An overhaul for Bazalgette's masterpiece

Issue 9 | 13 September 2021

Bazalgette’s masterpiece is a visual reminder for us all as we consider the similarities to the UK’s retail payment schemes.

Nestling between the River Thames and the cycle super highway is a memorial to a chap called Joseph Bazaalgate. Thousands of cyclists’ whizz past it every day without noticing it. Nevertheless, it stands on top of his creation and is one of the wonders of Victorian engineering - the London Sewers.

Completed in 1875, when London had a population of around two million, those same sewers are now being used by over eight million London residents. Only now, nearly 150 years later, is London having to invest £4.5bn in its plumbing - nearly one thousand times the amount spent on the original solution. Why so long after? Because Joseph Bazaalgate had the foresight to double the capacity originally sized for London in anticipation of the future needs. 


Joss Wilbraham, Form 3

London’s dependance on what lies under the Embankment helps us to understand the reliance the whole of the UK has on the almost 10 billion retail payments processed each year by the Bacs and Faster Payments schemes.

Just as Bazalgette’s sewage ‘plumbing’ is getting an overhaul the UK’s Bacs and Faster Payments ‘plumbing’ will be overhauled in the coming years.

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