Friday, July 03, 2015

The Lost River Fleet Walk

Sunday 21-June-15

Through our friend Nigel we met Paul Talling who has written a couple of books on London: Derlict London and London's Lost Rivers (also on FB Derelict LondonLost Rivers). He also does guided walks based on the books. They tend to sell out really quickly so we booked a couple pretty smartish when the email hit the inbox, one of each.

First up, the River Fleet, starting where it empties into the Thames just below Blackfriars Bridge. The walk covers a lot of history from Roman times up to Dickensian London.

One of the first stops was St Ann Blackfriars, Ireland Yard dating back to the 16th century and burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666.

Further on we took in a bit of derelict London at Smithfield Market, the offal from which used to form a major pollutant in the old River Fleet.

The interior looks like a poor relation of Leadenhall with Victorian cast iron pillars.

I was amused by the concrete blocks with stencilled design to make it look like an apartment block; this block is about 60 cm tall

Later we went to Clerkenwell and there is a clue in it's name:

It is the site of a mediaeval well dating back to at least 1174 which is still there and can be visited by appointment.

The river is all underground in pipes and forms part of the sewer system. It can still be heard. If you put your ear to this grating you can hear the rushing sound of the river - a look out for traffic is recommended!

Mount Pleasant was sarcastically named after a huge rubbish mound and there are a number of Post Office building round there. As a teenager I went on a tour of the Mount Pleasant Mail Centre sorting office built on the location of the former Coldbath Fields Prison that ceased to function in 1885. They have a pretty cool private underground railway for transferring mail between buildings

We passed a plaque salvaged from a previous building on that site that was home to Nell Gwyn, long time mistress of King Charles II.

An early example of social housing near St Pancras

"Dust and Ashes Only" from the days of coal fires and, presumably, smog and London pea-soupers and large numbers of deaths from respiratory problems. Ah, the good old days.

Final stop was St Pancras Old Church featuring the Soane Mausoleum of John Soane designer of the Bank of England.

The dome is the inspiration for that iconic British symbol - the red telephone box.

Also home to the Hardy Tree surround by gravestones relocated there by a young Thomas Hardy.

We then adjourned to a local pub because walking is thirsty work. Many thanks to Paul for an entertaining day full of factoids and trivia about London and its history.

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