The story of the building of a suburb.
The Westbourne is one of the lost rivers of London.
The river was originally called the Kilburn (Cye Bourne – royal stream, ’Bourne and burn’ being the Germanic word equivalent to rivulet as in the geographical term ’winterbourne’) but has been known, at different times and in different places, as Kelebourne, Kilburn, Bayswater, Bayswater River, Bayswater Rivulet, Serpentine River, The Bourne, Westburn Brook, the Ranelagh River and the Ranelagh Sewer. It is of similar size to the Fleet.
Rising in Hampstead in two distinct branches, the river flows south through Kilburn (also the name of the river at that point) running west along Kilburn Park Road
and then south along Shirland Road
. After crossing Bishops Bridge Road
, the river continued more or less due south, between what is now Craven Terrace
and what is now Gloucester Terrace
. At this point, the river was known until the early 19th century as the Bayswater rivulet and from that it gave its name to the area now known as Bayswater.
Originally Bayswater was the stretch of the stream where it crosses Bayswater Road
, "Bayards Watering" in 1652 and "Bayards Watering Place" in 1654. It is said that there is a reference to Bayards Watering Place as early as 1380. There were a few houses at this spot in the eighteenth century and, it seems, a man called Bayard used or offered it as a watering place for horses on this road (formerly Uxbridge Road). The river enters Hyde Park at what is now the Serpentine. The Serpentine was formed in 1730 by building a dam across the Westbourne at the instigation of Queen Caroline, wife of George II, to beautify the royal park. The Westbourne ceased to provide the water for the Serpentine in 1834, as the culverted Westbourne had become the most convenient main sewer and the Serpentine is now supplied from three boreholes from the upper chalk underneath Hyde Park.
The Westbourne left Hyde Park (both before and after it had been dammed to form the Serpentine) at Knightsbridge which was originally a bridge over the Westbourne itself. It is recorded that, in the year 1141, the citizens of London met Matilda of England (Queen Maud) at this bridge. The river ran from Knightsbridge south under Bourne Street, SW1 and follows very closely the boundary between the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, joining the River Thames at Chelsea.
The waters of the Westbourne or Bayswater were originally pure and in 1437 and 1439 conduits were laid to carry water from the Westbourne into the City of London, for drinking. In the 19th century, however, the water became filthy and impure by its use as a sewer, and the rise of the water closet as the prevailing form of sanitation.
When Belgravia, Chelsea and Paddington were developed, it became necessary to drive the river Westbourne underground to build over it. The river was therefore directed into pipes in the early part of the 19th century, work which was completed in the 1850s. Since then, the Westbourne has been one of the lost rivers of London, running underground in a pipe.
The pipe can still be seen running above the platform of Sloane Square tube station. It is located just below the ceiling towards the end of the platforms closest to the exits. The pipe is the original one constructed in the 19th century. Although the station was badly bombed during the Battle of Britain in November 1940, the old iron pipe was not damaged.
After flowing beneath the location of the Chelsea Flower Show and beneath a corner of Chelsea Barracks, the river flows into the Thames. Its lower course is, like the Thames, tidal.
A vestige of the river, a wide quay opens into the river Thames about 300 yards (270 m) west of Chelsea Bridge. An overflow outfall, from a pipe named the Ranelagh Sewer, can still be seen at low tide, as most of the Westbourne’s course has been used as a convenient depression in the land to place the local sewerage system, some of which takes surface water to form a combined sewer which links to two intercept sewers, the Middle Level Sewer and the Northern Low Level Sewer in the London sewerage system.
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Westbourne Green had only a few houses by 1745, mostly south of the point where Harrow Road
had a junction with Westbourne Green Lane (also known as Black Lion Lane) running northward from the Uxbridge Road. A footpath later called Bishop’s Walk (eventually Bishop’s Bridge Road) provided a short cut to Paddington Green
. The Red Lion, where Harrow Road
bridged the Westbourne, and another inn were recorded in 1730. The second inn was probably one called the Jolly Gardeners in 1760 and the Three Jolly Gardeners in 1770, near the Harrow Road
junction, where it probably made way for the Spotted Dog.
The early 19th-century village contained five notable residences: Westbourne Place, west of Black Lion Lane at its junction with Harrow Road
, and, from south to north on the east side of Harrow Road
, Desborough Lodge, Westbourne Farm, Bridge House, and Westbourne Manor House. Bridge House was built c. 1805 by the architect John White, owner of Westbourne Farm.
Westbourne Green had a very refined air in 1795 and was still considered a beautiful rural place in 1820. The Grand Junction canal, passing north of the village between the grounds of Westbourne Farm and Bridge House, was a scenic enhancement, later used to attract expensive building to the area. Although housing was spreading along Black Lion Lane, it had not reached Westbourne Green by 1828, when a house later called Elm Lodge stood north-west of Westbourne Manor House. There was also a short row, later called Belsize Villas, alone to the west on the south side of Harrow Road
at Orme’s Green, by 1830. The main addition was at the southern end of the village, opposite Bishop’s Walk, where Pickering Terrace (later part of Porchester Road
), backed by a double row called Pickering Place, formed a compact block of cottages amid the fields.
