Caught by the River

In Search of The Kilbourne

14th February 2011

Last week, we received a letter from Caught by the River reader Dan Thompson, requesting information on the river Kilbourne, one of the lost rivers of London. I must confess I know nothing about the Kilbourne and even a dip into Nicholas Barton’s 1962 classic (wait for it..) ‘The Lost Rivers of London’ didn’t enlighten me enough to be of assistance, so I thought that I’d up the odds of Dan getting the information he desires by throwing the question out to you guys.
If you can be of help, please drop a note directly to Dan or his pal Steve, their e mail addresses are below the letter.

Dear Caught by the River,

I’m sitting in a empty shop on a scruffy parade in South Kilburn. It’s what I do – recycle empty shops – so I spend a lot of time in shops, looking out. They tend to be in untidy places. Peel Precinct has a hard beauty, but it’s been unloved and is at the centre of an estate that is being rebuilt, piece by piece. From every side of the precinct blocks rise, stepped up from three or four storeys opposite the shop to fifteen storey towers with glass stair towers that hold onto the sun every evening.

Other than its reputation, there’s little that’s wild about the estate. I haven’t seen a single bird in the weeks that I’ve been working here. There’s a clump of trees in a scrubby park next to the youth club, but surrounded by concrete and glass they feel ersatz. There are planters in the precinct; there are a couple of straggly rosemary plants fiercely guarded by a stout lady who uses them for cooking, but everything else has been stolen.

When it rained last week, the precinct flooded. Only an inch or two deep, oily surface water, but it was enough. The tower blocks looked beautiful reflected in puddles. The water poured down the edges of the staircases opposite. A little bit of wild, untamed and unchanneled.

I want to find the lost river, the Kilbourne, that flows near here. I want to show the locals where it flows, tell them they’ve still got a river here. Can you help me find it and map it onto the local streets?

Dan Thompson