The paper evaluates a Victorian environmental account of the pollution of the River Wandle. This account was produced during a period of social and environmental crisis, when there were no significant industrial environmental regulations. This problematising external environmental account provides valuable insights into the historical development of social and environmental accounting. Our analysis located this account within an institutional reform programme to create systems of governance to mitigate the damage arising from unfettered industrial growth. We argue that problematising external environmental accounting has a longer tradition than previously recognised in the literature and predates corporate social and environmental reporting.