London's Lost Rivers: The Hackney Brook
The Hackney Brook
The Hackney Brook is one the subterranean 'lost' rivers of London. Unlike the already visited Fleet and Westbourne which join the Thames, the Hackney Brook empties into the River Lea near to the Old Ford Lock.
With its source in Holloway, the brook flowed east, past what is now the Emirates Stadium, and into Clissold Park - the two ornamental lakes were once fed by the brook but are now mains supplied. It then wandered through Abney Park Cemetery and near Stoke Newington Green. In the 1860s early evidence of human occupation was found near here in the form of 200,000 year old palaeolithic flint axes, some of the earliest human artefacts found in Britain, which were being made on the banks of the brook.
From there it flowed along the western side of Hackney Downs, through what is now Hackney Central, Homerton and Hackney Wick where it joined the Lea.
Up until the late 1830s the brook was a substantial river, around 10 metres wide in full flood at Stoke Newington and 30 metres wide at its junction with the Lea. However by the 1850s much of the river had been covered and what were the open sections, like many of the lost rivers, had been turned into open sewers by the growing population. It was decided in 1860 to contain the brook, from Hackney Church Street (now Mare Street) to Old Ford, into a Sir Joseph Bazalgette designed sewer system. Further expansion led to the Hackney Brook disappearing into a subterranean world of pipes.
Distance: around 8 miles.