Thursday 20 December 2012

A Letter to Edwin Chadwick

Richard Kelsey was the City of London Surveyor, who felt himself much maligned by both the comments of John Roe (his equivalent in Holborn) and Edwin Chadwick's sarcastic commentary, recorded in Chadwick's famous 1842 report on sanitation. He believed, probably quite rightly, that Chadwick was angling to centralise the ancient Commissions of Sewers and using very selective evidence to go about it. This is his forty page response, written direct to Chadwick. For those of you interested in sewers and lost rivers (well, the Walbrook) there is some useful information. For those of you with more normal enthusiasms, skip the sewers and just enjoy some of the language, particularly the beginning and end - "There, dog! each your undeserved crust, and be thankful!"

My attention having been directed to a Report upon the Sanitary condition of the Labouring classes, drawn up by you, presented by the Poor Law Commissioners, and, by the Rt Hon the Secretary of State, laid before both Houses of Parliament in July 1842. I have carefully read it and, while as a member of Society, I can admire the able manner in which so momentous a subject has been arranged; yet, as an individual whose professional character has, under Providence, hitherto been his means of subsistence, I feel myself deeply injured; and injury the more deeply, because that, unless you will devise some method of making this my defence co-extensive with an accusation which has been spread over the whole realm, I am left without redress.
Although I may feel that there is a tone in your remarks which none of the circumstances justify, I yet must acquit you of any deliberate intention to injure me personally, because that you do not know me, and because that you must have been misled by assertions upon which you too readily relied. Still I do feel that, as my good friend Mr. Tite, and Mr. Thomas Piper Junior did me the honour of saying that, if you wanted any information as to the City Sewers, I was best qualified to give it you; and telling me that I might expect to be called upon by you; it is exceedingly unfortunate for me that you did not avail yourself of that opportunity, which would have saved me from wanton or malignant injury, and you from the painful sense (doubly painful to a man of station and of honourable feeling) of having been made the instrument of wrong.
If it were a common case, I could not expect you to devote time to read this paper: but I have been injured and by your instrumentality. That, I doubt not, must give me a claim upon your time, your attention and your justice: and, I trust you will not disappoint my expectation by throwing it aside for another day.
In page 317 of the Report is this passage: "as regards the appointment of Surveyors to the Commissioners of Sewers, I would observe that, in my opinion, very few of them are properly qualified by education or otherwise to perform the important duties entrusted to them, in an effective and proper manner.
In page 55 you say, Mr. Roe "is perhaps the only officer having the experience and qualifications of a Civil Engineer."
And in page 317, this is followed up thus "but in the structural arrangement, in only one commission do any of the works executed approach the existing state of Science.". "In that one, the Holborn and Finsbury trust, they happened to obtain a Surveyor, having science and practical experience as an Engineer, whose advice was acted upon and that officer effected the only considerable improvements of a Scientific character that have been made in the Sewerage of the Metropolis.
As to the general defamation of the Metropolitan Surveyors of Sewers, conveyed in your words, the names and works of such men as Joseph Swift, Edward Plimsoll, John Newman, James Walker (I recite them alphabetically) are sufficient to refuse this imputation sought to be cast upon them. Had they only been Lady's maids, they must be this time, by the very nature of their land, have perforce been converted into Civil Engineers; but they are and were educated, and will remain well known and highly  respected as Architects and Engineers, and not one word which I could use would either add to or diminish their repute: It is therefore sufficient that I, who am but a pigmy, should defend myself; and in so doing justify my masters.
With respect to my qualifications: I lay claim to no higher professional epithet than that of Surveyor.
I do not call myself an Architect, yet was I brought up in an Architect's office. During four years I prepared most of the construction drawings of an extensive public building. I have perpetrated a little Architecture and, if report be true, George the Fourth said "I am much obliged to one of my subjects for setting up so pretty an object for one to look at."  In three successive years I obtained rewards for my Architectural compositions, the last constituting a Gold Medal, Life Student of the Royal Academy.
