Sunday 8 May 2011

Fleet foot

A brief account of exploring the Fleet sewer in 1840 by a certain Mr. Crosby (see

"Fleet Bridge, Tuesday, July 28th, 1840.—As I could not depend upon the admeasurements, which at the beginning of the year I had taken in a hurried manner at Fleet Bridges, while bricklayers were placing in a brick bottom in place of the original one of alluvial soil, I determined to obtain them the first opportunity. This evening, therefore, at ten o'clock, I met Bridgewater (one of the workmen employed in constructing the new sewer from Holborn Bridge to Clerkenwell) by appointment at the hoard there. Water boots being in readiness, I lighted my lamps, and, assisted by the watchmen, King and Anon, we descended the ladder, and got into that branch of the sewer which joins Wren's Bridge at Holborn. We then walked carefully till we reached Fleet Bridge. I suspended my argand lamp on the breakwater of the sewer, and with my lanthorn light we proceeded towards the Thames. We got a considerable distance, during which the channel of the sewer twice turned to the right at a slight angle. The last portion we entered into was barrelled at the bottom, and the middle so full of holes, and the water so deep as we approached the Thames, that we thought it prudent to return to Fleet Bridge. Here I lighted up four candles, which, with my two lamps, enabled me to see the admeasurements I required. Bridgewater, who is a sober, steady, and good-tempered man, was of great use to me in so doing. I measured the heights with a fishing-rod, twelve feet in length, joined to my two measuring-rods, which, tied, gave me another rod of nine feet six inches. All went on well till about a quarter to twelve o'clock, when, to our surprise, we found the tide had suddenly come in to the depth of two feet and a half. No time was to be lost; but I had only one more admeasurement to make, viz., the width of the North Bridge. I managed this, and we then snatched up the basket, and, holding our lamps aloft, dashed up the sewer which we had to get up one half before out of danger. The air was close and made us faint. However, we got safe to Holborn Bridge with all our things, and the argand lamp did not blow out till we just reached it."

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