Atlas Obscura is organizing trips! Join us on an adventure »
Today Only: 50% off Atlas Obscura books and calendars at Barnes & Noble »

London, England

River Tyburn Conduit

A plaque marks the underground site of one of London's "lost rivers." 

In London, the layout of the streets to the north of Oxford Street is one of fairly logical grid patterns. But there’s one notable exception: Marylebone Lane, which winds its way to its connecting streets in an unusually curvy way. The lane’s nonconforming path is due to the fact that it once followed the River Tyburn, one of the many “lost rivers” of London.

In the past, the Tyburn portioned off one of London’s borders. The “ty” portion of its name even derives from a word for “boundary.” The village of Tyburn, which was recorded in the Domesday Book, once sprouted up around the river. Oxford Street and Park Street, which are in the vicinity of the ancient waterway’s former path, were previously named after the Tyburn as well. The river was supposedly a good place for local fishermen.

In addition to supplying plentiful fish, the Tyburn was also a key source of water for the city. However, like many of the other tributaries of the Thames, as London expanded, it was eventually culverted for its entire length. One conduit even flows under Buckingham palace.

Even after it was sent underground, the river was still used as a water supply. One of the few remaining traces of the river can be seen thanks to this, in the form of a small plaque built into a wall on Marylebone Lane. This dates the construction of the conduit by the City of London to 1776. The river still flows through it, under the feet of many unaware pedestrians.

The Tyburn Angling Society has proposed plans to restore the river to its original grandeur so it can once again be a prime fishing spot. However, doing this is a highly unfeasible act, as it would require demolishing important property like Buckingham Palace.

Know Before You Go

The plaque can be found at the corner of Marylebone Lane and Wigmore Street.