I do not call myself a Civil Engineer, although it so happens I have had to amend the work of a Civil Engineer of no mean repute, whose name I will not mention, only because that I cannot but suppose he had been egregiously deceived by his workmen. But I will ask you, Sir, to hear what my Sewers works say for themselves.
Immediately that there was a prospect of obtaining an outlet to the Thames at London Bridge, my master and predecessor in office, proposed its construction. It was carried from the then margin of the River and branched towards Gracechurch Street and Cannon Street, with the intention of taking the then only open road to intersect the Town ditch at Bishopsgate, which line would have required a depth of at least fifty feet at the high level of Cornhill. Upon his retirement in November 1832, I was unanimusly chosen to fill his place. It became needful to carry the mouth of this Sewer out to the intended new line of embankment, in front of the new Adelaide Hotel. I knew that I had the eyes of Engineers upon me. I laid my plan, after my own fashion. I carried forward my work one hundred and thirty four feet in length, into the River, and that in deepish water, and having to cut through the Standings of old London bridge, and to contend against the Stream through three arches, without a coffer dam, and while the Gentlemen, in mere frolic, were running down to the shore, daily looking for my failure; got myself out of danger and finished it. That it has not been done very unskilfully, or very unsoundly, is somewhat attested by the state of the buildings which have been placed upon it.
Immediately that ti was decided to form a Street up to the Mansion House, I took my resolution to abandon my predecessor's intended main line, and to strike at once into the hollow ground of Moorfields. Acting upon my advice the Commissioners authorized me so to do. It was no very plain sailing, under and through old foundations at a depth of more than forty feet, but it was done. My next line was in Princes Street. There I encountered one of the most formidable obstacles I ever wish to meet, in bog land to a depth of thirty two feet, full of piling and decayed vegetable matter reduced to a state approximating to clay, mixed with still discernible grass and roots. The drainage of this soil and its consequent compression under the weight of the buildings, severely fractured the Clerk's residence at Grocer's Hall, and the Company sued the Commission. After lengthened litigation it was decided, upon argument before the Judges, in favour of the Commissioners, because their work was necessary to be done, and they had done it in "a skilful, proper and workmanlike manner, in all respects." This work was executing [sic] by tunnelling but as a large portion of the Bank of England stood upon the same kind of soil, and its planking and sleepering were rotten, and their land full of water, the Directors under the advice of Mr. Cockerell, and Sir Robert Smirke, and Mr. George Rennie, requested it might be open-cut. I felt that open cutting was of the two attended with more risk: but the Commission deferring to the desire of the Bank, directed me so to do. The manner in which I proposed to effect this was submitted to those Gentlemen; and in allusion to it, Sir Robert is reported to have said, "He is building a wall of brass".
Completing this, I next ran along Moorgate Street and at its head intercepted the County waters coming from the City road. Allowing the work to rest some months so as to let the boggy ground under Finsbury Circus get gradually dry, I next passed along London wall into Broad Street, there intersecting the Town ditch. Thence I deepened the bed of the Ditch into Bishopsgate Street, and so provided an additional discharge for the County waters from Bishopsgate without and gave relief to the Irongate Sewer.
After a  further pause for the additional drying of the bog; at the express request of the Holborn and Finsbury Commission, and unaided by them, it was directed to be continued to Queen Square in Elder Street at as great a depth as possible to catch their West Long Alley Sewer. Beyond that point they asked nothing. I, however, thought that was not the fit place to stop at, and therefore carried it on to Wilson Street and up to the limit of the City Commission, and there finished it at a depth of twenty feet, being eleven feet eleven inches below the former level.
