diamond geezer

 Saturday, August 20, 2005

Reviewing the Fleet
the Great Ormond Street tributary


A tributary of the River Fleet once ran from (approximately) the Imperial Hotel on Russell Square to Mount Pleasant, wiggling its way roughly parallel to Guildford Street and Theobald's Road. You'll no longer find this river on any map, but you can easily trace its west-east path by following local parish boundaries (look, see how obvious it is). Here's a brief summary of what you'll find today in these east Bloomsbury streets:

Queen Square: ...may be named after a Queen (Anne, in this case) but it's no square (being at least three times as long as it is wide). In the peaceful central gardens stands the statue of another Queen (Charlotte, in this case, whose husband King George III was treated for his insanity in a nearby hospital). The river ran across the north of the square, where it was known as the Devil's Conduit. (photo)
Great Ormond Street (pictured): GOSH was the first children's hospital in the English speaking world, opened by Dr Charles West in 1852. It started as a converted 17th century townhouse with just 10 beds, but soon expanded into the house nextdoor. In 1875 enough money was raised to construct a purpose-built hospital on the site, and this survived until the mid-1990s when the Wishing Well appeal allowed the near-derelict Victorian building to be substantially enlarged. In 1929 JM Barrie donated all future royalties from Peter Pan to the hospital, which has no doubt saved the NHS several thousands of pounds a year ever since. Full history here. Gosh.
Lamb's Conduit Street: ...is named after the artificial stream that once ran here, dug in 1577 by speculator William Lambe to carry water from local springs to the City. The main pub, The Lamb, is a Victorian treasure, but Camden council have recently destroyed much of the charm of this old street by semi-pedestrianising it. (photos from "The Way We See It") (photo)
Doughty Street: A street of classic Georgian terraces made famous because Charles Dickens lived here between 1837 and 1839, during which time he managed to write The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. Dickens' house at number 48 is now a museum, not that many tourists seem to find their way here. I couldn't be arsed to fork out a fiver for the entrance fee so I was delighted to discover this virtual tour on the museum's website when I got home. (photo)
Gray's Inn Road: Where once a small stream crossed this historic thoroughfare (bong), today you'll find the gleaming and shiny headquarters of Independent Television News (bong). Next month ITN celebrates its fiftieth anniversary (bong), all the way from Sir Christopher Chataway to Sir Trevor McDonald (bong).
Following the Fleet: Queen Square, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Long Yard, Doughty Mews, Roger Street, Elm Street, Mount Pleasant


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