Many rivers once emptied into the valley of the Thames. Built on over the years, as most became open sewers, a few traces remain. Many were surprisingly large; Queen Elizabeth I is said to have travelled by barge up the Effra to visit Sir Walter Raleigh at his house in Brixton.

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Lost Rivers

The Westbourne

Leaving Hampstead, this large river flowed down through Hyde Park to Sloane Square and into the River Thames at Chelsea. At Sloane Square tube station, it crosses the platforms in a great cast iron box. Kilburn (Royal burn) and Bayswater (Bayards watering place) both take their name from it.

Tube: Sloane Square

The Tyburn

This arch is where the Tyburn meets the Thames near Vauxhall Bridge. It was a small stream from South Hampstead, running through St John's Wood and Regent’s Park, Marylebone, Mayfair, before crossing Piccadilly, then Green Park and into the King's Scholars Pond sewer.

Vauxhall Bridge SW1
Tube: Vauxhall

The Neckinger

Rising in Southwark, this reaches the Thames at
St Saviour's Dock where, in the 17th century, pirates were hung, hence the river's name ie devil's neckcloth. This area was once called Jacob's Island, notorious as a filthy slum in the time of Charles Dickens, but is now the upmarket Shad Thames.

Shad Thames SE1
Tube: Bermondsey

The Effra

Two branches of the Effra meet near Herne Hill railway station before it flows past Brockwell Park and Coldharbour Lane towards Kennington, reaching the Thames at the SIS (MI6) building on Vauxhall Bridge. The Effra still supplied Dulwich with ‘fresh’ water in 1860.

Vauxhall Bridge SW1
Tube: Vauxhall

The Walbrook

The river was a brook that ran  through the Roman wall - hence its name. The only evidence of it now is a street called Walbrook, which traces part of its course, and the lovely church of St Stephen Walbrook, which was rebuilt by Christopher Wren in 1672 after the Great Fire of 1666. 

39 Walbrook EC4
Tube: Cannon Street

The Fleet

Giving its name to Fleet Street, this river starts in Hampstead, where the Highgate Ponds were built on it as reservoirs for drinking water. It empties into the Thames near Blackfriars bridge. Its width can be seen at Holborn Viaduct – which spans its former valley.


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