Not quite grossly humiliated over the back of a horse, but it’ll have to do. Much better if there’d been a very thorny white rose stuck in the van’s exhaust pipe. Ah, well….
Jacob’s Island formed by a loop in the River Neckinger c1860. Formerly known as Folly Ditch. Watercolour J L Stewart 1829-1911
Here is a link to a very interesting article on London’s lost and forgotten rivers with details of some interesting finds including, my favourites , a 12th century triple toilet seat, a Roman bracket cast in the shape of a thumb, Bronze Age and medieval swords and a dogs collar finally engraved with ‘Gray Hound’
12th century triple toilet seat..
As The London Museum curator Kate Sumnall succinctly puts it “They are still there, and they’re flowing. Some off them you can still see, others are beneath our feet, but the little clues around London survive. Once you start paying attention to them the rivers jump out at you and you realise that you know far more about them than you think’.
The River Fleet shown on the ‘Copperplate’ map of London c 1553.
The Fleet rose on Hampstead Heath, flowed beneath Fleet Bridge , now the site of Ludgate Circus, and Holborn Bridge past Bridewell Palace, built by Henry VIII and into the Thames.
Bridewell Palace and Blackfriars Monastery at the entrance to the River Fleet. From a model by John B Thorp
Archaeologists still argue about the exact route of the River Tyburn but it is agreed that it flowed from the Hampstead Hills, across Regents Park to form an eyot which was called Thorney Island whereupon stood Westminster Abbey and the old Palace of Westminster.
Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster once stood on the eyot formed from the River Tyburn known as Thorney Island..
The eyot known as Thorney Island
The River Walbrook, short, but as it was the only watercourse to flow through the City it was both an important source of water as well as a conduit to remove sewerage. It may have come by its names because it flowed through London Wall. The source of the Walbrook is still argued over but one plausible suggestion is that it begun its life near St Leonards Church, Shoreditch, meandering down and under what is now The Bank of England and entering the Thames close to where Cannon Street Station now stands. As time passed it was vaulted over, paved and made level to the streets and lanes and thus built over …alas.
Map of London c.1300 with the River Walbrook shown
The River Walbrook, as it now flows beneath the Bank of England. Photograph taken by Steve Duncan 2007
The River Wandle, one of the longest of London’s rivers, passed through the boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Merton, Wandsworth and Lambeth to join the Thames on the tideway. It flowed through the grounds of Croydon Old Palace, sometime residence of Margaret Beaufort and where the young widowed Katherine of Aragon lived for a time, when that place was but a quiet village and at one time renowned for its fish, particularly trout. However eventually becoming an open sewer leading to outbreaks of cholera and typhoid , it too was culverted over in the 19th century.
Croydon Church with the River Wandle flowing past …
The Neckinger is believed to have risen close to where the Imperial War Museum now stands, crossed the New Kent Road and flowed either past or through Bermondsey Abbey, where disgraced Queens were sent to languish and die. A loop in the Neckinger became known as Jacob’s Island. The Neckinger met the Thames via St Saviours Dock which was created by the Cluniac monks of the Abbey in the 13th century who named it after their patron saint and built a watermill there.
Are there any South Londoners out there? You have your very own river..the Effra. Now culverted it once flowed, roughly, from the hills of Norwood, once part of the Great North Wood, Upper Norwood, Dulwich, Brixton and Kennington until it met the River Thames at Vauxhall.
I have only touched upon the copious amount of information that is readily available on London’s lost rivers. Its amazing to think that these historic rivers survive beneath the feet of thousands of Londoners as, totally unaware, they go about their business…
For anyone interested to find out more about London’s rivers, there is an exhibition ‘Secret Rivers’ at The London Museum from 24 May to 27 October 2019 covering the histories of the Rivers Effra, Fleet, Neckinger, Lea, Wandle, Tyburn and Walbrook.
Having for the past few days been concerned with the course (in the 14th century) of the old Walbrook, one of London’s “lost” rivers, I was pleased to come upon this article which indicates that the lost river is being acknowledged once again. Well, naturally, it hasn’t been mislaid at all, but was covered over centuries ago and now forms part of the capital’s sewer system.
The article referred to above is not new, but was to me. For once, the dreaded modern sculpture seems to be excellent. Something novel that is visually explanatory and really does bring back to life a river that has been hidden away for years.
Now all I need to know is where it actually meandered in the 14th century. It seems it was apt to change its course from time to time….
We all know that when medieval nobles moved between their properties, they often/usually took their luxury items with them, such as tapestries. These were then hung anew in whichever house/castle the lord had gone to.
It had never occurred to me how much trouble this must have caused for those in charge of things such as tapestries. Tapestries were precious, and often specified in wills and other inventories. Just what had to be gone through in order to raise them in their new position?
This article shows how the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio coped with such particularly precious Renaissance tapestries. And this is today, let alone Medieval England!
