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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

From Today's Calls to Open up the Moselle to the Campaign of Yesteryear to Culvert an "Open Sewer"

It's interesting to contrast today's understandable calls to open up the Moselle through the 'Haringey Heartlands' with the view taken over a hundred years ago. 

Clearly the Arcadian delights of riparian Wood Green had died with the Victorian age. An article in the London North Middlesex Standard and Tottenham and Wood Green Echo on October 4 1901 referred to the Moselle as "practically an open sewer".

The article went on, "That the brook in question is the home of bad smells and myriads of microbes and germs of disease, as well as being unsightly and a menace to the health of the locality, no one can deny. In weather, such as we have and are now experiencing, the stench arising from this filthy waterway is unbearable, and delay in culverting is assuredly increasing the danger of an outbreak of infection."

No misunderstanding the decision to culvert then!

Pdf of full article attached.

Tags for Forum Posts: moselle, wood green history

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... the Fleet and the Walbrook were even worse... when describing what became known as "the Great Stench"...

"The scientist Michael Faraday described the situation in a letter to The Times in July 1855: shocked at the state of the Thames, he dropped pieces of white paper into the river to "test the degree of opacity". His conclusion was that "Near the bridges the feculence rolled up in clouds so dense that they were visible at the surface, even in water of this kind. ... The smell was very bad, and common to the whole of the water; it was the same as that which now comes up from the gully-holes in the streets; the whole river was for the time a real sewer." The smell from the river was so bad that in 1857 the government poured chalk lime, chloride of lime and carbolic acid into the waterway to ease the stench...

The prevailing thought in Victorian healthcare concerning the transmission of contagious diseases was the miasma theory, which held that most communicable diseases were caused by the inhalation of contaminated air. This contamination could take the form of the odour of rotting corpses or sewage, but also rotting vegetation, or the exhaled breath of someone already diseased.[9] Miasma was believed by most to be the vector of transmission of cholera, which was on the rise in 19th-century Europe. The disease was deeply feared by all, because of the speed with which it could spread, and its high fatality rates"...

... from Wikipedia...

...and the Thames was pretty bad too, but I didn't realise that little local rivers also suffered. 

And sadly still used as a sewer - Alexandra Primary School's sewer is misconnected to the Moselle.

That's nuts. I wonder why they're not required to redirect it.

Strangely this topic came up yesterday in a convo and I was told that a pump is due to be installed this summer at APS to connect the school waste into the main sewer. 


Cllr Ruth Gordon

Labour member for Tottenham Hale ward.

Good news. Thanks for letting us know, Ruth. 

We had an update from the Council on this last night at the Haringey River Forum.

Rather than pumping, the sewer will be raised to enable it to be redirected into the main sewer but this won't now happen until the Autumn Half Term.

When the school is open it currently discharges 90,000 litres of sewage and effluent into the Moselle each day from its toilets, sinks and washing machines. We were told this is equivalent to 300 misconnected homes. 

In February the Council were tackling 58 misconnectionsto the Moselle, principally dirty water from sinks, dish washers, and washing machines. This has been reduced to 36 and all but 5 of these are currently fixing their misconnected drains. Enforcement action will be taken if the remaining 5 don't take action by 31st July.

This should improve the Moselle's water quality significantly, most obviously at the Lordship Rec. Unfortunately, as Thames Water pointed out, misconnections by developers, builders etc. are likely to reoccur over time so we have to remain vigilant.  

Yet dont all these rivers come from the most purest water source in the country?  - The underground reservoir of Muswell Hill

Thank you, Michael Faraday, for those clouds of feculence. Surely one of the great "LOST WORDS" of our urban landscape which Oxford should be shamed into restoring to its Junior & Primary Dictionaries, if only for the edification of pollutant young scholars of schools such as Alexandra PS. I would prefer the more latinate and meaningful spelling, faeculence - from faeculentia - but, whatever the spelling, when will Harringay and Haringey discover an urban Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris to do justice to our children's lost heritage in a Smell Book of Lost Words to match their recent nature-biased Spell Book of similar title?  I have no doubt that, were The Big Green Bookshop to give the lead once more, we could help crowdfund another hundred or more volumes of flatulentia for Haringey schools and beyond. The enduring heritage and sew(er)age of The Great Stench deserve their place on our primary school bookshelves.

Anyone interested in this thread is very welcome to join the Haringey Rivers Forum when it meets this coming Monday (July 23rd)  at the Big Green Bookshop, Brampton Park Road, N22 at 6pm. Thames 21 and the Environment Agency will be present. We'll be hearing updates on the Pymmes Brook oilspill, on progress with plans to deculvert the Moselle Brook on the Heartlands, promising improvements in Lordship Rec. Once the disgraceful saga of Alexandra Primary School toilets can be resolved this summer it may open the way for a renewed assault on the problems of misconnected sewage from domestic properties and unpredictable run-off from the roads. There's a promising energy coming following new appointments in the Council's parks department. We may be able to move beyon d the late Victorian mindset after all. 


I can’t make tomorrow’s meeting but I’m interested in the topic. Happy to receive emails on this Ruth.Gordon@haringey.gov.uk



Cllr Ruth Gordon

Labour Member for Tottenham Hale Ward



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