Plumbing through the Ages – From the Ancient Civilisations to the Industrial Revolution

Plumbing has been around for many centuries, but it was the 20th Century that saw the most changes in plumbing. The Greeks and the Egyptians were both plumbing pioneers, coming up with new ways to provide things like running water and showers, but it was the Romans who really made huge advances in plumbing. Using lead pipes, they managed to move the water from mountains to the buildings they wanted it to get to, as well as the very impressive Roman baths.

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Of course, their choice of material for the pipes was later identified as a dangerous health hazard, and nowadays pipes are made from plastic, or are copper pipe like this and most importantly, both types of pipes are perfectly safe for passing our drinking water through!

After the Roman Empire fell, the advances that had been made in plumbing as well as many other areas slowed down and, in most places, pretty much ground to a halt, with little changing for hundreds of years. In fact, much of the plumbing that the Romans had brought in fell into disrepair and most places reverted back to the less hygienic ways of getting rid of wastewater (including the famously disease spreading activity of throwing the contents of a chamber pot out into the street, something which caused large cities like London to smell extremely bad in the hot summer months).

Not a great deal really changed until the Industrial revolution – during a time when ingenuity and invention was starting to become the norm again, and new ways of life were coming with the many new inventions that were making travel faster, production quicker and medicine more effective – of course, plumbing was due a huge overhaul.

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With London’s new sewer systems being built, and the obvious link between disease and dirty water in the streets, many inventors and scientists helped to get the plumbing systems in the UK to a standard that meant illnesses like cholera and typhoid dropped dramatically. Working showers, flushing toilets and then in 1848 the National public health act, as well as in 1930, the hygiene standards were formally introduced.

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