Tom Bolton reveals the surprising stories behind the little-known rivers that still surge beneath the streets of London.
London is usually seen as a one-river city, just big old Father Thames. The city breathes with the rise and fall of its tide, and for centuries the Thames has posed patiently for tourist drawings, etchings and photos. But what of London’s other rivers, the capital’s unseen waterways? Twenty-one tributaries flow to the Thames within the spread of Greater London, and that is just counting the main branches. Once tributaries, and tributaries of tributaries, are included the total moves beyond numbers into the realms of conjecture.
Many of these rivers flow quietly above ground, in plain sight but generally unnoticed beyond their neighbourhoods. Their enticing names echo London’s rural past – the Crane, the Darent, the Mutton Brook, the Pool River – or carry a whiff of the exotic – the Ching, the Moselle, the Quaggy, the Silk Stream. These rivers go about their business forgotten in the background, but many inner London waterways have been deliberately hidden. London’s landscape was shaped by the hills and valleys these rivers created, but as the city grew they began to get in the way and were buried, bit by bit, under layers of streets and houses.”
The Westbourne river flows through a tunnel that runs above Sloane Square Underground station. Image: SF Said
For a more in-depth look see this article by Tom Bolton: Caught by the Effra: http://caughtbytheriver.net/2011/10/caught-by-the-effra/