The History of Drains

We often take our drains for granted, but having the ability to flush a toilet, turn on a tap, or have a shower without thought may be regarded to as something of a luxury after learning the history of the modern drains we have today.

It may shock some to learn that it is only fairly recently in the course of human history that an effective and operational drain and sewage system was made available within the UK.

Over the centuries there have been various different methods for draining away waste water; most famously by the people of the ancient Indus Valley (modern day Pakistan and Western India). Romans were also early pioneers; their aqueducts are still marvelled at by many an architect.

The innovative flushing toilet, design by Sir John Harrington in the 16th Century, were modelled on a design that was used by the Minoans of Crete from over 3,000 years before it! It took a further 200 years for Alexander Cummings to remodel the flushing toilet into the patented bowl model.

It was during the Victorian era before changes were made to UK sewers and drains, prior to these changes, in the early 19th Century, the River Thames was essentially an open sewer. It was in 1858, during the summer known as the “Great Stink”, that the changes took place to modernise the sewage system of London… and with a summer known as the Great Stink, it’s understandable why.

The extensive underground sewer networks, designed by Joseph Bazalgatte, largely remains in place today. In order to cope with the ever-growing population of London the original network has had some extensions to cope, but the vast majority of residential and commercial drains, serving over 8 million people, feed into original network of sewers.

Today the main changes come in the materials used to create drainage networks. Where once drains and pipes were crafted from clay, lead, or even wood, they are now replaced with materials that are more durable (copper, brass, plastic) to allow them to withstand high pressures as opposed to the reliance of gravity.

Whether it was made in the 19th Century or the modern drainage we take for granted today, Happy Drains are always on hand to find, fix, and examine issues with your drainage.