In Search of The Quaggy, Hither Green

A cemetery is always an excellent place to start a post; Hither Green is a cemetery I often drive past, regularly run past, but oddly have only ever visited once before. This is a shame because it is the home to a delightful, slightly overgrown Victorian northern quarter with a decaying dissenting chapel – partially destroyed by a WW2 bomb. The twentieth century elements though with their more regimented lines of graves, fewer mature trees and with a partial backdrop of the railway sidings and yards, have a much bleaker feel to them.

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Edith’s Streets’ meticulous research has the cemetery as the source of an unnamed tributary of the Quaggy, which Wikipedia refers to as ‘Quaggy Hither Green’. However, I suspect that the source may be just outside the cemetery though, a 1920s OS map has a thin blue line going back to the south eastern edge of the cemetery and there is a possibility of it’s source being around Grove Park as Google Maps has a thin blue line on railway sidings about 150 metres from the cemetery; there is nothing to obvious to see though. An alternative suggested by Ken White in ‘The Quaggy and Its Catchment Area’ is that its source is somewhere around Reigate Road.

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While the location of the stream is unclear on the railway sidings, once in the cemetery there is a perceptible dip suggesting a course.

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Before leaving the cemetery, a detour of a hundred metres or so to the south of the chapel is worth making to the memorial to the Sandhurst School disaster, where 38 children and six teachers died in a day time bombing in 1943, perhaps more on that another day.

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At the north of the cemetery there is what looks like a ditch, while the was no evidence of any water it seems likely that this was its course as a local resident remembers a stream at this point (see comment from Dean). He also recalls it being piped to follow a course behind South Park Crescent and then towards Oak Cottages. This is certainly the route that contour lines would suggest.

The stream would have joined the now not particularly Verdant Lane around Pasture Road. Presumably the stream was originally being the reason for the perceived lushness of the area. There is no waterway to see, although there is a speedboat that has been ‘moored’ in a front garden for as long as I can remember.

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The stream’s original course would have taken it across what is now the South Circular just to the west of the railway bridge before being bridged by the railway behind the junction of Springbank Road and Hither Green Lane. To the east of the railway it flowed through what are now the gardens of Milborough Crescent, just south of its junction with Newstead Road. The Crescent followed the long curve of the stream before it reached and was bridged by the railway on Manor Lane.

The stream flowed alongside Manor Lane for another couple of hundred metres before turning west-north-west and meandering across the line of Longhurst Road, presumably being culverted under the street when it was developed.

Around here the stream would have been joined by a small tributary that seems to have ‘risen’ just the other side of the railway on what was North Park Farm which was roughly in between where Duncrievie and Elthruda Roads are now. The sale of the 278 acre farm to Archibald Cameron Corbett in 1896 was to allow the development of the western side of the railway. Despite being a junction for around 30 years, Hither Green had only opened as a station in 1895. A new booking hall was built to the west of the station in Springbank Road as part of the development – its red brick gateposts are still visible as the entrance to a new housing association development. The original stationmaster’s house survives, adjacent to the gates, at 69 Springbank Road.

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The tributary flows through the nature reserve of Hither Green Triangle between platforms 4 and 5 of the station; this offers the only above ground remnants of the tributary or indeed the main stream. From the far end of platform 5, the stream is just visible, way below the platform level – not surprisingly given the viaduct the railway is on. The water was glistening in the sunlight when I visited. While access to the nature reserve is rightly limited, its management plan, while confirming the stream’s presence gets its direction of flow wrong (although the original mistake seems to lie with the now defunct London Ecology Unit).

‘A small stream trickles from north to south across the east of the site’

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The tributary would have originally emerged from the embankment from platform 6 somewhere between the house and the bus stop before trickling on towards Longhurst Road.

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The final outflow of the substantive stream into the Quaggy would have been around where it is bridged by Fernbrook Road, although nothing is obviously emerging from the brickwork ‘bank’, presumably long since culverted away.

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10 thoughts on “In Search of The Quaggy, Hither Green

  1. Girl Runs Wild

    That first picture is amazing, it looks like straight out of a fairy tale book. Hard to believe that this is in London! It’s why I love your blog; you manage to find all these gems of natural beauty in an area that few people (myself included) would think of as particularly scenic or beautiful! Once again, thank you for sharing this. You are bringing me dangerously close to actually wanting to run in London. 😉

    Reply
    1. runner500 Post author

      For every Victorian cemetery, there are of course a lot of abandoned boats (and more usually cars) and bridges over railway sidings, which I find strangely attractive, that you have to pass en route. While I love using running to find out about the history of the area, I would probably rather run ‘wild’.

      Reply
    1. runner500 Post author

      Thank you. Rivers and streams fascinate me in the extent to which they shape the current landscape, but the small ones have been culverted and hidden by development although the evidence of them is there, you often have to look quite hard to find it.

      Reply
    1. runner500 Post author

      Thanks, the Sandhurst School bombing sounds terrible and quite deliberate, although probably wasn’t that dissimilar to some of the Allied bombing a few days before on Berlin.

      Reply
  2. Dean

    Author. The river ran at the back of my house in South Park Crescent and was pipped. It ran in the cemetrey then joined the back of the houses at South Park and went on towards Old Cottage.

    Reply
    1. runner500 Post author

      That’s really helpful Dean. It is where I thought it flowed based on the contours and the dry ditch at the back of the cemetery, but local knowledge is invaluable. I’ve updated the post based on your comments. Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment – it is really appreciated.

      Reply
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