You can’t keep a lost river down. Photos in the papers today showing part of Kilburn High Road under water, would be strangely familiar to 19th century residents. The floods, caused by a burst water main, look pretty disastrous from the photos. However, the water has temporarily recreated the riverscape Kilburn High Road replaced.
Kilburn’s lost river is now known as the Westbourne, but it went by many names, which changed as it passed through different neighbourhoods. Kilburn is in fact named after its local stream, the Kilbourne. Originating at the edge of Hampstead Heath, it flowed via West End Green to Kilburn Priory. A street of the same name marks its course, while rushing water can sometimes be detected nearby under Springfield Road.
The Kilbourne crossed the High Road at the junction with Kilburn Park Road, and moves on to Paddington Recreation Gardens. Kilburn High Road itself is a river of sorts, flooded or otherwise. It is, as Chris Petit points out in his novel Robinson, “a dirty brown torrent”, but rather more so at the moment.”