Catalogue description Kent Water Works Company: Corporate Records

This record is held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London

Details of ACC 2558/KE/1
Reference: ACC 2558/KE/1
Title: Kent Water Works Company: Corporate Records
Held by: London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Kent Waterworks Company, 1809 - 1904

Administrative / biographical background:

The Company was founded in 1809 and in order to get the establishing Bill through Parliament, the promoters had to buy up the Ravensbourne Waterworks, which was based at Deptford and had been established in 1701, one of the earliest companies operating south of the Thames.


The intake was from the Ravensbourne, not the Thames, and the area supplied included the town of Woolwich, the Royal Ordnance and Artillery Barracks, the Royal Arsenal, H.M. Dockyards, and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.


By 1857 the Ravensbourne was becoming much more polluted and its supply was beginning to drop in quantity at a time when demand was increasing. Cold Bath Well was dug in the grounds of the waterworks and several other new wells followed which led to an increase in purity as well as amount. In 1861 supply from Ravensbourne was discontinued.


In 1864 the Company purchased the North Kent Water Company (established in 1860) and over the next twenty years acquired the water supply powers of the Dartford Local Board of Health, and the sanitary authorities of Bromley, Dartford and Sevenoaks.


The Kent Water Works Company was incorporated in 1809 to supply Deptford, Lee, Greenwich, Lewisham and Rotherhithe with water from the River Ravensbourne. In order to get the Kent Water Works Bill through Parliament, its promoters were compelled to purchase the Ravensbourne Water Works at Deptford (established in 1701) from the descendants of John Smeaton who had acquired this undertaking in 1772.


When the Kent company took over, the water works included a water wheel and pumps installed by Smeaton. The company erected a small rotative beam engine by Boulton and Watt on the west bank of the Ravensbourne, near the water wheel in 1810, and a second engine in 1826. Mains extended to the dock area at Woolwich, the company having acquired the water supply powers of the Woolwich Town Commissioners in 1812. Slow sand bed filtration was introduced at the Deptford works in 1845.


Increasing demand for water and the deterioration in its quality induced the directors of the company to seek a new source of supply in the 1850s. The company engineer advised the sinking of a well at the Deptford works which proved successful. In 1861 the company's area was for the first time entirely supplied from wells, then situated at Deptford and Charlton, and the supply from the River Ravensbourne was abandoned.


The well water which was of a high degree of purity could be delivered to the consumers without filtration.


In 1864 the North Kent Water Company was amalgamated with the Kent Water Works Company by Act of Parliament. It had been incorporated in 1860 to serve a large area comprising Dartford, Crayford, Bexley, Erith, Eltham and Chislehurst, but had received insufficient financial support. Further Acts of 1877 and 1888 increased the Kent company's statutory area of supply to some 170 square miles.


The company's most important well stations at the end of the century were situated at Shortlands (1866), Crayford (1867), Orpington (1880), Wilmington (1888), Southfleet (1899) and Deptford.


As a result of the Metropolis Water Act 1902, the Metropolitan Water Board took over the functions of the Kent Water Works Company in 1904.

Have you found an error with this catalogue description?

Help with your research