The Metropolitan Water Board was the public utility charged with supplying water to London from 1903 to 1974.
By 1830 there were five companies supplying water north of the Thames, and three to the south of the river. The need for reorganisation and regulation was recognised, and a number of royal commissions and pieces of legislation were passed during the nineteenth century, but water supply remained in private hands. This was in contrast to a number of large provincial towns such as Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds where the local corporations had formed municipal water departments. The Metropolitan Board of Works promoted a number of parliamentary bills which would have allowed them to offer a municipal water supply, but none became law. Their successors, the London County Council, had unsuccessfully promoted a further eight bills seeking to take over water supply by 1895. Resistance came from the county councils of Middlesex, Essex, Kent and Surrey, who objected to any scheme which allowed the London County Council authority over their areas. It was therefore decided that the Metropolitan Water Bill would create an entirely new body to supply water to the greater London area.
The board compulsorily acquired the following water companies:
- The New River Company
- The East London Waterworks Company
- The Southwark and Vauxhall Waterworks Company
- The West Middlesex Waterworks Company
- The Lambeth Waterworks Company
- The Chelsea Waterworks Company
- The Grand Junction Waterworks Company
- The Staines Reservoirs Joint Committee
Also acquired at no cost were the water undertakings of Tottenham and Enfield Urban District Councils.
Composition of the boardEdit
The board was created by The Metropolis Water Act 1902 (2 Edw. VII, c.41). The board as originally constituted in the Act had 67 members; 65 of these were nominated by local authorities, who appointed a paid chairman and vice-chairman. The nominating bodies were:
- In the County of London: 14 members nominated by the London County Council, 2 members by the City of London, 2 by the City of Westminster and 1 member by each of the remaining 27 metropolitan boroughs.
- In Essex: - 1 member nominated by Essex County Council, 1 member by West Ham County Borough and 4 members nominated by 9 Urban District Councils.
- In Kent: - 1 member nominated by Kent County Council, and 1 member jointly nominated by 8 Urban District Councils.
- In Middlesex: - 1 member nominated by Middlesex County Council, and 6 members nominated by the borough of Ealing and 17 Urban District Councils.
- In Surrey: 1 member nominated by the Surrey County Council, and one nominated jointly by the Borough of Richmond and 7 Urban District Councils.
- In Hertfordshire: - 1 member nominated by Hertfordshire County Council.
- 1 member of the Conservators of the River Thames.
- 1 member of the Lee Conservancy Board.
The first Metropolitan Water Board retired on 1 June 1907, with a new board being nominated every three years thereafter. As local government changes took place, the nominating bodies changed.
- List of Members of the Metropolitan Water Board 1903-1907
- List of Members of the Metropolitan Water Board 1907-1910
The folowing people held the office of Chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board:
- Richard Melvill Beachcroft 1903-1908
- Edmund Broughton Barnard 1908-1920
- John Burgess Preston Karslake 1920-1922
- Christopher George Musgrave 1922-1928
- Sir William Prescott 1928-1940
- Henry Berry 1940-1946
- Harold Henry Gibbons 1946-1948
- William Henry Girling 1948-1953
- Albert Gorman 1953-1956
- Reginald James Buckingham 1956-1959
- Lawrence Rollitt Webster 1959-1960
- James Thomas Horton 1960-1961
- William Nichols 1961-1962
- Thomas Walter Smith 1962-1963
- Thomas William Newson 1963-1964
- John Cooper 1964-1965
- Charles Alfred Allen 1965-1966
- Dame Florence Cayford 1966-1967
- Albert Joseph Gates 1967-1968
- Andrew Jardine 1968-1969
- Arthur Joseph Sims 1969-1970
- Sir Samuel Isidore Salmon 1970-1971
- Joseph O'Connor 1971-1972
- Abraham Wolffe 1972-1973
- Sir Samuel Fisher 1973-1974
Area of the boardEdit
The board's area, described as its "Limits of Supply" was considerably larger than the administrative County of London: 559 square miles (1,450 km2) as opposed to 116 square miles (300 km2). The limits were to be the same as the area supplied by the various undertakings acquired with the addition of the parishes of Sunbury, Middlesex and Chessington, Surrey. It comprised the entire county of London and much of Middlesex, with outer boundaries at Cheshunt in Hertfordshire, Loughton and East Ham in Essex, Dartford and Foots Cray in Kent, and Malden, Surbiton, Esher and Kingston upon Thames in Surrey. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica described " Water London " as an irregular area extending from Ware in Hertfordshire to Sevenoaks in Kent, and westward as far as Ealing and Sunbury.
Final Years (1965–1974)Edit
Upon the reorganization of local government in Greater London in 1965, the Board’s constitution was amended by the London Government Order 1965 (SI 1965/654) and from 1 November 1965 until its abolition on 1 April 1974, the Board had 39 members, appointed by the constituent authorities, as following:-
The Greater London Council appointed 6 members, while the Common Council of the City of London, 26 of the London Borough Councils, the County Councils of Essex, Kent, Surrey and Hertfordshire, the Thames Conservancy and the Lee Conservancy Catchment Board all appointed one member each.
While there were a number of local authorities wholly or partly within the Board’s area which were not directly represented on the Board, they were indirectly represented through either the Greater London Council or appropriate county council.
The term of office of members of the Board was three years. The chairman and vice-chairman were elected by the Board on an annual basis.
The various public water boards and local authority water undertakings in England and Wales were reorganised by the Water Act 1973. Ten large Water Authorities were established based on river basins and catchment areas. Accordingly, in 1974, the assets of the Metropolitan Water Board passed to the Thames Water Authority (now privatised as Thames Water) governed by a 60 person board, and covering the area from the source of the Thames in Wiltshire to the Thames Estuary.
The MWB was based at 173-177 Rosebery Avenue, on the site of the New River Company buiding, and is currently a II* listed building