River Ravensbourne

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Deptford Creek
Ravensbourne River BR2 - geograph.org.uk - 43852.jpg
The river in Bromley
London boroughsLondon Borough of Bromley, London Borough of Lewisham, Royal Borough of Greenwich
TownsBromley, Lewisham, Deptford
Physical characteristics
MouthRiver Thames
 • location
Length17.4 km (10.8 mi)
Basin size180 km2 (69 sq mi)
 • locationCatford Hill
 • average0.43 m3/s (15 cu ft/s)
 • minimum0.09 m3/s (3.2 cu ft/s)23 May 1992
 • maximum28.4 m3/s (1,000 cu ft/s)9 June 1992
 • locationBromley South
 • average0.05 m3/s (1.8 cu ft/s)
Basin features
 • leftRavensbourne South Branch, Ravensbourne East Branch, Spring Brook, River Pool, River Quaggy

The River Ravensbourne is a tributary of the River Thames in south London, England. It flows into the tidal River Thames at Deptford, where its tidal reach is known as Deptford Creek.


The Ravensbourne is 11 miles (17 km) in length with a total catchment area of 180 km2. It flows through the London Boroughs of Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich.

The Ravensbourne rises at Caesar's Well, Keston, four miles south of Bromley town centre, and flows initially in a northerly direction. For the initial third of its length the river flows across common land (including Hayes Common and Bromley Common) until it reaches the southern outskirts of Bromley town. There it is joined by the Ravensbourne South Branch and the Ravensbourne East Branch, which substantially increase the flow. It then flows northwards alongside the A21, passing below Bromley town centre through Church Gardens and Glassmill Reservoir, then on into Beckenham Place Park, the last semi-natural reach of the river. Further north it passes through Ladywell Fields, where considerable restoration work has been taking place since 2007/08, with the removal of a long stretch of 1980's concrete channeling, re-routing to more closely match its natural course, and the introduction of terraces and SAV (submerged aquatic vegetation) to provide animal habitat and improve flood control.[1][2]

South of Bellingham, the small Spring Brook joins the Ravensbourne after flowing only about one mile (1.6 km) from the east through Plaistow and Downham; it crosses the borough boundary from Bromley to Lewisham and it follows a narrow strip of parkland named Shaftesbury Park Recreation Ground and Downham Playing Fields along its short course.

Just above Catford the Ravensbourne is joined by the River Pool. The Ravensbourne is also joined by the River Quaggy (known upstream of Sundridge Park as Kyd Brook, and 3.5 miles (5.6 km) in length). This rises near Princess Royal University Hospital at Locksbottom then flows north through Petts Wood to Sundridge Park in Bromley where its name changes to the River Quaggy. It then flows northwards through the Mottingham area to Kidbrooke where it then turns westwards through Manor Park in Lee, before joining the Ravensbourne at Loampit Vale in Lewisham. Numerous other small streams and surface water outfalls join the main river between its source and confluence. Until the 19th century one such stream flowed from Brockley Cross crossing Tanners Hill before joining at Deptford Creek.

Its confluence with the Thames is in Greenwich Reach, north-east of Deptford town centre and downstream of the A2 (and west of Greenwich).

Next confluence upstream River Thames Next confluence downstream
Regent's Canal (north)
(Limehouse Basin)
River Ravensbourne River Lea (north)

Coordinates: 51°28′55″N 0°01′01″W / 51.482°N 0.01706°W / 51.482; -0.01706


The earliest documented name is Randesbourne 1360, then Rendesburne 1372, Randysborne 1516 and Ravensburn 1575. The later spelling of Ravensbourne is thus due to folk etymology, and the likely meaning is 'boundary stream', from Old English rand and burna. In its ten-mile course, the Ravensbourne forms the boundary between several sets of parishes.[3]

The Domesday Book recorded eleven corn mills on the Ravensbourne in the 11th century.[4] The 17th century London diarist John Evelyn bought one of these mills – Brookmills – in 1668 for "grinding colour" from the Beecher family. It was later used by the Kent Waterworks company. It was finally demolished in the 1850s.[5]

The River Ravensbourne as it passes through Lewisham, under railway arches

The bridge over Deptford Creek was the site of the Battle of Deptford Bridge, 17 June 1497, the last battle of the Cornish Rebellion of 1497.

From the 16th century onwards until its closure in the 19th century, the proximity of Deptford Dockyard, a Royal Dockyard created by Henry VIII, gave employment to many small shipbuilders on the creek. Queen Elizabeth I knighted Francis Drake on board the Golden Hind in Deptford Creek on Drake's return from his circumnavigation of the globe in 1580. The Golden Hind remained moored in the creek until it broke up.

Deptford Creek was also host to a large power station, now dismantled,[6] as well as other heavy industries. Now regeneration of the area is under way. For much of the lower reach between Lewisham and the Thames, the Ravensbourne (and Deptford Creek) is joined by the Docklands Light Railway. Indeed, the channel was diverted in Brookmill Park so that the DLR could run along the route of the river. A new bend in the river was constructed that gave more natural banks and created a better habitat for flora and fauna. Just south of the DLR's final northern crossing of the river, on the eastern bank, is Deptford pumping station, constructed in the 1860s as part of the London sewerage system. There are also a number of new developments, including the Laban Dance Centre and apartment blocks at the mouth of the creek alongside the Thames, approximately 0.5 km west of Greenwich town centre.

Between 1974 and 1997, the name of the river was used for the Ravensbourne Parliament constituency within the London Borough of Bromley. It also gives its name to a railway station. Every year on 1 May at 5.32am, the Ravensbourne Morris Men dance up the Beltaine Sunrise at Caesars Well, the source of the Ravensbourne River.[7]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "The River Restoration Centre Case Study Series: River Ravensbourne, Ladywell Fields (QUERCUS)" (PDF). The River Restoration Centre. 23 September 2008. Retrieved 9 February 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ "London Rivers Week: River Ravensbourne, Ladywell Fields, Lewisham" (PDF). Thames 21. 7 February 2017. Retrieved 9 February 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ "River Ravensbourne". Ravensbourne Valley Residents.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ "Quaggy Waterways Action Group - News Page". Archived from the original on 21 November 2008.
  5. ^ Lowe, Jennifer (November 1999). "Former Water Works, Deals Gateway,Deptford:An Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment for St James Homes Ltd" (PDF). Thames Valley Archaeological Services. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Connor, Rachel (3 May 2012). "Morris men dance at dawn to bring in the summer". www.newsshopper.co.uk. Retrieved 8 March 2013.