Beverley Brook

Above: A view at low tide of the point where Beverley Brook meets the Thames. The footbridge is in Putney and is part of the Thames footpath.

By the end of the 1800s, most of the villages surrounding the City of London were beginning to join up and all the land – within a five- or six-mile radius of the City was starting to look like a large urban sprawl. The Victorians were well aware of the nightmare of having a vast metropolis (yes, the word was coined about that time) without any real overall planning. It was then decided to combine a part of the County of Middlesex (on the north bank of the Thames) and parts of Surrey and Kent (bordering the south bank of the Thames) and create a ‘new county’ which became known as Metropolitan London.

Several blogs over the years have mentioned these facts. Today’s blog relates to Beverley Brook which is a tiny stream that once formed the western boundary of Wandsworth. The brook was chosen as the boundary of Metropolitan London (south of the Thames) on the western side. It is quite easy to see the brook on any street map of London. It is still in existence and water still flows in what looks rather like a large ditch.

Above: View from the same footbridge as in the picture above, showing the Beverley Brook when the Thames has reached high tide.

Beverley Brook meets the Thames opposite Bishop’s Park (on the north bank of the Thames). A good view of the mouth, where it meets the Thames, can be gained from the riverside footpath in Bishop’s Park. As can be seen, by looking at any good street map, the brook winds its way around the land in Wandsworth. Until 1965, when Inner London expanded to form Greater London, Beverley Brook was the boundary between the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth and the rest of the County of Surrey.

The name of the brook appears in a document of AD 693 as ‘Beferipi’ and as ‘Beverley Creeke’ in 1668. The name is taken to mean ‘beaver stream’.


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Wandle, River

Above: Bing map showing the northern end of the Wandle (where it joins the Thames). The dark line of the Wandle can be seen. It is crossed by Wandle Bridge (which carries Wandsworth High Street) and another bridge (carrying Armoury Way). The large shopping precinct is south of Wandle Bridge and is built on top of the Wandle.

Several books, pamphlets and also Webpages have been written on the subject of the ‘Lost Rivers of London’. The River Thames flows through what is now Inner London and it was one of the reasons why the Romans established their township that they called Londinium. Flowing into the Thames, in Inner London, are many smaller tributaries – both on the north bank and on the south. We often refer to them as ‘lost rivers’ because, in the main, many of them now flow under the ground, often through sewer pipes. To the casual observer, they are, therefore ‘lost rivers’ because their course is not obvious – as any stream in the countryside is usually obvious.

The River Wandle is often included in the list of tributaries of the Thames (which it is) but it is also often also included in the list of ‘lost rivers’ (which it certainly is not). It is true that, for short lengths, the river is buried below ground, especially near busy high streets but, in the main, the Wandle is open to the sky. It makes an interesting and rather long walk to follow its course – from its two sources all the way to the Thames.

There are two sources for the Wandle – one at Carshalton Ponds (in the London Borough of Sutton) and the other at Waddon Ponds (in the London Borough of Croydon). Two streams flow towards each other and meet a short distance north of Carshalton. The Wandle then flows in a generally northerly direction through Morden (in the London Borough of Merton) before entering the London Borough of Wandsworth and flowing through what was originally the old village of Wandsworth. From that point, it widens and flows about half a mile further north to meet the Thames. Of the London Boroughs just mentioned, only Wandsworth is within Inner London. The other three (Sutton, Croydon and Merton) are Outer London Boroughs.

The first mention of the name we know as Wandsworth was as ‘Wendleswura’ in AD 693. The name is taken to mean ‘Wendel’s worth’– ‘worth’ being Old English for an open space, so a literal translation could be given as ‘Wendel’s Farm’. Of course, who ‘Wendel’ was we shall never know. It will be seen, therefore, that both the place name ‘Wandsworth’ and the river name ‘Wandle’ both derive from the ‘mystery man’ called ‘Wendel’.

The River Wandle falls 38 metres (126 feet) along its length of about 19 kilometres (12 miles) – making it a very fast flowing water course. Over the centuries this made it suitable to power watermills. It is known to have done this since Roman times. A wide range of different industries used the water power in their manufacture. In its heydey, there were no less than 56 water-mills being driven by the Wandle justifying its title as the ‘hardest working river for its size in the world’.

Whilst industries still exist along the river today, they sadly no longer use its power. Today, the river is a place of leisure with nature reserves and pleasant parkland that makes a walk along its length a very enjoyable one. Although stretches of the Wandle pass through busy high streets and built-up areas, it is surprising how much open space is to be seen along its banks.

