|Administrative / biographical background:
The Metropolitan Board of Works was constituted under the Metropolis Local Management Act of 1855 (18 & 19 Vic. cap 120). It was only indirectly representative of ratepayers since its members were chosen, three by the Mayor and the Corporation of the City of London and the remainder by the parishes and district boards specifically mentioned in the Act. The Board took over from the Metropolitan Commissioners of Sewers responsibility for the main drainage of London; it was given some supervisory and coordinating powers over the vestries and district boards, who were made responsible for local drainage and for paving and lighting of streets, and it was given power to make, widen or improve streets and roads and to regulate the naming of streets and numbering of houses.
The Metropolitan Buildings Act (18 & 19 Vic. cap 122), passed on the same day as the Metropolis Local Management Act, gave the Board power to appoint and dismiss District Surveyors, to appoint a Superintending Architect of Metropolitan Buildings, and to modify the building regulations contained in the Act as might be necessary fron time to time. During the life of the Board a whole series of Acts gradually extended its powers; notably the Metropolitan Gas Act, 1860, The Thames Embankment Acts, 1862, 1863 and 1868, The Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act, 1865, The Metropolitan Commons Act, 1866 (and subsequent amending Acts), and Acts relating to individual parks and open spaces, The Metropolitan Streets Act, 1867 (and susequent Street Improvement Acts), The Metropolis Toll Bridges Act, 1877 (and other Acts relating to bridges), The Artizans Dwellings Act, 1875 and The Public Entertainments Act, 1875.
Almost throughout its history members of the Board were discussing the possibility of the complete reorganisation of London Government, and from 1883 to 1885 a sub-committee of the Works and General Purposes Committee was meeting to consider municipal government. The several scandals that arose concerning irregularities in administration were symptomatic of the need for wider powers and more direct representation of the ratepayers. Under the Local Government Act 1888 the powers, duties and liabilities of the Board were transferred to the London County Council.