It may be said that all this exhibits no proof of Engineering ability. True Sir. But when I tell you that my attempt to give to the land, as far as I could, an ample equivalent for the long destroyed and forgotten streamlet named "the Walbrook" was attended by this (to me) highly gratifying result; that my water bed not only cut but eighteen inches above the ancient water bed of the Walbrook where  it had crossed Princes Street; but at Little Moorgate it ranged only two inches aboev the floor of a Roman Culvert, the mouth of which I haced [?]  out and found it cut to the slope of the ditch of the massive fortification of which it was an accessory (this ruin was probably earlier than the time of Antoninus) and at Rose and Crown Court up to the queen Square it fell somewhat below the shingly bed of the ancient stream, long buried in the accumulated bog land: I cannot but fancy you will allow there must be some little engineering qualification in a man, whose untaught judgment as to what was fittest to be done, led him so nicely to hit the proper level for the drainage of a country as to coincide with that of Nature.
I know that this is egotistical. My accuser forces me to be so. But the accusation of unskillfulness comes with an ill grace frrom an Officer of that Commission which has benefitted so largely by my work as, if common report speak truly, to be able now to obtain a drainage twelve feet in depth for the low land at Holloway, in preparation for which a Sewer has already been driven by them as far as to Old Street road.
I rest my claim not to the epithet Civil Engineer; that I neither affect nor covet; for I have always called myself by the title of my office only, and seek no other; but I do claim to be exempted from the censure of not possessing so much of the qualification of a Civil engineer as fits me for that office; judgment to plan, and ability to execute what I have planned so as fully to ensure the attachment of my masters' object: and I rest my claim upon this work especially, because the discovery of ancient water beds indisputably prove it to have been correctly devised
I have executed several lines of Sewage besides this. I do not however appeal to them as proofs of my judgment because that in them there are none of the everlasting marks of Nature to corroborate me. Let the person who seeks to defame me put his finger of  censure upon either, and I am prepared to defend it, certain that, if I have erred, it is generally on the side of depth, and capacity, and stability.
In page 374, Mr. Roe having said that his Commissioners "now adopt a series of levels suited for the lowest outlets of the surrounding districts" being asked 'Have you heard of any alterations made in the surrounding districts on the same principle' answers "I have heard of none as adopted generally. The City have lowered some of their outlets."
In page 309, you caustically observe that "The Surveyor of the City Sewers speaks in a tone of grievance and oppression, that the waters of the County would run into the municipal jurisdiction" &c
And in page 310 "It need scarcely be pointed out that this municipal division had until they chose to drain operated as a barrier to all the water described, which was kept back to the injury of the County" &c.
I am persuaded you could not have adopted these sarcastic expressions had you not been quite in the dark as to the facts: and your right feeling will lead you to regret having so done. The facts are simply these.
The City, within the ancient walls, fell from a general central ridge all ways into its ditch and into the River Thames, and into Turnmill brook, being only cut through by the depressed track of the Walbrook. The line of Bishopsgate Street without falls bodily northward, so as that Spital Square is about level with Eastcheap: while Aldgate High Street falls wholly Eastward. With such a formation of surface it is quite clear that no portion of the land to the Northward and Eastward would have drained naturally into the City, but the waters must have flowed from it. Artificially they have been thrown into the City by the Bishopsgate Street Sewer whose current is the contrary of that of the surface; and, if justice and any body of men have any community of feeling, Justice would have told the Commissioners of Holborn and Finsbury that too much water ought not to have been poured into an outlet afford to them in kindness: and I fancy you will see that it is a little unfair in you to attempt at holding me up to ridicule as if I were to silly as to complain of water taking its natural course, downward.
With respect to the watercourse of the Walbrook, it is very different. That was a natural water bed. The dust of ages has long slumbered over the causes which destroyed this once beautiful streamlet. That it was intentionally obstructed there can be no doubt; and my strong impression is, that it was so obstructed at a time co-eval with if not anterior to Roman conquest (for most Roman relics lie high above its bed) for the express purpose of spreading its water over the land, as a protection. The bog was thus formed; and because that the whole water could not be for ever retained a trench was left to carry off that which was superfluous. This trench became the common Sewer and was only fourteen feet below the present surface in Princes Street, to its paved bottom, while the water bed of the natural stream was at the same point thirty two feet three inches below the present surface.
