“It’s all a big game of construction – some with a brush – some with a shovel – some choose a pen.”*

*Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)

From Wikipedia:

The Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers (5S) is used by water environment associations (i.e., those working with sewage and sewage treatment) to honour those who have made a particular contribution to the industry.

Pennsylvania started the High Hat Society in 1937 and used the words “Sludge Shovelers Society” in its initiation ceremony. Later, this became known as the Ted Moses Sludge Shovelers Society. The second Chapter of the Five S Society was formed in Arizona in October 1940, the idea being conceived by A.W. “Dusty” Miller and F. Carlyle Roberts, Jr. There are chapters in many of the United States and in Canada, as well as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

5S chapters do not accept applications, but select potential members. Each inductee receives a badge in the form of a gold tie bar in the shape of a round-nosed shovel.”

The Worshipful Company of Water Conservators is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London.

In 1988, some members of the Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers (5S), who were also members of the Institution of Water and Environmental Management (IWEM; chartered in 1995, now CIWEM), founded the Guild of Water Conservators. It was recognised as a company in 1994. Its petition for livery was granted by the Court of Aldermen with effect from 2000.

The Water Conservators’ Company ranks 102nd in the order of precedence of the City Livery Companies.

The supporters of the Company’s coat of arms consist of a beaver and an otter. Each of them is holding a golden shovel to recognise the part played by the British chapter of the 5S (whose badge is a golden shovel) in the formation of the guild.

The Company’s church is St Mary-at-Hill.”

From the website of the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators:

“Unveiling of “Blue Plaque” in Fleet Street: 18th December 2018

As many Members will know, Ted Flaxman (Past Master) has for many years tenaciously researched the history of London’s water supply. From this work it is evident that there were a number of key locations where free water was made available for the general population for hundreds of years. Three key sites where this service was provided have been identified by Ted and agreement reached with the City of London Corporation to mark these important historic locations with a “blue plaque”, funded by the Past Masters of the Water Conservators Company.

The first plaque denoting the Aldermanbury Conduit in Aldermanbury was unveiled in 2010 and the second denoting the Great Conduit in Cheapside in 2015. The third plaque denoting the Fleet Conduit in Fleet Street was unveiled by Sherriff the Hon. Elizabeth Green and the Master, Simon Catford, on Tuesday 18th December.

Following the Christmas Court Meeting, the Wardens, Past Masters and other Members of the Court processed with the Sheriff and Master to 81 Fleet Street (currently a branch of Barclays Bank) where the ceremony took place…”

From: The History of the River Fleet, compiled by the UCL River Fleet Restoration Team (27th March 2009):

“…The top of the Hampstead-Highgate massif is 443 feet above Sea Level. A permeable layer of sand and gravel lies at the top of the hill which is about 80 feet thick at the summit; beneath this lies a slightly permeable layer of sandy- clay which is about 50 feet thick; under this is approximately 500 feet of London Clay, a very impermeable layer. Water escapes from the hill on all sides between the top two layers giving rise to an abundance of springs and wells in the area. Historically this was an important source of potable water for the City of London and many conduits and well heads were built to convey the water south along the Fleet valley. It is important to remember that it is not just the Fleet that takes its source at Parliament Hill: the Kilburn, a tributary of the Westbourne, the Tyburn and the Brent Rivers also begin here.

Further down the river, the impermeable clay gave rise to many small rivulets and springs all of which in time joined the river. While these gradually dried up as their catchment became increasingly urbanised, it is important to remember that these too were sources of the Fleet River…

…Holborn Bridge stood between Holborn Hill and Snow Hill, slightly north of where Holborn Viaduct now stands. It marked the head of the tidal estuary i.e. the Fleet proper. A bridge over the river existed from as early as the 13th Century. Stow mentions it as an important route for people travelling between Newgate and the North or West of the city.

After the Great Fire, Holborn Bridge was widened in order to allow for more traffic and the name of the Lord Mayor was carved into the coping on the east side. In 1840, long after the river had been covered up here, Mr. Tite, F.S.A. was able to view the south side of the bridge during some works on the sewer. The arch of the bridge was about 20’ across and it met with the road from the east at an angle. According to the description of Antony Crosby, a Victorian Artist, there were actually four bridges at Holborn bridge: the original, two supplementary bridges to increase the size, and Wren’s bridge which was also designed as a ‘beautiful terminus’ for his Canal.

In 1737 the section of Wren’s canal between Holborn and Fleet Bridges was arched over and became the site of the Fleet Market- the market that had been displaced by the construction of the Mansion House.

Holborn Viaduct was built in 1864-9 to remove the obstacle of Holborn Hill and Snow Hill. The whole length of the viaduct is actually 1,400 ft, with the bridge over Farringdon road only being a small part of the whole structure. It is 80 ft wide and the whole redevelopment scheme (including the construction of Holborn Circus) was said to have cost £2.5 million. While this was never a direct bridge over the exposed river Fleet, it is important to note that the reason for its construction was because of the steep valley of the Fleet in this area…”

From the website of Atlas Obscura:

“…Ironically, the disastrous Great Fire of London gave the ever-growing city a golden opportunity to rethink and rebuild London to better accommodate its skyrocketing population. The Fleet River was no exception. Christopher Wren, famous for designing Saint Paul’s Cathedral, tried his hand at re-imagining the river. Modeled after the Great Canal of Venice, Fleet received new stone embankments and was given four decorative bridges—at Bridewell, Fleet Street, Fleet Lane, and Holborn—all high enough to allow the passing of large barges.

Sadly, the barges rarely came, and the under-used canal of Fleet once again became as polluted as the rest of the Thames. The canal-cum-open-sewer became an embarrassment, and was bricked over in phases between the 1730s and 1870s. Incredibly, the Fleet River’s history doesn’t end there. The quick filling-in of the canal sealed and preserved this piece of history until it was recently uncovered.

It lay buried for 250 years until Wren’s Fleet Street bridge was re-discovered in 1999. Museum curator Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, studied old maps of the area, and worked in conjunction with the Thames Water authority. Thurley succeeded in finding stones from the western end of Wren’s bridge, embedded in brickwork from the 1700’s in the Fleet sewer, underneath Ludgate Circus.

From major river to open sewer, to empty canal, and back to open sewer—then to completely forgotten—the Fleet River today is a huge underworld cavern of Victorian brickwork and London history. Though it has been changed and redirected and polluted and encapsulated by man, the river has never stopped running, rushing unseen, just beneath the sidewalks of London.”

Tom Bolton wrote at Londonist.com on 03 July 2020:

“Once a broad, tidal inlet occupied by ships, the mouth of the Fleet has declined over several centuries and is now just a dark hole in the Embankment. Hidden away in the shadows under Blackfriars Bridge, at the spot where papal banker Roberto Calvi was found hanging in 1982, the outfall is hard to see. The best view is from Blackfriars Pier because, although the foreshore may be technically accessible at low tide, it is not advised. The hole may look small for what was once a substantial river, but it handles a lot of water. In heavy rain the sewers overflow into the storm system, which carries the Fleet, and the power of the water flips open 2.5 tonne steel doors to reach the Thames. The Super Sewer project will end this, changing the Embankment here for good. Construction work has already begun on a new pier, so take your chance while you can to pay tribute to the still-mighty Fleet.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s