Great Conduit

Place of Interest in/near City of London, existed between 1368 and 1666

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Place of Interest · City of London · EC2V · Contributed by The Underground Map
MARCH
5
2017

The Great Conduit was a man-made underground channel which brought drinking water from the Tyburn to Cheapside in the City.

In 1237 the City of London acquired the springs near the Tyburn and built a reservoir to provide a head of water for serving the city.

The City of London had been well-supplied with water in medieval times. It was situated beside the Thames and the smaller River Walbrook flowed through the middle with the River Fleet flowing to the west. However, as time went by, all these sources of water became polluted in one way or another and the authorities decided that new sources of fresh water should be sought. Piping water over long distances was very difficult. Pipes could be made of lead but the cost of such a pipe extending over miles was far too expensive. The alternative was wooden pipes. Because they conducted the water through them, they were known by the Latin name ‘conduit’ – meaning ‘to lead’ which in this case was the water.

Work on building the conduit began in 1245. The whole water supply process worked on gravity. It was necessary to find a spring that was physically higher than where the end of the conduit was situated. From the Tyburn it ran towards Charing Cross, along the Strand and Fleet Street and round the southern side of the city. It then ran along Cheapside where there was a building where citizens could draw water. Wardens were appointed to prevent unlawful access and use and to repair pipes. Extensions were made to the system leading to various parts of the city.

Use of the conduit ceased after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

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