In the early 19th century, most drinking water in English cities was drawn from wells and pumps. This was an era of population explosion in industrial centres, and the water supplies were overstretched and frequently contaminated. Not even the wealthier classes, who tended to have private supplies, were safe.The 1850s saw a number of severe cholera epidemics in cities throughout the country. This led to a greater awareness of water-borne pollution and disease generally, and to campaigns to purify the water supply. By the end of the century, both industry and municipal government had instituted purification processes. In London, sanitary conditions were greatly improved by Sir Joseph Balzalgette’s new sewers. There was still considerable mistrust of the water supplies, however, and those who could afford it drank bottled water, as advertised on this leaflet.