Esoteric London

No. 636: Farringdon Street, EC4

Posted in The Fleet by esotericlondon on August 6, 2012

Holborn Viaduct, Farringdon Street, London, EC4. Photo © Roger Dean 2012

From A Description of a City Shower – Jonathan Swift, 1710:

[…] Now from all Parts the swelling Kennels flow,
And bear their Trophies with them as they go:
Filth of all Hues and Odours seem to tell
What Streets they sail’d from, by the Sight and Smell.
They, as each Torrent drives, with rapid Force
From Smithfield, or St.Pulchre’s shape their Course,
And in huge Confluent join at Snow-Hill Ridge,
Fall from the Conduit prone to Holborn-Bridge.
Sweepings from Butchers Stalls, Dung, Guts, and Blood,
Drown’d Puppies, stinking Sprats, all drench’d in Mud,
Dead Cats and Turnips-Tops come tumbling down the Flood.

[ The rather dirty and dingy steps in the above photograph connect Farringdon Street with Holborn Viaduct, which is the Holborn Bridge mentioned in the extract from Swifts poem above. The Viaduct spans the Fleet valley and took six years to build being finished in 1869 at a reputed cost of £2.5 million. Although it is often strewn with the detrius of drunken nights on the edge of The City the smell and the litter are nothing compared to how the area would have looked and smelt before the Fleet was diverted below ground as can be gleaned from Swifts description of it after rain. R.D.]