Seven Wonders Of The Industrial World (2003) BBC

Seven Wonders Of The Industrial World: Bazalgette's London sewers

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Video Description

Bazalgette's London sewers

In the summer of 1858, while the Great Eastern was being fitted out for her maiden voyage, London was in the grip of a crisis known as the 'Great Stink'. The population had grown rapidly during the first half of the 19th century, yet there had been no provision for sanitation. Three epidemics of cholera had swept through the city, leaving over 30,000 people dead. And sewage was everywhere, piling up in every gully and alleyway, in the cellars of houses in poor districts - and even seeping through cracks in floorboards.

Leading engineer Joseph Bazalgette proposed a bold scheme to build proper sewers: 82 miles of sewage superhighway, linked with over 1,000 miles of street sewers, to provide an underground network beneath the city streets. He drove himself to the limits of endurance as he struggled to realise his subterranean vision - a task made particularly difficult by his need to compete with the new underground railway, a network of roads, and emerging overland railway systems. But his grand design for a sewer system did eventually transform the city into the first glittering modern metropolis, setting a standard that was quickly copied the world over.

Documentary Description

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World is a BBC docudrama television series that examines seven great feats of engineering that occurred during the Industrial Revolution. Starring Robert Lindsay, the series uncovers the truth behind the epic monuments of the Industrial Revolution, from Isambard Kingdom Brunel's 'great ship' the SS Great Eastern to the Panama Canal that linked the Atlantic and Pacific oceans more than half a century later.

These are stories driven by burning ambition, extravagant dreams, passion and rivalry of great minds. Each film uses dramatic reconstruction to tell a different story. Each film is based on real events and the actors' words are adapted from records of the day. Each ground breaking film explores ways the Industrial Revolution changed the world and reveals how the modern world was forged: In rivets, grease and steam; in blood sweat and human imagination.

This three DVD set contains all seven films : The Great Ship; The Brooklyn Bridge; The Bell Rock Lighthouse; The Hoover Dam; Transcontinental Railway; The Sewer King and The Panama Canal which were originally broadcast on BBC Two in 2003.


The period of over 125 years from the beginning of the 19th century saw the creation of some of the world's most remarkable feats of engineering. These are now celebrated as great wonders of the world - revealing as much about human creativity and the determination of the human spirit as they do of technological endeavour.

The wonders described here cover a great range. They include Isambard Kingdom Brunel's extraordinary ship - the Great Eastern, sometimes known as the Crystal Palace of the Seas - which its designer hoped would travel between the two farthest ends of the British empire, and the ground-breaking Panama Canal, which linked the Atlantic and Pacific oceans more than half a century later. The slowly evolving industrial revolution was the fertile ground that gave life to these dreams in iron, cement, stone and steel. The pioneers of the age were practical visionaries, seeing beyond the immediate horizon, the safe and the known, as they cut a path to the future. Yet their unique masterpieces could never have been built without an army of unsung heroes, the craftsmen and workers also willing to risk their lives as they laboured to bring each dream to life. Not to mention the financiers and shareholders hanging on for the ride, as reputations were lost and won.

The journey from the oldest 'wonder' described here, the Bell Rock Lighthouse, to the most recent, the Hoover Dam, illustrates the swiftly moving frontiers of technological progress in the 19th century. And each 'wonder' serves as a unique monument, a marker for what was known at the time it was created.

Source: BBC


* BAFTA Awards 2004

   Nominated: Huw Wheldon Award for Factual Series or Strand

   Nominated: Best Photography (Factual): Mike Spragg

* RTS Television Award 2004

   Nominated: Best Production Design (Entertainment & Non Drama)

   Nominated: Best Science & Natural History


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