This is very encouraging because, in the 1970s and 1980s, much of the river was in a very poor state and had been described as a dumping ground for waste. Some of the industries nearby discharged their chemical waste into the river, causing the water to turn various shades of blue and purple. In a relatively short space of time, more rigorous regulations have been enforced and the water is back to its original state. In fact, the water is probably better now than it has been for something like two or three centuries.

After flowing past Merton the Wandle flows near the western boundary of the London Borough of Wandsworth – running beside Wandle Park (near Collier’s Wood Station) and then through Wandle Meadow Nature Park (a short distance west of St George’s Hospital). The Wandle flows along part of the western boundary of the London Borough of Wandsworth as is passes through Garratt Park. It flows just west of Earlsfield Station and continues north via the long but not very wide King George’s Park, flowing between the park and Garratt Lane. The river flows under the large shopping precinct whose main entrance is at the northern end – beside Wandsworth High Street. The old Wandle Bridge – once a country bridge in the original village of Wandsworth – is now part of a busy one-way traffic-laden road forming part of the A3. North of the road bridge the Wandle flows past the old Ram Brewery, a part of the river that has been closed to pedestrians for over a century. Access for walking beside the Wandle at this point will become possible, once the new development is completed.

Wandsworth High Street is one-way for westbound traffic. Armoury Way is the one-way street for eastbound traffic. North of Armoury Way, public access is now possible in the form of a side street called ‘The Causeway’. A railway line via Wandsworth Town Station then crosses the Wandle and a footpath linking Smugglers Way to Enterprise Way acts as a good vantage point to see the northern end of the river and also glimpse the point where it meets the Thames. Access on foot, to the mouth of the Wandle, is not yet possible. There is a footpath which lies just west of the Wandle. It joins up with a relatively recent riverside footpath called Nickols Walk.


Comment 06 – 400th Blog

Started on the 19 September 2014 and now publishing three blogs each week, ‘Know Your London’ has reached its 400th edition. The author wishes to thank all those who have taken the trouble to get in touch on the blogs – either adding a comment or contributng further information. They have enriched each blog and have often added information that is not generally available elsewhere. Thanks also to those who have added a ‘like’. Such actions help to asses popular opinion of a particular blog.


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Ship Pub, Wandsworth Bridge

Above: In spite of the pub standing right next to a cement works for loading lorries all day long during the week, if the view is taken from the right place, the venue looks idyllic. Quite why the Thames sailing barge was moored alongside the pub. It was there for some time but it is not there now.

When the Thames was a working river – particularly in Victorian times – most of the banks of the river were endless wharves and quays where hundreds, if not thousands, of men toiled. Some wharves were where sea-going vessels moored to loaded or unloaded with goods. Some parts of the river bank were where river craft were built on small slipways. Other parts of the riverfront were in use by large factories and this type of activity continued well into the latter part of the 20th century. Today most of the riverfront has fallen silent as almost all the land has been redeveloped with large up-market housing estates.

When all the factories and wharves were in use, there were many pubs along the Thames – providing food and drink for the thousands of men who not only worked beside the river but, in many cases, lived only a short distance away, walking each day to their place of work. As the working aspect of the Thames has declined, so have the riverside pubs. Such hostelries, with premises that actually stand beside the Thames, are very few today.

Above: View looking west from Wandsworth Bridge. The pub is tucked away, out of sight, in line with the Thames sailing barge. The trees in the distance are part of Wandsworth Park.

One such pub is the Ship which is ‘alive and well’ and busier than ever – mainly due to the many riverside apartments nearby but also due to the many people who enjoy a long walk beside the Thames (on the newly laid out footpaths) and who have discovered new watering-holes for them to enjoy.

The Ship was probably built to serve the needs of local workers. Its first recorded mention was 1809. The address is 41 Jews Row, SW18 – standing just west of Wandsworth Bridge, on the Wandsworth side of the Thames. Of recent years the surrounding land has become gentrified, with many apartments and also several restaurants. All these factors have contributed to the large number of visitors to the locality, especially over the weekend in the summer months.


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Surrey Iron Railway

Above: This is one of the only paintings made of the railway. It shows the trucks being hauled along the track, on an embankment. The five trucks are being pulled by a horse.

The railway was established at a meeting in the Spread Eagle PH, Wandsworth, on 24 July 1800. Work started in 1801 to construct railway tracks from Wandsworth to Croydon, and thence to Merstham, in order to convey chalk, dug from the Surrey hills around Epsom, to the Thames. In addition, coal, building materials, lime, manure, corn and seeds were also carried. It was designed by Benjamin Outram, from whose surname the word ‘tram’ was formed. The architect Edward Banks worked on the railway as a young man.

It should be mentioned that heavy goods like those already mentioned were usually moved by canal. The idea of building a railway to convey the goods was quite revolutionary.

