London's Lost Rivers: The Westbourne
The River Westbourne
The River Westbourne is one of the 'big three' lost rivers north of the Thames - the others being the River Tyburn and the River Fleet. Today's walk traces the route of the river from its primary source at Whitestone Pond on Hampstead Heath to its exit into the River Thames.
The river has been known by different names over the years and along its course, many highlighting the areas where the river flowed - Kilburn, Bayswater River, Serpentine River, and The Bourne to name a few.
Heading south from Hampstead through Kilburn and Bayswater the river enters Hyde Park. In 1730 Queen Caroline, wife of George II, had the river dammed to form The Serpentine, (which is now supplied by three boreholes). The Westbourne then flows out of the park at Knightsbridge, originally a bridge over the river, and heads south to join the Thames just west of Chelsea Bridge.
In the early 13th century the river was used to provide fresh drinking water for the City of London, but like many of the lost rivers it was used as an open sewer and soon became filthy and impure.
Distance: around 9 miles.