Finding the original town plans of London, before the Great Fire of 1666, is always intriguing, and very rewarding indeed for those of us who love all things medieval. So, in this respect, I welcome the Tudors. I already have books of London maps, published by the London Topographical Society, of our capital in the Elizabethan, Georgian and Regency periods, and very detailed and rewarding they are.
But now I find that the British Historic Towns Atlas, in association with the London Topographical Society, publishes foldable maps, in the same form as Ordnance Survey Landranger maps, and so on. Intrigued, I purchased the Tudor map of London, which reveals the city in about 1520, which is much closer in time to the reigns of Richard III and Henry VII. It is a very beautiful thing, and led me to browse the streets just for the sake of it.
If you go to their website you will find their range of maps, but most, if not all, are later than Tudor. Mostly 19th century, in fact, as York, which dates from 1850. Bristol is a series of detailed chronicological articles available on line. You will have to delve through the website in the hope of finding what you want.
But the 1520 map of “Tudor” London is excellent. I recommend it.
Last night I watched (on PBS America) a BBC2 Timewatch episode entitled The Mysteries of the Medieval Ship. It concerned the discovery, in June 2002, of a foundered/scuttled medieval vessel of some size, buried in the oozing mud of the Severn Sea – well, the oozing mud of the River Usk, at Newport, to be precise. But Severn Sea mud is the same, whichever estuary, and it takes prisoners, with the result that this particular ship has survived almost intact, and is that only such large 15th-century vessel to have done so in the United Kingdom.
Dendrochronology dates the timbers to around late 40s of the 15th century, and the oak identified as from northern Spain or Gascony, the latter possibility being just within English tenure, before France took it back.
It is believed that the ship had been berthed for repairs, but sank when supports gave way. And the fact of these repairs leads to a strong link to Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who turned upon King Edward IV at the Battle of Edgecote Moor on 26th July, 1469. Warwick won the battle, and among those he executed afterward was his predecessor as Lord of Newport, William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke.
There is a letter, signed by Warwick, concerning the repairs to just such a vessel as has now been discovered, at the time berthed in Newport. Here is the modernised text, taken from here :-
Richard Earl of Warwick and Salisbury great chamberlain of England and captain of Calais to Thomas Throckmorton our receiver of our lordship of Glamorgan and Morgannwg greeting.
We will and charge you that of the revenues of your office to your hands coming you content and pay …… Trahagren ap Merick £10 the which he paid unto John Colt for the making of the ship at Newport to Richard Port purser of the same 53s 4d, to William Toker mariner for carriage of iron from Cardiff unto Newport for the said ship 6s 8d to Matthew Jubber in money, iron, salt and other stuff belonging to the said ship £15 2s 6d. ……
Given under our signet at our castle of Warwick the 22 day of November the ninth year of the reign of our sovereign lord king Edward the fourth. (1469)
It may not be the same ship, of course, but the retrieved vessel had been armed (stone cannon balls found among the timbers) and there seems a strong possibility that far from being a peaceful merchantman, she may have been one of his pirate vessels. Warwick was known to dabble in piracy.
This mysterious ship is something to be cared for and treasured. She may not be the Mary Rose, but she is of more interest to those of us who prefer the 15th century. Especially when a figure like Warwick seems to be part of her history.
There is much to be found online about this extraordinary medieval discovery, and the following links are but a few:-
https://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/15479544.15-years-on-how-newports-medieval-ship-was-found-and-how-it-was-saved/ and http://www.newportpast.com/early/port/ship.htm and
There is also a book!
To historians, Ricardians in particular, Clements Markham is best known as the writer who built on the earlier research of Horace Walpole and others to rehabilitate the last Plantagenet during the Edwardian era. In this capacity, his rivalry with James Gairdner is legendary and he wrote a biography of Edward VI, however Markham was a man of many more talents.
His main career was as a geographer and explorer. He served in the Royal Navy and helped to search for Sir John Franklin, who had disappeared on an Arctic expedition, albeit to no avail. He then worked for the Inland Revenue and India Office before becoming geographer to Sir Robert Napier in Abyssinia. By now he was Honorary Secretary of the Royal Geographic Society, a post he occupied for a quarter of a century and became its President after a five-year sabbatical. In these roles, he became a patron of Robert Scott and supported him far more than he did Ernest Shackleton, becoming godfather to Sir Peter Scott, who became a naturalist after his father’s early death.
It is, presumably, through his experience as an explorer that Markham became a historian. As can be seen above right, he translated the life of Lazarillo de Tormes (above left) and wrote about many other explorers whilst reporting on his own voyages to the Arctic, the Antarctic, South America and Africa. Markham (below left) eventually wrote biographies of Edward VI and Richard III and died in 1916, in a house fire whilst trying to read by candlelight.
“If I can see further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” – Sir Isaac Newton.