A short history of drains

While many of us take drainage systems for granted, turning on a tap and not thinking twice about where the water will flow to, drains were not as sophisticated as they are today in times gone by.

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Early systems

The earliest drainage systems were developed by the Indus people of Pakistan, Afghanistan and northern India, where wastewater would channel to drains in the roads.

The Romans, with their technical and engineering skills, also left their mark on the development of drainage systems. They created aqueducts, many of which still exist today. Although earlier civilisations had built aqueducts, the Romans improved the design and built a complex and extensive network across their territories. These systems were built over a period of around 500 years between 312BC to 226AD.

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Roman aqueducts brought water to and from cities and town, while a network of sewers took the wastewater away.

Flushing toilet

It was not until the 16th century that the first flushing toilet was devised by Sir John Harrington. His design was based on that used by Ancient Greeks some 3,000 years previously. Harrington’s early design was remodelled 200 years later by Alexander Cummings, with his version of the toilet including a patented bowl.

Victorian influences

The Victorians made a big difference to the development of drains during the first part of the 19th century.

While you might contact a drain lining company such as https://www.wilkinson-env.co.uk/sewer-repairs-drain-lining-concrete-cutting/ to get your drains flowing efficiently, things were very different back in the Victoria era; in fact, the River Thames was literally used as an open sewer for waste drainage and the summer of 1858 was nicknamed ‘The Great Stink’. It was not just the awful stench that became an issue but also the sewage spreading cholera.

This heralded the beginning of a new era for drainage and sewerage systems, with a network of underground systems designed by Joseph Bazalgette to cope with the increasing population of London.

Many of these original systems are still in place today, although they have undergone upgrades and the materials used for the pipework have changed. Early drainage systems would have been made from wood, lead or clay; however, to cope with the high pressure, more durable materials such as plastic, brass or copper are used in today’s modern drainage systems.