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No.17 Tracing the Secret Tyburn River

Upon moving to London a few years back, I stacked up on local literature about what to do and where to go around town. Being in a city so rich in history, it seems you could never run out of places to go and stories to explore. One of my favorites is a book by Andrew Duncan entitled “Secret London”. I contacted Andrew to see if we could meet and talk about his perspective on this old, old city, and to help me track down one of London’s lost waterways, the Tyburn River.

Andrew is part of an informal group of history buffs and walking aficionados that meet regularly to explore the city. An Oxford-educated historian, Andrew lives in Barnes, near the Thames, itself adjacent to three significant points of interest: Hammersmith, the home of William Morris; Fulham, the ancient Palace of the Bishops; and right by the offices of noted English Architect Richard Rogers, part of the group of post-war architects whose work came to be known for their Hi-Tech style. See, you can’t take a step in London without landing on multiple stories.

Although it’s a closed group, Andrew was kind enough to invite me along on one of their excursions.

Secret London is a handy guide to help you “scratch the surface” as you walk around the city. It highlights things like the peculiar system of land ownership which has, in large part, formed the urban structure, or the gentlemen’s club culture you see in films and read about in literature – such as in Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days – this club culture is still very much a part of modern London. And it contains a multitude of other odd and amazing stories that will make your wanderings that much more interesting.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Even places you may think you are familiar with might surprise you. I find that mapping out a fixed itinerary based on a theme forces you to move through the city along a path you would not normally follow. And by doing this you encounter new things. So, inspired by Andrew’s Secret London, I followed his Tyburn River Walk.

Now, what’s interesting about this walk is that it winds through parts of Central London that everyone knows. And, like most people, I’ve been to these places many times. But by rigidly following this Tyburn River route you end up on unfamiliar streets for most of the walk.

The walk tracing the Tyburn River is about 5.5 km (3.5 miles) and takes about 2.5 hours. There are lots of stops along the way and things to gawk at, so the pace is very relaxed. I walked it twice, once on a Sunday, which was very quiet with some shops closed. And again during the week, which was more crowded, but with a lot of shopping to a take advantage of along the way.

If possible time your start 3 hours before low tide so you can see the Tyburn outlet at the Thames. At high tide it is completely under water.

So, get your book out, and let’s get going …

Since Secret London covers the history in depth, I will just be giving an overview of the route, and pointing out some of the high points from my walk.

The Tyburn (boundary) River, descends Haverstock Hill near Hampstead in North West London. It then makes its way south through Swiss Cottage and is believed to cross the Regents Canal, entering Regents Park and going under Baker Street near the Baker Street Tube station, where you will start your walk.

From Baker Street Station, head down through Marylebone and over Oxford Street, formerly known as Tyborn Road.

Grays Antiques Market claims that the Tyburn River runs through its basement. And they have stocked their little piece of the Tyburn with a nice collection of Koi.

Stop for a game of ping pong in Paddington Street Garden and then, if it’s Sunday, stop for snacks and drinks in the farmers market just outside the park.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

On Marylebone Lane, just before you get to a fork in the road and the river divides, visit the fabulous VV. Rouleaux Trimming place.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Continue across Wigmore Street. On the south side of the street you will walk by Work Shop Coffee. They take coffee seriously here and it is worth a stop. The pastries and sandwiches are also fresh and yummy.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

From Oxford Street walk through Mayfair, then through Green Park and past Buckingham Palace and the Queens Gallery.

Stop in at Shepherds, specializing in binding and book restoration. They always have a good selection of great antique books on offer.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Grays Antiques Market claims that the Tyburn River runs through its basement. And they have stocked their little piece of the Tyburn with a nice collection of Koi. This is the only time you may actually see the river on the walk so it’s worth stopping in to say you saw it.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Head over to Victoria Station, down through Pimlico, finally ending at Tyburn House on the Thames.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Don’t forget to walk over the bridge to the opposite side of the Thames so you can see the outlet of the Tyburn. And that is the end of the trip. Big thanks to Andrew for giving us a fascinating trip into the past, walking throughout modern London.

Details

Secret London is available at www.amazon.com

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Planning a visit to trace the Tyburn? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.