In 1858, The Great Stink Hit London, And It Smelled So Awful That People Would Faint In The Streets

Dario - - illustrative purposes only

Did you know there was an era in London, England, called ‘The Great Stink?’

Yup, that’s right. There was a period of a few weeks when London smelled so awful that people would faint in the streets. So, how did it get to that point?

By the mid-1800s, the population of London was massive, and it had doubled since 1800. By 1850, two and a half million people resided in the city, which put an enormous strain on its infrastructure, sewers systems included.

Most houses that filled the streets of London did not have flushable toilets. So, what would all of those residents do with their waste? They’d dump it onto the streets. Lovely, right?

Houses of wealthier folks that did have flushing toilets weren’t much of a step up, as the sewer system in London was very outdated at that time, and most human waste would end up directly in the Thames River, which was still being used as a water source.

To make matters worse, the waste being dumped into the streets was mixed with any rotting food and garbage that had already been dumped out there.

A group of men called the Night Soil Men would go through the streets and collect some of the solid waste for fertilizer while everything else eventually found its way to the river.

For years, nothing was done about the horrid stench and waste issue in London, and people suffered from gnarly conditions while getting sick from various illnesses like Cholera. Despite this, various wastes were still being dumped into the Thames.

It wasn’t until 1858 when a massive summer heatwave that hit London made the stench of the city unbearable, as it fermented the waste and made the foul odor spread to every corner of the city.

Dario – – illustrative purposes only

Sign up for Chip Chick’s newsletter and get stories like this delivered to your inbox.

1 of 2