The Government of Victorian London, 1855-1889: The Metropolitan Board of Works, the Vestries, and the City Corporation

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Harvard University Press, 1982 - History - 466 pages

Of all the major cities of Britain, London, the world metropolis, was the last to acquire a modern municipal government. Its antiquated administrative system led to repeated crises as the population doubled within a few decades and reached more than two million in the 1840s. Essential services such as sanitation, water supply, street paving and lighting, relief of the poor, and maintenance of the peace were managed by the vestries of ninety-odd parishes or precincts plus divers ad hoc authorities or commissions. In 1855, with the establishment of the Metropolitan Board of Works, the groundwork began to be laid for a rational municipal government.

Owen tells in absorbing detail the story of the operations of the Metropolitan Board of Works, its political and other problems, and its limited but significant accomplishments--including the laying down of 83 miles of sewers and the building of the Thames Embankments--before it was replaced in 1889 by the London County Council. His account, based on extensive archival research, is balanced, judicious, lucid, often witty and always urbane.

 

Contents

The Creation of the Metropolitan Board of Works
31
The Problem of Main Drainage
47
The Miscellaneous Duties of a Municipal Government
126
The Routine of Administration
156
The Twilight of the Metropolitan Board of Works
193
St George the Martyr Southwark
304
Notes
371
Bibliography
416
Index
455
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About the author (1982)

David Owen is on the staffs of both The New Yorker and Golf Digest. A frequent contributor to The Atlantic Monthly, and the author of nine previous books, he lives in Washington, Connecticut.

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