diamond geezer

 Thursday, January 28, 2010

The River Westbourne
6) Bayswater

It's possible to trace the River Westbourne's path through Bayswater by spotting where the less well-off people live. Just south of Bishop's Bridge Road stands the Hallfield Estate, designed by Russian-born architect Berthold Lubetkin and erected shortly after the Second World War. Its fifteen stark blocks are in sharp contrast to acres of elegant terraces all around, but as a Modernist icon it's the Hallfield which has attained Conservation Area status [photo]. Housing association tenants are justly proud of their sunken concrete oasis, although few probably realise that one of London's lost rivers once flowed through the site.

From here, after a wiggle across upmarket Cleveland Square, the Westbourne takes the backwater route. Peer down between Craven and Gloucester Terraces [photo] and there's a cobbled row of compact mews houses [photo], and then another [photo], each with an appropriately streamy name. First Upbrook Mews, then Brook Mews North, each accessed down a steep-ish slope beneath a narrow arch [photo]. These reclusive enclaves might well be delightful places to live, but they can't be as expensive as the surrounding “great aristocratic town” because there's a 19th century sewer running directly underneath [photo].

Around the foot of Craven Hill, close to where Lancaster Gate station stands today, several fine quality springs once bubbled forth. In the 14th century thirsty horses plying the Uxbridge Road would stop here for a drink, and the spot became known as Bayard's Watering Place. The name has been corrupted over the years, by the 18th century to the hamlet of Bayswatering, and today to the better known suburb of Bayswater. [lots of very-local history]

For several centuries Bayswater's springs provided drinking water for folk living a lot further east. From a tank inside a circular stone hut, leaden pipes conveyed water towards Bond Street and then on as far as Cheapside and Cornhill. This feeder system lives on in the names Spring Street and Conduit Mews (just south of Paddington station). Bayswatering also boasted two riverside inns on the old Uxbridge Road – one to the east called The Crown (now the Royal Lancaster Gate Hotel), the other to the west called the Saracen's Head (now The Swan). Stare carefully at the steps alongside Elms Mews and the old meandering riverbank can still be seen.
Following the Westbourne: Hallfield Estate, Cleveland Square, Upbrook Mews, Brook Mews North, Elms Mews, Bayswater Road.

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