River Effra

River Effra

The River Effra is a river in south London, England. It is now underground. The name is derived from the Celtic word for torrent (e.g. 'ffrydlif' in current Welsh) given by the pre-Roman tribes (see Peter Akroyd's 'The Thames').

When the London sewerage system was constructed during the mid-19th century, its designer Sir Joseph Bazalgette incorporated flows from the River Effra into his 'high-level interceptor sewer', also known as the Effra sewer, running from Herne Hill eastwards under Peckham and New Cross to Deptford.

The main course of the River Effra was diverted into a sewer and culverts. It can be accessed through the sewers on Effra Road in Brixton, South London and through a drainage grate in the crypts under St. Luke's Church, West Norwood, South London.

The route of the Effra

One branch of the Effra rises near Harold Road in Upper Norwood Recreation Ground, Crystal Palace, London, and flows through West Norwood where it is joined by a local tributary from Knights Hill. A second branch goes through Gipsy Hill, rising on the north side of Westow Hill, passing the east side of Gipsy Road, and picks up a tributary at Hamiliton Road, from where it meanders under Clive Road into West Dulwich and joins the other branch at Thurlow Park Road. The river rises again briefly in Belair Park to Burbage Road and then under again to Half Moon Lane in North Dulwich. It then works its way back towards Herne Hill railway station where it is joined by another tributary that flows through Leigham Vale, Tulse Hill and Brockwell Park. (John Rocque's map of 1745 called this area around the station 'Island Green', reflecting the old route of the Effra.)

From Herne Hill it follows the northern line of Brockwell Park and is joined by another tributary near Effra Road, whose source is Brockwell Park, and thence flows under Brixton's Coldharbour Lane towards the Police Station at Brixton Road. It then follows the road towards Kennington before emptying into the River Thames near Vauxhall Bridge.

Although little more than a stream in the south, until 1935 the encased watercourse flooded during heavy rains every decade or so; an inscription on a white stone tablet high up the side of a building in Elder Road, West Norwood reads: "FLOOD LEVEL 17th July 1890".

After a three hour long storm on Sunday 14 June 1914 the sewer overflowed again and flooded houses along its path from Elder Road to Chestnut Road, and locals were forced to evacuate their homes for several days. Further floods in the 1920s prompted works to enlarge the sewer. This was sufficient until the area flooded again during a powerful downpour on 20 July 2007.

The 'Unearthing the Effra' Campaign

In 1992 a project by the London arts group 'Platform' sparked a local campaign to dig up the river. The 'Unearthing the Effra' project was based around a mock 'Effra Redevelopment Agency', which included a public office. The project gained publicity in local newspapers and radio stations.


J.B. Wilson & H.A. WIlson "The Story of Norwood" ISBN 0951538411

ee also

*Subterranean rivers of London
*List of rivers in England

External links

* [http://www.awrc.info/content/effra.htm Walking the River Effra]
* [http://www.platformlondon.org/otherprojects.asp#stillwater Platform's Unearthing the Effra project.]
* [http://www.silentuk.com/writeups/rubix.html Silentuk.com - The River Effra and Overflow]
* [http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/images/lambeth/norwood/river-effra-01754-750.jpgIdeal Homes] River Effra
* [http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/lambeth/norwood/flood-wood-street-01.htm Ideal homes] Flood in Wood Street, West Norwood, 1914

River item line|upstream=Tyburn (stream) (north)
downstream =River Fleet (north)

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