the lost rivers of London

they came to a city
from prehistory to 1066
the early middle ages
London contrasts
the late medieval city
onward and upward
trading streets and trading parishes
a London neighbourhood: the crossroads
London as theatre
pestilence and flame
after the fire
crime and punishment
the lost rivers of London

It Is A Pity.....

In August of 1875, a gang of navvies, opening the surface of Oxford Street, just where is passes Stratford Place, came across the remains of an extensive stone structure - thick walls, pointed arches, decorative carvings, all in a fair state of preservation. In digging a sewer, they had come across the surviving parts of the great reservoir constructed by the Mayor and Corporation of London in 1216 to supply the Conduit in Cheapside with pure drinking water.
The reservoir collected the water which flowed into the Tyebourne or Tyburn brook from nine springs which oozed out of the gravel subsoil of St. Mary-le-bone (ie. St Mary's lez Bourne, or 'St Mary's-by-the-Brook').
It was King John, that much-maligned victim of bureaucracy, who persuaded Gilbert de Sandford, the then owner of the land on which the springs were situated, to deed his property to the Mayor and Corporation; and after the reservoir had been constructed and a six-inch lead pipe made, at the expense of the merchants of Ghent, Antwerp and Bruges trading in London, to carry the water from Stratford Place to Charing Cross, along the Strand, over Fleet Bridge, and up Ludgate Hill to the west end of Cheapside, the Mayor and Corporation used to pay an annual state visit to the reservoir. For centuries there was a building here, known as 'The Lord Mayor's Banqueting House', where, after having hunted a hare or a fox in the neighbouring fields and woods, the company sat down to dinner.

For having used his good offices to get the water under the control of the City of London, the King was granted, by the grateful Corporation, the right to lay a lead pipe, ' of the size of a goose-quill ', from the main pipe (as it passed Charing Cross) to the Royal Stables, on the site of which the National Gallery now stands.
In order to force the water through the pipe which ran up Ludgate Hill, the head of water in the reservoirs at Stratford Place was some thirty feet above the level of the Cheapside conduit's mouth; so that the level of Oxford Street must have risen considerably for the workmen to have found the remains of the reservoirs below street level.
The considerable sewer-laying and rebuilding which were taking place in and around Oxford Street at this date were responsible for an even more important find in connection with the Tyburn. A little farther to the west, at the corner of North Audley Street, digging the foundations of some new buildings revealed, close to the pavement, two well-worn flaps, obviously forming the door to a cellar. The navvies curiousity being aroused, they lifted the flaps with the points of their picks, and saw beneath them a chamber, to which a flight of sixteen brick steps led.
'On descending', says a contemporary account, ' they entered a room of considerable size, measuring about 11 feet long by 9 feet wide, and nearly 9 feet high. The roof, which is arched, is of stone and, with a few exceptions, is in good repair. The walls to the height of about five feet are built of small red brick, such as were used by the Romans, in which are eight chamfered Gothic arches, with stone panels, as though originally used as windows for obtaining light. The upper part of the wall is of more recent date. In the four corners of the chamber, there is a recess with an arched roof, extending with a bend as far as the arm can reach. In the middle of the chamber is a sort of pool or bath, built of stone, measuring about five feet by seven feet. It is about six feet deep, and was about half filled with water, tolerably clear and fresh. A spring of water could be seen bubbling up, and provision was made for an overflow in the sides of the bath. From all appearances the place was originally a baptistry.'
The late Victorians (like the early Victorians) had as little interest in preserving the relics of old London as have their neo-Elizabethan descendants; but the Victorians had more excuse for their destruction. For one thing there were still, even as late as 1875, dozens - perhaps hundreds - of such remains, where today there are but a few; and, for another thing, the Victorians were not persuaded that they 'needed dollars', and so had no interest in having something to attract tourists.

lost rivers of London [click for larger image]

a Wikipedia  entry on this
wonder of London

Areas surrounded by decay though
a safe haven for many  species of
 wildlife. When walking around some
of these waterways you really do
 forget that you are in London.
part of the website

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