|Administrative / biographical background:
The first Commission of Sewers for the Westminster area issued under the 1531 Act appears to be that for "certen lymitts in and aboute Westminster in the countie of Midd" issued on 22 May 1596 (P.R-O Crown Office Docquet Book, Ind. 4208). For the next 50 years the formula varied but the bounds of the commission always extended beyond Westminster. The first extant Letters Patent appointing a commission defines the limits as "extending from the Parishes of Hampton, Teddington, Twitnam, Isleworth, Hanwell, Cranford, Acton, Eling, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kensington and Chelsey in the County of Middlesex and the City of Westminster and precincts of the same and so to Temple Bar. And from thence within the Parishes of St. Giles in the Fields, Pancras, Marylebone, Hampstead, Wilsden, Paddington and to the River of Thames" (W.C.S. 1). It was not until 1807 that the area was defined by statute (Act 47, Geo. III, Sess I.c.7 (L. & P.)). It then included all parishes within what is now the County of London west of the City and north of the Thames as far as Stamford Brook, with part of Willesdon.
The earliest surviving records of the Commission in the Council's possession are of 1659 (There is a minute for 29 Aug. 1662 "The Court being this Day informed that many and sundry ancyent Records of this Court were now Remaining with Mr. Wattson of Clements Inne. Sir Wm. Wheeler being then present in Court Did undertake the Delivery of them from ye sd Mr. Wattson" These "ancyent Records" have not been traced.) and the minutes are continuous from this date. Rapid building development in Westminster in the second half of the 17th century added greatly to the difficulties and duties of the Commissioners. By an Act of 1690 (Act 2, W. & M. Sess II.c.8) new sewers, when built, were subject to their supervision but statutory power to control the construction of new sewers or to build new sewers themselves was not obtained until 1807 (Act 47, Geo. III, Sess I.c.7 (L. & P.)). In 1834 the Commissioners obtained a Special Act (Act 4 and 5, W. IV, c.96) to enable them to construct a new sewer in Bayswater. By the 1840s they were conscious of the need to overhaul the whole of their organisation but the amending Act of 1847 (Act 10 and 11, Vic., c.70 (L & P.)) came too late for any effective action.