To help clear London’s air and improve public health, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is expanding across all London boroughs from 29 August 2023. Generally speaking, low emission zones have been proven to make a considerable difference to the levels of pollutants and greenhouse gases in cities, in terms of both CO2 but also NOx (Nitrogen Oxide) and particulate matter, however there is an underlying feeling that this is somewhat of a cash cow for the Mayor of London’s office. I don’t want to debate the pro’s and con’s of the scheme or it’s extension. Personally I find it’s cheaper to take the train rather than use my wheezing eighteen year old diesel car, and I do find that walking the streets the atmosphere does seem to be less polluted than I once remember, oh how I do miss that smell on a hot summer day. Let’s just say pollution in the capital was reaching crisis levels and it’s a good thing that something was done about it, unlike the pollution crisis that hit London in 1894.
By the late 1800s, London was apparently drowning in horse manure. In order for the city to function, it was dependent on thousands of horses for the transport of it’s inhabitants and the conveyancing of goods. It is estimated that by the early years of the 20th century, there were over 11,000 hansom cabs on the streets of London . There were also several thousand horse-drawn buses, each needing 12 horses per day, making a staggering total of over 50,000 horses using the city’s streets every day.
This huge amount of equine traffic created major problems. On average a horse will produce between 15 and 35 pounds of manure per day, that’s on average a million pounds in weight, about four hundred and fifty tons every day, a staggering 164,000 tons per year, that could nourish a lot of rhubarb! The manure on London’s streets also attracted huge numbers of ﬂies which then spread typhoid fever and other diseases.
The problem came to a head when in 1894, The Times newspaper predicted… “In 50 years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.” This became known as the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894. The terrible situation was debated for the next four years, but no solution could be found. It seemed urban civilisation was doomed……… and then came the motor car.