Secret Rivers: an exhibition honoring London’s forgotten rivers

Museum of London Docklands

The Museum of London Docklands is hosting a new exhibition that highlights waterways in the capital city. According to reports, there are around fifty-six lost or hidden rivers and streams across London, out of which many of them were covered in order to make way for sewer systems. This trend was particularly observed during Victorian times.

The exhibition at London Docklands draws special attention to the importance of these rivers to capital growth. “It’s basic to human survival. You have to be near a fresh source of water,” says Kate Sumnall, Curator of Museum of London Docklands, “And so with that, we then find that people are drawn to the rivers and because of that and the resources they then make their first settlements there as well.”

The exhibition also highlights the fact that some people want to uncover these hidden rivers for their ecological and recreational advantages that they bring along. “There are benefits to the climate, there are benefits to flood defense, there are benefits to health, biodiversity,” observes Jane Trowell, an activist in reference to the hidden waterways in the city.

The Exhibition ‘Secret Rivers’ will be open from May 24 – Oct 29, 2019. It will showcase artefacts, photography and films to narrate stories about the lost and forgotten rivers, streams and brooks in London. Secret Rivers will also present contemporary and historic artworks from artists, poets and authors which talk about the importance of these waterways in the city’s imagination.

The exhibition will especially highlight stories about River Effra, Fleet, Lea, Neckinger, Tyburn, Wandle, Walbrook and Westbourne and their diversity in the economic, industrial and religious domain for centuries. Moreover, the rivers will also underline a broader topic of development, industry, effluence, poverty, manipulation, and restoration.