So far had the County been injured but unknown centuries before Commissioners of Sewers existed. In process of time, as London increased, more waters were thrown into these wretched Sewers than they could contain.
The Commissioners of the City knew it and were desirous of alleviating the evil. In 1773 4&5 they carried a new line of Sewer from Dowgate dock to Cripplegate Church, at as great as depth I doubt not as they dared to go. It was the utmost remedy they could then apply, and, anxious as they were to effect a perfect cure, your own knowledge of the narrow irregular streets and alleys formerly lying between London wall and the Thames must shew you that to carry a capacious Sewer that way was as nearly impossible as any thing of the kind could be. In 1804 they sought for an outlet at the Old London Bridge; but could they have passed between Saint Magnus Church and the Bridge, who would have dared to cut a deep and wide trench in front of the Monument!
Notwithstanding this, the buildings and drainage of the County greatly increased; and, realizing the fable of the Wolf and the Lamb, the County Commissioners of former days vituperated those of the City for flooding them.
Immediately that the hand of improvement began to work my predecessor eagerly seizing the first opportunity commenced an adequate Main line. I conducted it into Moorfields. Having effected that, and obtained effectual relief there the Commissioners acting upon my advice and without waiting to be asked, ran along Red Cross Street, and to the City boundary in Golden lane, offering an outlet fifteen feet nine inches in depth. Passing thence along Bridgwater Gardens and Fan Street with one line, and along the upper end of Aldersgate Street to the Bars with another, they not only presented the Holborn and Finsbury Commission with two outlets each sixteen feet in depth, but allowed every one who chose it, whether in the City or not, to have drainage into their Sewer. At Leather Lane they opened another line up to the City boundary thirteen feet deep, and had the County wished it they might have had eighteen feet. At Glasshouse Yard Aldersgate Street, another branch was carried up to the boundary at Sixteen feet in depth. Of all these the Holborn and Finsbury Commission have availed themselves; and in return they have carried a branch from the Fleet ditch to the City boundary in West Street.
It cannot be very indecorous to ask if it be quite fair of Mr. Roe to slur these liberal works over in the words "the City have lowered several of their outlets". And, had not your mind been poisoned, you never could have used the sneering expression "until they chose to drain." In fact, they not merely "chose to drain" they anxiously sought for and embraced the earliest time at which improved drainage was possible, and having relieved themselves, at once tendered a helping hand to their suffering neighbours.
Again, Sir, at the suggestion of their incompetent Surveyor, the City Commission rebuilt the line of Sewer in Holborn, but instead of merely renewing the "Old Bourne" some seven feet in depth, their new level was taken at a depth of eighteen feet. The adjacent Commission when applied to at the time said they wanted not additional depth, had they asked for thirty or forty feet, they would have had it.
Eastward - the City Commission carried as deep at Sewer as they could to Whitechapel bars, where it is fifteen feet ten inches deep and subsequently in conjunction with the Tower Hamlets Commission passed through the whole length of Petticoat Lane and Sandy's Row, thus draining a sad place, which before was almost utterly destitute. Indeed, wherever there was a point at which their Sewers could be made beneficial there did they work, and made a gratuitous and unrequested and, as it now turns out, ill-requited offer of aid.
Nor have their confined their exertions to the boundaries. The Sewage line has been made complete, including new and old Sewers from Temple bar, and along the River to Tower Hill. Another line has been completed from Saint Paul's Church Yard nearly to Tower Hill. Another has been finished from Holborn Bars to Whitechapel bars. That from Aldersate Street in an irregular line to Aldgate has been carried out. Various lines from North to South have been built; and although one cannot yet say that not a Street, or Court, or Alley in the City is without drainage; there is fair ground for hope that much time will not elapse before it can be said.