The line became the world’s first public railway. The rails were used by trucks, pulled by horses, laden with heavy commodities. The rails ran on stone sleepers. None of the original track exists along the route of the old line but a few of the original sleepers from the line are preserved outside West Hill Library.

It was a public toll railway, providing a track for independent goods hauliers to use their own horses and waggons. The company did not operate its own trains. Sometimes it leased out the track and the dock. Sometimes it collected tolls and kept the line in repair itself. The double-track plate-way had a spacing of about five feet between the centres of the stone blocks. The gauge was recorded as 4 feet 2 inches – the same as on the Croydon Merstham and Godstone Railway. The nine-mile route followed the shallow valley of the River Wandle, then heavily industrialised with numerous factories and mills – from the River Thames at Wandsworth southwards to Croydon, at what is now Reeves Corner. A short branch ran from Mitcham to Hackbridge and Carshalton.

The Surrey Iron Railway was in use until 1844 when it was sold to a steam railway company – hauling normal passenger trains. The old tracks of the original railway were lifted in 1848. Subsequently, much of its trackbed through Mitcham to Croydon was used for the Wimbledon to West Croydon railway which was opened in 1855. This was closed in 1997 to re-open in May 2000 as part of today’s Croydon Tramlink system.


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Wimbledon Windmill

Above: The windmill seen from Wimbledon Common.

There has been a windmill on the site since the time of Charles I. The present windmill was built in 1817 which, obviously, means that this year it is 200 years old. it only operated until 1864 as a working mill. The machinery was then removed and it was converted to residential accommodation. The living accommodation was for six families. The original wooden upper storey was rebuilt using brick, and fireplaces and chimneys were added to give the building the appearance it has today. One room has been retained in the Museum to give an idea of the living conditions in 1870.

In 1976 the first floor of the mill was opened as a museum and this was extended to the whole building in 1998.

In 2015 one of the sails fell from the wind-shaft with minimum damage being caused. It was then decided to give the mill a complete renovation. With the aid of a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant, contributions from the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators and money from other local benefactors, the work was completed in November 2016.

Above: The windmill seen from the approach path from the road.

The museum also has a display of Scouting memorabilia, commemorating the writing of part of ‘Scouting for Boys’ in 1908 by Robert Baden-Powell in the Mill House, where he lived.

The windmill stands in Windmill Road on Wimbledon Common. The site is just outside
the boundary of the London Borough of Wandsworth, in the London Borough of Merton. However, the site is so close to the Wandsworth boundary that is has been included under Wandsworth. The easiest way to visit the windmill is by the 83 bus, from Putney Bridge Station, which has a bus stop at Windmill Road.


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Putney Wharf

Above: Looking west from the southern end of Putney Bridge over 100 years ago.

It is an obvious thing to say but none of the original paths and tracks crossing Inner London are in evidence today because those tracks have become roads and the surfaces were probably covered in Victorian times by stone sets and then, in later times, covered by the more modern road surfaces that we use today. Similarly, footpaths have been paved. All this preamble leads to the topic of Putney Wharf.

In contrast to the ancient tracks and footpaths, the Thames is a ‘highway’, which rises and falls twice each day, exposing the land either side that we call the banks or the beach. Access to the beach was, in previous centuries, by using pedestrian stairs or ramps – usually called ‘slipways’ – leading directly onto what firm ground there was beside the river. Some of those old stairs remain today, a very few of the slipways are still to be found but the one in the picture is unique in Inner London beside the Thames. It was just known as ‘’The Wharf’ or ‘Putney Wharf’.

The site is easily recognisable for anyone who knows Putney. The view in the picture is from the southern end of Putney Bridge and looks towards the west. Most of the layout of the land and the buildings look just the same today. What has changed is that no lighters (large barges) are to be seen at Putney on the river these days and the horse-drawn carts, sadly, are no more.

Behind the trees and shrubs (on the far left) Lower Richmond Road runs west from its junction with Putney Bridge and Putney High Street. The slipway, leading into the Thames is still there. The ornate three-storey building is the Star and Garter pub which still graces today’s scene. The wide walkway beside the Thames looks just same today – it is called Putney Embankment. Near the large pub is the lattice ironwork of the gangway leading to Putney Pier.

Dating this view is not easy.The roof-line of the Star and Garter pub is not so ornate today which suggests that this view shows the earlier pub. It was rebuilt in 1901 in red-brick and so it now has a quite different appearance to that in the picture. It is therefore likely that the view was taken in the 1890s. It was taken on a day when there was a high tide because the gangway leading to the pier is just about horizontal which only occurs at high water.

