diamond geezer

 Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stamford Brook

Only one of London's lost rivers has a tube station named after it. The Fleet nearly managed an entire line, but the Queen's Silver Jubilee saw to that. Stamford Brook station is named after a waterway which used to flow nearby (but, to the best of my knowledge, not directly through). It's a peculiar waterway, Stamford Brook, in that it had three very distinct and separate sources. Two of those headed defiantly towards the Thames only to stop suddenly, turn east and join up with the third. All three flowed through that broad geographical entity we know today as "Acton". And some were alternatively known by different, and somewhat amusing, names. The western tributary, that's the Bollo Brook, and the middle one is the Warple. Honest.

Please be patient with me - this isn't a part of London I know well. It's also been especially difficult to determine where precisely each branch ran, or indeed if they even linked up like this at all. We're quite a way west of the West End here, well outside the scope of most historical maps of London, so there's not a lot of cartographical evidence to pinpoint the Stamford Brook's original course. But this was the very last of London's lost rivers to go underground, open in its upper reaches until the early 20th century, so some maps do exist. Meanwhile all of the rivers further to the west have survived on the surface - the Brent, the Crane and the Colne still flow.

One thing I've been surprised to discover while researching London's lost rivers this year is how incredibly important they are in defining boundaries. This is especially true in West London, where the existence of two long thin boroughs is entirely due to rivers that no longer exist. The boundary between Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea... a chunk of that follows the Westbourne. The boundary between Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham... is almost precisely defined by Counter's Creek. The western boundary of Hammersmith and Fulham... follows very closely the line of Stamford Brook (bar a few modern tweaks to match administrative areas to reality). And as for the northeastern boundary of Hounslow, where the borough rubs up against Ealing... step forward the Bollo Brook. If you live out this way, then the public body to whom you pay your council tax is most likely determined by on which bank of an ancient unseen river you live. Lost these rivers may be, but their influence remains current.

» An approximate map of the Stamford Brook's course (my best Google map attempt)

» Previous rivers in this series: Fleet, Westbourne, Falcon Brook, Counters Creek, Neckinger, Hackney Brook, Effra, Walbrook

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