Having, I trust, shewn that upon the question of the fittest level for drainage a given tract of land, the Surveyor to the City Commission is not grievously wanting in skill; and that as an officer, and as a Citizen (in the largest sense of the word) he has constantly kept an open eye for any chance of benefitting not merely the City but all the lands adjacent: I address myself to those exclusive claims for improvements set up by Mr. Roe, the truth of which alone could justify your observation that the Holborn and Finsbury Commission have "effected the only considerable improvements of a scientific character, that have been made in the Sewers of the Metropolis".
In pages 57 and 376 Mr. Roe says "The prevalent practice is to join Sewers at angles, frequently at right angles." "The Commissioners of the Holborn and Finsbury divisions agreed to require that the curves in Sewers passing from one Street to another shall be formed with a radius of not less than twenty feet." the which radius I take to be that which describes what he terms "the true curve."
As this is question of dates, it is to be observed Mr. Roe says, page 373, that he had acted as Surveyor of Sewers "nearly four years" but the date of his examination is not given.
In the confined streets of the City of London there is very little opportunity for obtaining any curve, but we can see what the Commissioners officers, and their predecessors have done in this small way.
In 1668 the mouth of the Sewer in Fleet Street was built in a waved line: and that of Fetter Lane started off at a very acute angle, better than any curve.
In 1692, the curve of the Sewer in King Street Cheapside at the junction with Cateaton Street was struck by a radius of eighteen feet.
In 1769 and 1806 the communication of the Sewers of Threadneedle Street and Cornhill with the trench line were formed the one with a  curve of nineteen feet radius, the other with a large sweep cutting in at an acute angle.
In 1774 the Sewer from Charlotte row into the Poultry was built to a radius of nineteen feet, that from the Poulty into the Old Jewry with a radius of fourteen feet six inches, that from the Old Jewry into Coleman Street in a waved line formed by two radii of eighteen feet and thirty four feet and in 1775 that from Coleman Street into Fore Street has a curve of eleven feet six inches radius.
In 1783 the Main Sewer of Aldersate street was turned into the end of Little Britain with a quadrant of thirteen feet radius. At the end of Long Lane in Smithfield the Sewer sweeps to a forty two feet radius, that in Snow Hill to a eighty feet radius, and a much older line in Snow Hill is curved to a fifty six feet radius.
In 1794 the Sewer from South Street into South Place was turned with a quadrant curve of twenty five feet radius, and in 1814 the connexion of the Sewer in Elder Street with the Sewer from South Street out into it at a sharp angle.
Nor has practice slept:
In 1831 were the branches formed at the head of the main trunk of King William Street, in plan like the bite of a leech, the three angles being equal and meeting in the centre.
In 1835, the head of the Sewer in Aldgate High Street was branched with two curves of thirty feet and thirty seven feet radius, sweeping towards Petticoat Lane and Somersett Steet.
In 1836, at the head of Red Cross Street, the branches were swept in a similar way by radii of eighteen feet six inches and twenty eight feet towards Beech Street and Barbican.
Indeed, Sir, I should weary you if I were to state every instance of curved junctions. Suffice it to say that in all the line from London Bridge up to Wilson Street Moorfields, in that throughout Cheapside into Newgate Street and Saint Martin's-le-Grand, and in every other Sewer built by me, have the junctions been made ni curved lines wherever it has been in any way practicable.
Mr. Roe well knows the Cutwater [?]  which I formed to throw the water in equal quantities into the double line of Sewer in Farringdon Street. Mr. Donaldson and Mr. Angell, both architects of no mean rank, were pleased to term it my beautiful work. I fancied it to be little more than an every day affair, and in this and all other similar things felt but the pleasure of the eye in contemplating a nicely flowing line, little thinking it to be an achievement in Civil Engineering: and I dare venture to say my poor predecessors thought no more of their great and good deeds.
Again, as to the claim to the origination of a new sectional form for Sewers:
In page 378 are given cuts of the "Westminster Sewer" and of the new, egg shaped Sewers of the Holborn and Finsbury divisions; and in page 373 Mr. Roe says "In the City they have built some of their Sewers in a form nearly similar to those adopted in the Holborn and Finsbury divisions; that is, approaching to semicircular." "Most new Sewers are making an approach to the better form by having segments."
