- River Fleet
The River Fleet is the largest of
London's subterranean rivers. It formerly flowed on the surface. It rises from two springs on Hampstead Heathand is directed into two reservoirs constructed in the 18th century, HighgatePonds and Hampstead Ponds. From the ponds the water flows underground for convert|4|mi to join the River Thames.
The higher reaches of this flow were known as the Holbourne (or Oldbourne), whence
Holbornderived its name. [cite book|last=Trench|first=Richard|coauthors=Hillman, Ellis|title=London under London: a subterranean guide|publisher=John Murray|location=London|date=1993|edition=Second|pages=33|isbn=0-7195-5288-5] The water initially flows in two paths before joining up and passing under Kentish Townand King's Cross. King's Cross was originally named Battle Bridge, referring to an ancient bridge over The Fleet where Boudicais said to have fought an important battle against the Romans. The river then runs down Farringdon Roadand Farringdon Street, and joins the Thames beneath Blackfriars Bridge.
Its name comes from the Anglo-Saxon "Holburna" = "hollow stream", referring to its deep valley, and "flēot" = "tidal inlet" In Anglo-Saxon times, the Fleet served as a dock for
In Roman times, the Fleet was a major river, with a
tide millin its estuary [ [http://www.kentarchaeology.ac/authors/005.pdf Spain, Rob: "A possible Roman Tide Mill", Paper submitted to the "Kent Archaeological Society"] ] . In Anglo-Saxon times, the Fleet was still a substantial body of water, joining the Thames through a marshy tidal basin over convert|100|yd wide at the mouth of the Fleet Valley. A large number of wells were built along its banks, and some on springs (Bagnigge Well, Clerkenwell) were reputed to have healing qualities. As London grew, the river became increasingly a sewer. By the 13th century, it was considered polluted, and the area was given over to poor-quality housing, and, later, prisons (Newgate, Fleet and Ludgateprisons were all built in that area). The flow of the river was greatly reduced by increasing industry.
Great Fire of Londonin 1666, Christopher Wrenproposed widening the river; however, this was rejected. Rather, the Fleet was converted into the New Canal, completed in 1680. Newcastle Close and Old Seacoal Lane (now just short alleyways off Farringdon Street) recall the wharves that used to line this canal, especially used by the coastal coal trade from the North East of England. Unpopular and unused, the canal was filled in from 1737. The river survived slightly longer: The section from Holbornto Ludgate Circuswas channelled below the surface when the canal was filled, with the section to the river covered by 1765. The development of the Regent's Canaland urban growth covered the river in King's Cross and Camden from 1812. The Farringdon Roadsection was built over again in the 1860s with the construction of the Metropolitan Railway, while the final upper section of the river was covered when Hampstead was expanded in the 1870s.
The river gives its name to
Fleet Streetwhich runs from Ludgate Circus to The Strand. In the 1970s, a planned London Underground tubeline was to run alongside the line of Fleet Street. However the route was changed to go south of the river and in honour of the Queen's Silver Jubileein 1977, the name was changed from Fleet Line to Jubilee Line.
The Fleet can be heard through a grating in Ray Street, Farringdon (EC1) [http://www.streetmap.co.uk/newmap.srf?x=531385&y=182157&z=1&sv=ray+street&st=1&tl=Ray+Street+Bridge+(off+Farringdon+Lane),+EC1&searchp=newsearch.srf&mapp=newmap.srf] in front of the Coach and Horses pub. The position of the river can still be seen in the surrounding streetscape with Ray Street and its continuation Warner Street lying in a valley where the river once flowed. It can also be heard through a grid in the centre of
Charterhouse Streetwhere it joins Farringdon Road (on the Smithfield side of the junction).
Mayor of Londonhas proposed opening up short sections of the Fleet and other rivers for ornamental purposes. [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article4138268.ece Boris Johnson to revive London’s lost rivers] ]
Ben Jonson's poem 'On the Famous Voyage' (discussed in Andrew McRae's article, cited below) provides a mock-epic account of a journey along the excrement-lined ditch in the early seventeenth century.The Victorian-era Fleet is one of the settings in a story from the BBC series "
Doctor Who" entitled " The Talons of Weng-Chiang", starring Tom Baker: in one episode the Doctor claims he once caught a large salmonin the Fleet, which he shared with the Venerable Bede. It is also mentioned in the Eighth Doctoraudio adventure " Dead London". In Neal Stephenson's novel "The System of the World" and in " The Horn of Mortal Danger" by Lawrence Leonard. The Christopher Fowlercrime thriller "The Water Room" uses the River Fleet as a key setting, and also mentions other London rivers. In March 1999, Jill Paton Walsh completed Dorothy L. Sayers' final Lord Peter Wimsey novel "Thrones, Dominations." Lord Peter's investigations neatly parallel the plot for his wife's new novel, and take him into the River Fleet to solve a murder while collecting data for her book.
List of rivers in England
* McRae, Andrew. ""On the Famous Voyage": Ben Jonson and Civic Space." Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 3 (September, 1998): 8.1-31 [http://purl.oclc.org/emls/04-2/mcraonth.htm]
* [http://www.sub-urban.com/fleet/ Sub-Urban.com — River Fleet]
* [http://lndn.blogspot.com/2005_08_01_lndn_archive.html Reviewing the Fleet]
* [http://people.bath.ac.uk/liskmj/living-spring/sourcearchive/fs1/fs1cp1.htm Chesca Potter, "The River of Wells"]
* [http://www.fluffhouse.org.uk/lynnette/stuff/mappe2.jpgMap of River Fleet superimposed over map of modern London]
* [http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=h0VmGuoNJZQ A psychogeographical film of the River Fleet]
* [http://www.silentuk.com/writeups/fleet.html Silentuk.com - The River Fleet]
* [http://www.streetmap.co.uk/newmap.srf?x=531385&y=182157&z=1&sv=ray+street&st=1&tl=Ray+Street+Bridge+(off+Farringdon+Lane),+EC1&searchp=newsearch.srf&mapp=newmap.srf Map showing Ray Street Bridge]
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