The Fascinating Story of the Fleet River


You've probably already heard of Fleet Street, as it happens to be the home of a certain notable "demon barber," but did you know the street is named for something equally as dark—namely a polluted, underground river?

The Fleet wasn't always so filthy, though. In London's early days, it was a sparkling source of clean water for the fledgling city. Unfortunately, as the city began attracting industrial services such as butchers, tanners and mills, the businesses needed a place to dump their waste. The Fleet was the perfect outlet. It wasn't long before the river smelled of sewage and only slums, prisons and industrial complexes sat along its banks.

After the Great Fire of London in 1666, part of the river was transformed into a canal. But this still did little to help the stench and pollution. Within 50 years, the river started to be channeled underground. In the Victorian Era, a massive tunnel system was put in place in order to seal the entire river under the city streets.

These days, the only people to see the Fleet are urban explorers who brave the potentially deadly tides to take in the gorgeous Victorian architecture used to keep the river in hiding.

[Image courtesy of's Flickr stream.]