The inference intended to be conveyed necessarily being that the City and other places have stolen without acknowledgement Mr. Roe's invention of form four or five years old.
If memory serve me rightly, some French Architect or 'Ingenieur' several years back wrote an essay recommending egg-shaped Sewers; and it also happens that the facts and dates in respect to the City and other Sewers are sorely against his claim.
In 1756 Mr. George Dance directed the first Sewer built by the Commissioners for the City, in Aldermanbury Postern. This indeed was built with a flat bottom but
In 1775 and 1778 the Sewer of Bishopsgate Street without was built with a semicircular top and bottom and in 1795 a Mr. Stevens Totton claimed "satisfaction to be made him as the first proposer of a plan for constructing Sewers, barrelled at bottom in the nature of a reverse arch." because that the  City Commission had so built the sewer in this street. Upon enquriy, it was however ascertained that Mr. George Wyatt, being appointed Surveyor, in 1768; in 1769 a drain was allowed to be made across the Minories, upon condition that it be made with a circular bottom. Mr. Jacomb, in 1769 also had leave to build a sewer in Dowgate, with a concave bottom, as had the Inhabitants of Snow Hill upon like condition; and, as in 1756, Ware published his "Compleat body of Architecture" giving sections of Sewer and drains built with inverted arches as executed in the Horse Guards, it was presumed that George Wyatt and other Surveyors must have been fully acquainted with the advantages of such construction; and Mr Stevens Tottons claim was rejected.
In 1777 the Sewer on the west side of the then Quarters of Moorfields was built under the direction of George Wyatt and in 1779 it was continued up to Tindals burial ground (now Bunhill Fields). This Sewer has straight sides and a semicircular top and bottom.
In 1782 the Main Sewer of Smithfield was built, in part circular in part in Ellipsis.
In 1783, the Sewer in Aldersgate Street was built with inclined sides; that is, it is a close approximation to the Egg shape!
The Old Town ditch Sewer under Newgate is ciruclar.
George Wyatt abnd his successor Nathaniel Wright built all their Sewers with semicircular bottoms, many of them set in Tarras: and so did his successor Samuel Acton, until, in the last years of his holding office, and when in consequence of his ill health, I had more of the controul [?] in my own hands.
In 1829 the Main Sewer from London Bridge was began. This is an ellipsis ten feet high and eight feet wide. My main reason for making it elliptical was that it had to pass beneath the land piers of the Bridge, where the greatest strength was required. It was a beautiful form and I continued it only varying in size up to Londno wall, where it is eight feet three inches high, and six feet nine inches wide.
In 1832 the Sewers of Pauls Wharf, Bennets Hill, Godliman Street, Little Carter Lane, Old Change and Watling Street and Great Knight rider Street were all built elliptical.
In 1833, the Sewer along Holborn was rebuilt. It is elliptical and hard by the Sewers Office in Hatton Garden.
I should have continued to build them in that form, but I found that owing to the very regularity of its curvature rendering it difficult for the eye readily to detect any variation in its dimensions, while filled with workmen and centering, my Clerks of the Works were open to deception. I reverted to the Egg shaped with bevelled sides because that, the top and bottom being semicircular could not be varied much, and the most careless or cunning workman could not well leave out a whole course of bricks in the side wall, without direct detection.
I however built the Fleet ditch Sewer in New Farringdon Street elliptical and horizontal; but by gradually flattening the invert as I approached the County acquired my Current.
But my predecessors and myself have no exclusive credit in all this. An unfortunate Surveyor of Sewers, but nevertheless, one before whose talents and gentlemanly principle Ditraction [sic] herself would stand dumb; in 1849 built many hundred yarsd of elliptical Sewers, five feet three inches high and four feet six inches wide, in the Surrey division; from the River Thames near to Battle Bridge Stairs through the Maze, Western Street, and Snows fields to the Borough High Street, and thence to Stone's end, under circumstances of such trying difficulty that he was obliged to form a large portion of the invert in Cast Iron; and I shrewdly suspect that every new Sewer in that whole division has a semicircular invert.
