Continuity and Change

Research Article

Waterworks and commemoration: purity, rurality, and civic identity in Britain, 1880–1921


a1 Department of History and Welsh History, University of Wales, Aberystwyth.


This article studies the commemoration and ceremonial culture surrounding the inauguration of new waterworks in British municipalities during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It analyses how new waterworks could be seen as a symbol of a progressive civic government, and how the commemoration of their opening could be used to enhance a city's image. The article also studies the ways in which ideas concerning the purity of new water supplies were constructed. An examination is made of how ceremonial culture and publications reflected the particular politics of waterworks in individual localities, and how such commemoration could serve as a vehicle for the promotion of civic unity.