of the southern district is even now injurious to health, we feel it our duty to recommend the adoption of Mr. Bazalgette’s low level sewer will be lifted about 20 feet into the high level sewer
The sewage of the lower portion at Greenwich must be brought back to Deptford with Extract from report, page 91. We are, indeed, of the opinion that if the local Circumstances favoured and arrangement, it would be preferable to place the outing within the Metropolitan boundary rather than without especially on the south side of the River, where a situation presents itself in Greenwich Marshes. The River Branch of the North Kent Railway. If this arrangement could be effected, the expenditure otherwise to be incurred in carrying the fall sewer through the centre of the town of Woolwich a point five miles lower down the river than the Greenwich Marshes would be saved. The terms of the Metropolitan Local Management Act appear, however, to preclude are possibility of effecting such an. arrangement.” Yes, Sir. This prohibition existed when this report was made, but it does not exist now. Who, then, after reading these extra the resolution of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and weighs well all the circumstances can belie his that the sewer will ever be extended beyond Greenwich it the Metropolitan Board can avoid it? It appears to me. Sir, little short of sacrilege to its defile Greenwich, and make it the entrepot of the excremenitious matter voided by all South London. Greenwich, rich in the recollections of the past, glorious and at world-wide renown for its palacious retreat, bestowed on a grateful country upon her aged defenders, the like of which is not to be found upon the face of the earth and Greenwich, of nautical celebrity in every corner of the globe, Greenwich, the resort from time immemorial of the health-seeking, and pleasure-seeking, over-wrought- people, this Greenwich to be made the slink hole of the metropolis. Fough! It must not be. Let the fact be known that thirty-six thousand persons crossed the pier at Greenwich, in July, 1851 more than in July, 1857 let the proprietors of the splendid taverns on the river bank speak of the destruction of their trade let the empty houses and high rates tell how Greenwich is shunned now, when the river is only partially polluted and then let those interested in the prosperity of Greenwich consider well what the town and its neighbourhood are likely to be, when this foul reservoir, twice a day, vomits forth its filth to float in front of the town, and deposit on its shore its corruption, or, when not disgorging, storing another batch for the next-vomit! Who will build within miles of this tainted atmosphere? Imagine villas at Westcombe Park overlooking this lethiferous lake with all its surrounding refuse from questionable deodorization. In fact, sir, look upon this question from any point, Greenwich is doomed if this outfall is allowed to be planted there. I hope I have made it apparent to the most credulous that there is danger to the whole borough of Greenwich unless there be vigorous action on the part of the people and their representatives. I am glad to find that attention has already been excited to the subject. Your leader of last week (to be followed I hope by others of a similar character) will extend and keep alive that interest until I hope this monster nuisance is made to move on.

I am, Sir, yours respectfully,

25th August 1858.
Kentish Mercury

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