In the teeth of all this, Mr. Roe says, page 373, " as far as I am informed they are built with upright walls. I know none but the New Sewers in Holborn and Finsbury divisions that are built with curved sides."
In page 376 Mr. Roe says "Under the prevalent system the gullies and shoots are formed so as to retain deposit, on the principle that it is cheaper to get the deposit out of those than out of the Sewers." but that the Holborn and Finsbury Commissioners "have also adopted a new description of Gulley and Shoot which I proposed to them, for the purpose of conveying the whole of the deposit into the sewers".
In the whole City there is but one Gulley the refuse from which is prevented getting at once into the Sewer. That is in Rose Street Newgate Market. There were two others in Gracechurch Street which had cesspools and vertical gratings, to intercept the broken hay upon the Coach stand, and one in Aldgate High Street. But these were so repeatedly choake that they have been destroyed.
I, following with some amendment, as I conceive, the example of my predecessors, ever have formed the gullies and shoots so as at once to discharge the water from the Streets into the Sewers. There is not, nor ever has been the slightest intentional obstacles in the way. But it is really somewhat amusing as regards Mr. Roe's claim to great credit for this one of "the only considerable improvements of a scientific character" that the City Commissioners and their stolid Surveyor were most loudly and indecently reprobated by Doctor Birkbeck, for their dogged obstinacy in not forming cesspools, at the head of every gulley shoot.
I have placed his flaps in more than a thousand gullies to keep the stench away from the houses, and ventilating grates in the manholes to allow the escape of inflammable gas from the Sewers.
Whenever an old carriageway has to be repaved, the Commissioners insert new gullies wherever they may be needed and in layign down a new Sewer, the gullies are generally placed in pairs at every hundred or hundred and fifty feet in length, and my Masters do this, because they are Commissioners of Pavements, as well as Commissioners of Sewers. I feel very doubtful if so much can be said of even the Holborn and Finsbury divisions in respect to their systematic provision for surface drainage.
Having so far set square these claims to credit for structural improvements and "put the saddle upon the right horse" I may almost strive to felicitate myself with the hope that as those are termed "considerable improvements" and "of a scientific character" and that as they are clearly shewn, if not assuredly to have originated in, to have been so fostered for very many years by the City Commission, as to have become their own, by adoption, some little ray of the scientific halo may be accorded them; or that, at the least, they may be exempted from the reproach of supineness.
Mr. Roe makes however one true claim and that is to systematically cleansing Sewers by them with water. Not that it is altogether new. It had, before his time, been done surreptitiously by Contractors for cleansing the Sewers; who, having had their easing measured to them as it lay in the Sewer, were interested to escape the cost of the hoisting and cartage and cared little where the soil went to, if they could get rid of it. In this way, some thirty or forty loads of soil were flushed into the Sewer of Bishopsgate Street from Norton Folgate, directly after it had been cleansed: and after strikin the dams of the East and West Long Alley Sewers, when the new line in Moorfields was built; the whole line of Eldon Street had swept into it broken pottery, stones and other refuse, to nearly eighteen inches in depth, which had to be cleared out at the cost of the City.
All the mechanism and the adoption of that openly, and as a principle, which was before done by stealth is I dare say his own; but as to the question of its adoption, it may be worth consideration whether it be morally right for the Holborn and Finsbury Commission to flood their sulliage down upon the City, and for the City to flood down both that and their own into the Thames.
The pollution of the Thames has long been no unjust theme of reprobation, and was the stalking horse of Mr. Martin's intended Joint Stock Company for its prevention; and his scheme was recommended by the highest names in the land.
There is nothing unpraiseworthy in rightly seeking whatever credit a person is rightfully entitled to; and had there not been an attempt wrongfully to destroy the reupte of, and to hold up every other Surveyor of Sewers to contempt, the other claims to the origination of improvements would have been left to find their own level.
