Edwin Chadwick (1800-90) was a leading social reformer and sanitarian in London during the nineteenth century. He was knighted in 1889, becoming Sir Edwin Chadwick, shortly before his death at age 90 on July 6, 1890.  

Chadwick was born on January 24, 1800 into a family of long-living men.  His grandfather, Andrew Chadwick from Lancashire county in central England, died at age 96. His father, James Chadwick from London and later the United States, lived until his 85th year.  His mother was less fortunate, dying when Edwin Chadwick was very young.  


Chadwick's early education was in a village school in Lancashire county, then a boarding school in Stockport (south of Manchester), followed at age ten by home schooling with private tutors and his father in London.  The family had moved to London in 1810 for Edwin's father to pursue a career in journalism, first as sub-editor, then in 1812 as editor of the liberal The Statesman  (the former editor was imprisoned for libeling the government) and next in 1816 as editor of the Western Times.  

At age 18, Edwin Chadwick joined an attorney's office as an apprentice to begin a career in law.  After five years of apprenticeship, he recognized the need for formal education and enrolled in 1823 in Inner Temple, a law school at The Temple in London.  After seven years, he passed the bar in November 26, 1830 and became a licensed barrister (i.e., a court lawyer). This ended his his formal education.  


While still in law school, he supported himself with reporting for metropolitan newspapers.  The slums of London became his news copy.  He also became involved in the world of radical politics, and became a friend and supporter of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832).  After passing the bar, he became a literary secretary to Bentham, moved in 1831 to his Park Street house and remained until his death in 1832.  Thereafter he moved in 1832 to Orme Square and joined the government as assistant commissioner of the Royal Commission of Enquiry on the Poor Laws.  He was an active supporter of the Poor Law Act of 1834, and when it passed, was appointed secretary to the new commission. What followed was a tumultuous, meaningful career that brought Chadwick fame and modest fortune as supporter of the poor and champion of environmental sanitation. Details are provided in the yellow boxes below.    


By 1848 Chadwick had become Sanitary Commissioner of London, and was very influential in the city's approach towards cholera.  He believed that filth in rivers was less dangerous than filth in sewers.  As Commissioner, he had the power to have sewers regularly flushed into the River Thames. This policy inadvertently contributed to the spread of cholera by water purveyors which had their intakes in the polluted areas of the river.  Contrary to Dr. John Snow, he was a strong believer in the theory that epidemics were generated spontaneously from dirt, and that basic sanitation rather than specific avoidance of cholera germs would control the disease.  He rejected with scorn as mere hypothesis Snow's germ theory, as described in Snow's 1855 book.  While others had come to accept the germ theory, Chadwick remained a committed sanitarian to the end, telling a newspaper reporter shortly before his death in 1890: "I cannot tell you how strongly I believe in soap and water as a preventive of epidemics" (Weekly Dispatch, July 13, 1890).  


Chadwick's home from 1824-31 during his student years at Inner Temple was at Lyon's Inn on Wych Street at the southeast corner of Newcastle Street, a decayed Inn of Chancery (see The Temple for details) that served as student housing for the Inner Temple. The location in the 1859 map is at the lower center of cell K 17 just below "Wy" in Wych Street. See aqua colored boxes for 1843 and 1873 below for more details. 



(Quarter Mile Section - K 17)

Chadwick next lived for one year from 1831-32 with Jeremy Bentham at Park Street by Queen Square in Westminster, located in cell O 14 of the 1859 Reynolds map. Park Street is in the upper middle of the cell, just below Walk in Cage Walk. See aqua colored boxes below for more details.   



(Quarter Mile Section - O14)

For his third London home, Chadwick moved in 1832 to Orme Square, in the lower right of cell L 4 of Reynolds' 1859 map, where he lived until 1839 when he married Rachel Dawson Kennedy. See aqua colored boxes below for more details.   



(Quarter Mile Section - L 4)

Chadwick's forth London home Stanhope Street, where he lived following his marriage from 1839 to 1854, is shown in the lower-right corner of cell K 7 of Reynolds' 1859 map, below "o" in hope (the end of Stanhope). See aqua colored boxes below for more details. 



(Quarter Mile Section - K 7)

In 1854, Chadwick retired from his administrative duties and moved to Montague Villa in Richmond, a River Thames community west of London, where he remained until 1869.  See aqua colored boxes below for more details.  He continued to be an active consultant and writer until his death in 1890.  


Brundage A. England's "Prussian Minister" -- Edwin Chadwick and the Politics of Government Growth, 1832-1854, 1988.

Clunn HP. The Face of London, 1951.

Finer SE. The Life and Times of Sir Edwin Chadwick, 1952. 

Inwood S. A History of London, 1998.

Lewis RA. Edwin Chadwick and the Public Health Movement 1832-1854, 1952.

Marston M. Sir Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890), 1925.

Weinreb B, Hibbert C (eds). The London Encyclopaedia, 1993.

First London Residence from 1824 to 1831

Click here to see Lyon's Inn location in 1843 Map

Former Lyon's Inn location in 1873 Map

Click here to see change in Wych Street address

Second London Residence from 1831 to 1832

Click here to see location of Jeremy Bentham's home

Image of Queen Square (second residence) in 1850

Click here to see the area where Chadwick lived with Jeremy Bentham from 1831-32

Third London Residence from 1832 to 1839

Click here to see location of Orme Square home

Picture of Edwin Chadwick in about 1840

Click here to see shortly after marriage

Fourth London Residence from 1839 to 1854

Click here to see location of Stanhope Street home

Residence from 1854 to 1869

Click here to see location of Chadwick's Richmond Home

Photo of Edwin Chadwick in 1886

Click here to see image four years before death

Edwin Chadwick Biography, 1800-1890

Click here to read of Chadwick's complete life

Richardson's Biography of Edwin Chadwick

Click here to read this rare 1887 document