The King’s Scholars myth busted?

IMG 0902 - The King's Scholars myth busted?

The King’s Scholars Pond Sewer (KSPS), aka the River Tyburn, is often touted as falling into the Thames at a place which was once known as the King’s Scholars Pond. Is this a fact?

London in the Reign of Victoria (1837-1897) by George Gomme 1898
London in the Reign of Victoria (1837-1897) by George Gomme 1898

Several sources indicate the pond was sited in the locale where the sewer meets the Thames, eg Pimlico – as the above and below examples show.

Metropolitan improvements; or, London in the 19th century By James Elmes 1827
Metropolitan improvements; or, London in the 19th century By James Elmes 1827
Topographical and historical account of the parish of St. Mary-le-Bone 1833
Topographical and historical account of the parish of St. Mary-le-Bone 1833
The Scholars Pond in Pimlico - Greenwood's London map 1830. Source: Motco
The Scholars Pond in Pimlico – Greenwood’s London map 1830. Source: Motco

Was the Scholars’ pond in fact sited at Chelsea/aka Pimlico? That’s up for debate.

The King's Scholars Pond Sewer sluice keepers' houses in Pimlico
The King’s Scholars Pond Sewer sluice keepers’ houses in Pimlico

Other sources make it quite clear the pond was sited in Westminster itself.

Extract from Reform of Westminster School
Extract from Reform of Westminster School

It is made more confusing in terms of the debate over the River Tyburn’s course (and the other names it was known by!) On top of this there is also the debate whether the Tyburn was indeed diverted away from its original outfall near Westminster Abbey.

G. Bosworth tries to explain it all in one paragraph!
G. Bosworth tries to explain it all in one paragraph!

The pond itself was likely sited in Tothill fields between Victoria & St James’ Park. That originally began as a duck pond fed by the Tyburn. Eventually deepening, it became a popular bathing spot for the King’s Scholars of Westminster School.

The apparent reason for the Tyburn being diverted away from Westminster was because copious amounts of water was being abstracted from it via numerous conduits, some of which were established as early as the 12th century.

The King's Scholars Pond Sewer runs belowTachbrook Street en route to the Thames
The King’s Scholars Pond Sewer runs below Tachbrook Street en route to the Thames

Clearly a water channel that was stagnant and often stunk was not wanted, so its quite likely Westminster’s parochial authorities diverted the Tyburn’s remaining flow into the Tachbrook (or whatever named brook it was in Pimlico) and this is how the Tyburn gained its new outfall.

The date for the outfall switch is debated with some saying it took place many centuries ago whilst others claim it was in the more recent 17th Century.

Paul Tilling's London's Lost Rivers leaves the pond's location undefined
Paul Tilling’s London’s Lost Rivers leaves the pond’s location undefined

Clearly in the process the bathing pond’s location was also transposed to Pimlico.

Ultimately the Tyburn’s metamorphosis into a glorified brick-lined pipe earned it the name of the King’s Scholars Pond Sewer – one of London’s oldest drains.

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