However, as among others, I have been cried down as unfit to hold my office, I must in justice to myself, and in justification of those Gentlemen who appointed me and have confided in me, offer some other proof that the works entrusted to me have not been very unskilfully performed.
When, acting in the capacity of Surveyor of the Pavements (although then only Surveyor's Clerk) I found it necessary to exert myself in remodelling the management of that part of my duties, I first made a plan of every Street which had to be re-paved (and there are more than fifty miles of public way within the City). In consequence of my so doing, I was enabled quietly to correct all irregularities of width and level which had crept in, and they were reduced to rightliness and order.
My Master first advised the Commission to use that which has been termed Cubed Granite. He was pleased to consult with me thereon. I carried out his ideas adding some few of my own, and have been gratified to see this systematic mode of procedure spread into other parts of the Metropolis.
My predecessor had deemed it impossible to ferret out and obtain accurate plans of all the Sewers. When I became Surveyor; with the very zealous and able assistance of my Inspector William Saulter, the elder; I after years of research and labour conjointly with him laid before the Commission forty one sheets of antiquarian paper covered with accurate plans of all the Sewers in the City, together with  a condensed history of each, its age, dimensions, depth, and direction of current: and a general plan of the city with its Sewers has been printed for each Commissioner's use.
As it does not legitimately grow out of this my defence, I will not trouble you now with remarks upon some of the suggestions of Captain Vetch as to pavements and subways, or Mr. Roe and Mr. Stables upon ventilation of Sewers and other matters. When the fit time shall come, I can shew that all the subjects of these suggestions have been tried, or considered and rejected by my Masters, as inapplicable to the existing City; and your proposition of uniting the care of Sewers and roads under one jurisdiction is nothing new: It has for many years been the case in the City. Indeed, somehow or other, the experience of the City has in more things than one, set an example to other than Citizens.
Believing that I have succeeded in shewing, That the Commissioners of Sewers of the City of London have, through a long series of years, been alive to the duties of their trust:
That they ever seized the earliest opportunity for effecting improvements.
That, without their Surveyors presumptuously applying to themselves the, often impudently assumed and much prostituted title of Civil Engineer, they have conducted their works with judgment and foresight, and success:
That they have done as much, if not more, in proportion than any other Commission for the improvement of the health and advantages of the Metropolis:
That they have anxiously and carefully sought for, and at length happily accomplished a complete system of deep Sewage, adapted for their own purposes and largely contributing to the welfare of all the adjacent lands, more especially those under the Holborn and Finsbury Commission.
That, instead of Mr. Roe having originated three of "the only considerable improvements of a scientific character that have been made in the Sewerage of the Metropolis" that is curving Sewers at their junctions: building Sewers with semi-circular bottoms and making egg-shaped sewers: and forming gullies and shoots so as not to retain deposit: all these had been in use, in the City, some long before he was born and others long before he became a Surveyor of Sewers.
I now ask you, with some confidence, to accord me the common justice between man and man of doing your utmost to remove the slanderous imputations cast upon me and my employees. I ask it because you have traduced my character: I ask it because you have striven to deprive me of my daily bread.
It is quite true that, while you seek to get all power into one iron gripe [sic]; you say that the present Surveyors should retain all thei emoluments. But is it nothing, Sir, to blast a man's repute; to stigmatise him with incompetency; by the very act of a putting 'a Nurse' in to keep him from mischief-doing; and after having crushed and degraded and insulted him, to render the insult still more bitter by saying "There, dog! each your undeserved crust, and be thankful!"
I trust, Sir, you will not do so. You will do justice for the wrong of which you have unwillingly been made the instrument; and you will duly value the man who has sought to aggrandize himself y the destruction of others.
I have the honour to be,
        Your very obedient Servant,
                Richard Kelsey

Surveyor to the Commissioners of Sewers of the City of London and Liberties Thereof
73 Chiswell Street
September 5th 1842

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