Floods and lost rivers

by Nick

The part of London in which I live has mostly escaped the floods. However, lots of shops on the main road round the corner from me flooded from the basement up during the deluge last Friday, despite being a 20-minute walk from the Thames. Why? After a bit of research it seems it’s because the road is built on top of one of London’s lost rivers – in this case, the Falcon Brook.

The river was built over during the nineteenth century as Battersea and Balham were developed for housing and as the railway was built. However the name survives – most obviously in Falcon Road north of Clapham Junction station, and the Falcon pub at the crossroads by the station.

I’ve plotted the rough course of the river on Google Maps. Because WordPress.com doesn’t enable embedded objects, I can’t do a spiffy inline Google map unfortunately. But hopefully the link on its own will suffice. I’ve also dug out a good site that gives you the route if you want to walk it.

In the course of looking all this up, I discovered that as with a number of the areas round London that specialised in certain crops, Battersea specialised in certain things. Key among these was lavender, hence the name of Lavender Hill, which remains to this day. But watercress was also grown nearer the Thames in the marshier areas, and asparagus was another important specialisation – apparently sold in “Battersea bundles” together with lavender.