The London Hydraulic Power Company was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1883 to install a hydraulic power network of high-pressure cast iron water mains under London. It was the successor to the Steam Wharf and Warehouse Company, founded in 1871 by Edward B Ellington. The network covered an area mostly north of the Thames from Hyde Park in the west to Docklands in the east.
The system was used as a cleaner and more compact alternative to steam engines, to power workshop machinery, lifts, cranes, theatre machinery, and the backup mechanism of Tower Bridge. It was also used to supply fire hydrants, mostly those inside buildings. The water, pumped straight from the Thames, was heated in winter to prevent freezing.