The view is a good example of how life was for many workers beside the Thames. The barge nearest to the camera is moored beside the slipway and was either being loaded or unloaded. Two small carts have been ‘backed-up’ onto the river so that the contents of the carts can be loaded into the barge or the barge can be unloaded to the carts. It is also known that larger loads were carried by Thames sailing barges that were deliberately beached on the mud of the Thames at Putney Wharf – at low tide – and horse-drawn carts were driven down the slipway and on to the bed of the river to go alongside the barge to make moving goods easier.


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Ram Brewery, Wandsworth

Above: The large Ram pub in Wandsworth High Street, photographed when it was still in use. It is presently closed but it is expected to reopen after the development of the whole site is completed.

As the enormous site is under renovation and development – with houses, office units, shops and restaurants – it is an appropriate time to tell the story of one of London’s famous breweries.

Records show that the Ram pub, on the corner of today’s Wandsworth High Street and Ram Street, was in existence around 1550. In the early days, pubs were not supplied with beer by large breweries, as they are today. Nearly every pub then used to brew its own beer. It would seem that the site of the pub was ideal because within only a hundred yards of the building flows the River Wandle. The clear stream would have provided an endless source of water for brewing. The earliest mention of brewing at the Ram was in 1576. After several mentions of brewing at the pub, in the 1600s and 1700s, we know that the Ram was purchased by Charles Allen Young and Anthony Fothergill Bainbridge in 1831. Ownership remained with the Young family until 2006. Young’s claimed that the Ram Brewery was the oldest British brewery in continuous operation.

Above: Part of the brewery (facing onto Wandsworth High Street) beside Wandle Bridge (in the shadows on the left). The Ram pub is on the far right.

The last Chairman of Young & Co was John Young – the great-great-grandson of the founder. The premises became the main brewery for Young’s beers in London. On 23 May 2006, the company issued a press release announcing that the Ram Brewery was to close and brewing was to be moved to the Eagle Brewery in Bedford, then owned by Charles Wells. Chairman John Young died on 17 September 2006, just a few days before the closure of the brewery, whilst the final brew was being run at the Ram brewery Wandsworth. Beer from the last brew was served at his funeral on 29 September 2006.

From what was probably a large yard and outhouses next to the original pub, the premises were expanded west to the River Wandle and north to Armoury Way. The extensive site had many buildings that are being preserved for future use when the development has been completed.

The brewery in Wandsworth supplied Young’s public houses in London and the area to the south-west, which still numbered over 200. It also sold to many other pubs and supermarkets. Beer was also exported to many European countries, Canada, the United States and Japan. The company produced three regular beers and a series of seasonal and occasional cask ales, keg lagers, and several filtered and pasteurised bottled beers. Young’s also produced several beers for InBev, such as Courage Best and Mackeson Stout.

Young & Co is still based in Wandsworth. Until June 2007 it was based at offices at the Ram Brewery but it later moved into its new head office, around the corner from the former brewery site.

At the time of its closure in 2006, the brewery was a mix of ancient and ultra-modern plant, including a steam engine which had been installed in 1835 and had been in regular use until the 1980s. The Ram Brewery officially closed at the end of the business day on Monday, 25 September 2006.

A number of animals were resident in the brewery, including a ram, a number of geese and about a dozen working draught horses – mainly shire horses. Until the closure of the brewery, the horses and drays were still used for local deliveries of beer to locations within a mile or two of the brewery.

The new owner of the site, property company Minerva plc, has hired one of the former Young’s brewers, John Hatch, as the site manager. One of his jobs is to keep brewing going on the site via a ‘nano-brewery’ set up in the old Young’s laboratory. Hatch’s new Ram Brewery brews at least once a week in order to maintain the ‘oldest British brewery’ claim.

Above: The weathervane, with the ram emblem, continues to gleam in the sun while development work continues on the site.

Redevelopment of the site was announced in July 2013 – providing new residential and commercial properties alongside shops, bars, restaurants and public open spaces. Some of the historic buildings on the site will be retained and restored. They will house a new micro-brewery and a museum of brewing history, in which the coppers and beam engine will be displayed. Nearby, the banks of the River Wandle, on the western side of the site, will also be opened up for public access.

In passing, it should be mentioned that all the well-known breweries in London – like Courage, Truman and many others – have all closed down. Apart from small local breweries, which continue to flourish, none of the original large breweries are operational in London. They have all relocated to large sites well outside London.


Comment 05 – Know Your London Images

In addition to the blogs that you read three times each week on this Website, there is another Website which carries some images of London that are of particular interest – selected from my large collection, taken over many years. Images are added from time to time – not as regularly as the normal blogs. If you would like to take a look, the link is . . .

Each image is larger than the Webpage on which it is shown. To enlarge an image (to fill the screen) just click on it and it will expand automatically. I hope you enjoy the pictures. Each image carries a caption giving a description and date when the image was taken.


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