Throughout April it’s been Cityread-a-go-go in Westminster Libraries, with reading group discussions, author visits, children’s crafts and a range of other events, all tying in with the Rivers of London Cityread theme. And there’s more to come – keep an eye on our Cityread London page for information.
Robert Squires of the Inland Waterways Association visited Paddington Library to give an authoritative illustrated talk to a large audience about The Lost Rivers of London. We were regaled with interesting information about the history of Westminster and its environs in relation to its small rivers, virtually all of which now flow in pipes and tunnels under the heavily used pavements and roads of the City.
Many residents and visitors are unaware that Kensington had its own industrial scale canal in the 19th century. It was used as a transit for wood to build new houses in the area. Roger showed the audience an image of the timber yards by the canal in the early 1900’s and it looked far removed from the contemporary image of Kensington as a place of good living and prosperity.
Nor would they know that Victoria station is built on the site of a waterworks and that the River Westbourne flows through a large pipe above the platforms of Sloane Square tube station. I now know why the station walls can’t be upgraded!
Roger talked about environmental changes relating to rising groundwater levels which is causing the basements of many government buildings in Whitehall to be permanently flooded. Roger joked that this was no bad thing…
I was relieved to learn that Paddington Library does not stand directly above either the River Westbourne or the River Tyburn. Woe betide any property owner who builds an underground extension to their mansion above these rivers… they might end up with an unusual swimming pool!
To find out more about this fascinating subject, search for ‘Lost rivers of London’ on the library catalogue.