We’re all familiar with the Thames, winding its way through the center of London. But did you know there are also many other rivers and canals that were buried beneath the London streets, more than a century ago?
Stand almost anywhere in the City and you will be very close to a lost river, enclosed by the Victorians as they developed a working sewer system for the health and well-being of the cities inhabitants. Beautiful (and necessary) though the sewer system is, it does mean many of the waterways are lost to public view.
If you wanted to see some of these above ground, have a look for the river Peck in (you guessed it) Peckham, specifically Peckham Rye park. Elsewhere, the fleet can be seen (and smelt) courtesy of a drain cover in a cycle lane outside the Prince Albert pub in Camden. By all accounts it’s a little risky to get a glimpse of the water (try to avoid the cyclists!) , but is well worth it. After all, this is the river that gave its name to Fleet street, the most famous press location in the world. It is also possible to follow the fleet all the way from its source down to the Thames.
Alternatively, if you feel like standing by one mysterious building to uncover another mystery, take a trip down to MI6, next to Vauxhall Bridge. Look closely and you will see the intersection where the river Effra meets the Thames.
(photo credit – By Tarquin Binary – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=393541)
The Effra is little known now, but was the subject of a significant mystery in the Victorian era: a coffin (with its inhabitant) was found floating down the Thames. Traced back to its original plot, cemetery staff were puzzled to find the grave undisturbed. It was only after further investigation that they realised the ground underneath had collapsed, sending the coffin into the Effra and, ultimately, into the Thames…