How The Thames, Once a ‘Zombie River,’ Was Brought Back to Life

AROUND 200 YEARS AGO, DURING the Industrial Revolution, London’s River Thames was both a hub of trade and transport and a dumping ground for human excretion and industrial waste. The cradle of England’s industrial heritage was quickly becoming a glorified sewer. The stench was so unbearable during the sweltering summer of 1858 that it forced some government offices on the riverbank to close. That summer earned the nickname “the Great Stink.”

The Great Stink never garnered the notoriety of London’s Great Fire or Great Plague, although we can at least thank the stench for inspiring the invention of the modern sewage system. But the Thames didn’t hit rock bottom until 1957, when the city’s Natural History Museum declared the river “biologically dead.” Wildlife that hadn’t fled were expiring in the water. On the Thames, The Guardian would write two years later, “people were living near and working on what was to all intents and purposes an open sewer.”

Source: How The Thames, Once a ‘Zombie River,’ Was Brought Back to Life – Atlas Obscura

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