The cutting of the G.W.R. line across the middle of Westbourne Green was begun in 1836, necessitating a slight northward realignment of Harrow Road
east of its junction with Black Lion Lane, where a turnpike gate was moved. Since the railway obstructed the Paddington green end of Bishop’s Walk, the footpath was replaced by Bishop’s Road, soon extended westward as Westbourne Grove
. (Although no large houses were demolished, the railway passed close to Westbourne Park, from which Lord Hill moved out. By 1840 several new roads were projected, including Westbourne Grove
. Houses had been built there by 1842, when the Lock hospital, giving its name to the Lock bridge where Harrow Road
crossed the canal, stood opposite Westbourne Manor House to the north. The centre of the area, however, along Harrow Road
and on either side of the railway, remained empty.
Housing spread in the 1840s, mainly south of the railway. The eastern end of Bishop’s Road was built up and at first called Westbourne Place, where the publisher George Smith was visited by Charlotte Bronte in 1848 and 1849. Further north, residential growth was curtailed by the G.W.R. depots and sidings. Immediately to the west, where the Paddington Estate straddled the Westbourne, roads were laid out, with bridges over the railway to link them with Harrow Road
. Holy Trinity church was finished in 1846 and Orsett Terrace
, Gloucester Crescent (later the northernmost part of Gloucester Terrace
), and Porchester Square
had been planned by 1851. No. 37 Gloucester Gardens
, Bishop’s Road, was the London home of the architect Decimus Burton by 1855. Most of the area between Bishop’s Road and the railway had been filled by 1855, except the site of Penny’s House, which was to be taken in 1871 for Royal Oak station.
A builder, William Scantlebury, erected much of the neighbourhood around Orsett Terrace
and Gloucester Crescent, where he took leases in 1849-50 and 1852 respectively. John Scantlebury of Porchester Terrace
North built part of Porchester Square
, where many plots were subleased by George Wyatt between 1853 and 1855.
Farther west building had already begun for William Kinnaird Jenkins, a lawyer who also acquired part of the Ladbroke estate from W. H. Jenkins and was responsible for laying out Kensal New Town. Houses were planned for W. K. Jenkins along both sides of Westbourne Grove
, west of Pickering Place, in 1838 and along an extension of Westbourne Grove
in 1840. They were detached villas, like those to be built for him in Newton Road
in 1846, when he also had plans for Hereford Road
. More land in Hereford Road
was leased out by the Paddington Estate between 1853 and 1855, much of it for terraces by J. P. Waterson, a Bayswater builder, who assigned his interest in several sites to John Wicking Phillips. To the north, Westbourne Park and its grounds made way for large semidetached villas in Westbourne Park Road
and, beside the railway, Westbourne Park Villas
. No. 16 Westbourne Park Villas
from 1863 to 1867 was the intermittent home of Thomas Hardy, who also lived briefly at no. 4 Celbridge Place (later Porchester Road
) and in Newton Road
. Fields survived between Westbourne Park Road
and Newton Road
in 1851 but had been covered with modest terraces by 1855, when St. Stephen’s church was being built.
Between the railway and the canal, the pace of building and the social pattern were more varied. The eastern part, where Delamere Terrace
lined the canal and Warwick Crescent
overlooked the pool, was begun as an extension of Little Venice. Leases for 13 houses in Westbourne Terrace
Road were taken in 1847 by G. L. Taylor, architect of some of the grandest houses in Tyburnia and Maida Vale
, who also built in Blomfield Terrace, along Harrow Road
. Other lessees included William Buddle, for 19 houses in Blomfield Street (later Villas) and Delamere Terrace
in 1851 and 12 in Warwick Crescent
, where plots were assigned to him by G. L. Taylor in 1852. Early residents included Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sister Arabel Barrett in Delamere Terrace
; in order to be near her Robert Browning moved from lodgings at no. 1 Chichester Road
and made his English home at no. 19 Warwick Crescent
from 1862 until 1887.
Farther west, beyond Ranelagh (from 1938 Lord Hill’s) Road, building was slightly delayed by the survival until after 1855 of Desborough Lodge and Westbourne Farm. Brindley Street
, Alfred Road
, and their neighbours already formed densely packed terraces west of the Lock Bridge and Harrow Road
. By 1861 Desborough Lodge and Westbourne Farm had made way for Clarendon, Woodchester and Cirencester Street
s, whose small houses resembled those around Brindley Street
rather than the stately terraces to the east.
North of the canal, the workhouse was built next to the Lock in 1846-7. Building, although not the imposing crescent planned in 1847, stretched from there along the south side of Harrow Road
to Woodfield Road
at Orme’s Green by 1855.
The 1860s saw housing, which had ended in 1855 at St. Stephen’s Church and Hereford Road
, spread to the Kensington boundary.
North of the canal the site of Westbourne Manor House was built over from 1867 and Amberley Road
with its timber wharves was built along the canal bank. The whole of Westbourne Green thus came to be built up.