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River Wandle

River Wandle in Morden Hall Park
Country England
Counties Greater London
Districts / Boroughs Croydon, Sutton, Lambeth, Merton, Wandsworth
 - right River Graveney
Towns Merton, Morden, Earlsfield, Wandsworth
 - location Waddon Ponds, Carshalton Ponds
 - elevation 35 m (115 ft)
Mouth River Thames
 - location Wandsworth
Length 14 km (9 mi)
Discharge for Connollys Mill
 - average 1.70 m3/s (60 cu ft/s)
 - max 39.3 m3/s (1,388 cu ft/s) 16 September 1968
 - min 0.22 m3/s (8 cu ft/s) 29 January 1963
Discharge elsewhere (average)
 - Beddington Park 0.18 m3/s (6 cu ft/s)

The River Wandle is a river in south-east England. The names of the river and of Wandsworth are thought to have derived from the Old English "Wendlesworth" meaning "Wendle's Settlement". The river runs through southwest London and is about 9 miles (14 km) long. It passes through the London Boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Merton, and Wandsworth to join the River Thames on the Tideway at Wandsworth. Much of the River is accessible using the Wandle Trail.

Rain falls on the North Downs, filters through the chalk and emerges on the spring line. At the top of the catchment the river is mostly culverted. The river is first visible at Wandle Park in Croydon where it flows in an open channel before returning to a culverted section between the New South Quarter development and Waddon Ponds beside Mill Lane. A second main source, also at about 115 feet (35 m) AOD is formed at Carshalton Ponds, which merges underneath Watermill House in the northern area of Carshalton, The Wrythe.

Other sources include the Norbury Brook/River Graveney tributary which rises near the Lower Addiscombe Road in Croydon and flows through the London Boroughs of Croydon, Lambeth and Merton. Two seasonal streams, the Coulsdon Bourne and the Caterham Bourne, run in wet winters. They join together at Purley, run in a culvert north along the Brighton Road and join the River Wandle at the site of the, now defunct, Swan and Sugarloaf pub in South Croydon.


  • Flow 1
  • Use of river 2
  • Local Nature Reserves 3
  • Incidents 4
  • Makeup 5
  • Namesakes 6
  • Landmarks 7
  • See also 8
  • Further reading 9
  • Notes and references 10
  • External links 11


Carshalton Pond, London Borough of Sutton
River Wandle at Beddington Park in the London Borough of Sutton

In the late pleistocene, the river probably sprang from the north of the Vale of Holmesdale across the North Downs through the Merstham Gap, a wind gap.[1] In more recent times, rainwater falling on the Down percolates through the chalk and reappears as springs in central Croydon, Beddington, and Carshalton. The occasional stream, known as the Bourne, which runs through the Caterham valley (and Smitham Bottom in Coulsdon) is a source of the River Wandle but only surfaces after heavy rainfall.[2] A series of ditches and culverts channels the water from Purley to Croydon.

For many centuries the River Wandle rose from a spring near the Swan and Sugarloaf public house on Brighton Road (now closed, but the building remains as a supermarket) flowing through the Haling neighbourhood of Croydon. It ran northwards along Southbridge Road and upon reaching Old Town it was 20 ft (6.1 m) across and began to divide into smaller channels. The grounds of the Old Palace and Scarbrook Hill had several springs, ponds, streams and canals where fish swam, especially trout. However, as Croydon's population grew and use of the water closet increased, the Old Town streams became little more than open sewers and were filled in or culverted from 1840 after outbreaks of typhoid and cholera.[3]

The river then flowed through Pitlake and on through two marshy fields — Froggs Mead and Stubbs Mead — drained to form Wandle Park in 1890. Local springs were used to form a boating lake in the park, but frequent drying up problems led to the lake being filled in and the river was culverted in 1967. In 2012, the Wandle was restored to the surface in Wandle Park. From there, the river continues underground, through where the gas works used to stand, under the Purley Way road past Waddon Ponds and appears on the surface at the road Richmond Green where a small green buffer to its south acts as the green after the footpath at the end of Mill Lane in Waddon, Croydon.[4]

A tributary starts in Thornton Heath as the Norbury Brook. This flows north then west to become the River Graveney and joins the Wandle near Summerstown.

For part of its length, the Wandle forms the boundary between the London Boroughs of Croydon and Lambeth and, further downstream, the border between Merton and Wandsworth – from 1900 to 1963 the official boundary between Surrey and London. Shortly before reaching the Thames the navigable Bell Lane Creek splits from the river, rejoining close to the confluence.

'Village' names in the Wandle basin include: Croydon, Waddon, Beddington, Wallington, Carshalton, The Wrythe, Hackbridge, Mitcham, Ravensbury, St Helier, Morden, Merton Abbey, Colliers Wood, South Wimbledon, Summerstown, and Wandsworth. Carshalton Village is home to Honeywood Museum, which includes displays and an interactive map about the River Wandle and its influence on the life of the area.[5]

170 degree panorama of Carshalton Upper Pond in the London Borough of Sutton with Honeywood Museum on the right, which has displays about the River Wandle

Use of river

River Wandle in Carshalton

The river has been well-used since Roman times and was heavily industrialised in the 17th and 18th centuries (the industrial revolution), and was declared one of the most polluted rivers in England. The main industries then were tobacco and textiles. The river was used to power 68 water wheels, of which only a few survive, such as at Merton Abbey Mills.[6]

The Liberty print works and Merton Board Mills once dominated the riverscape in what is now the London Borough of Merton. The concentration of heavy industry in this area resulted in the stretch of the river running between Windsor Avenue and Colliers Wood High Street being diverted during the 18th century. The original course of the river still runs underground beneath Liberty Avenue, surfacing at Runnymede as the Pickle Ditch and rejoining the modern river outside Sainsbury's, while the stretch of the river running past Merton Abbey Mills craft village and in front of Sainsbury's is man-made.

Subsequent cleanups of the Wandle have improved the water quality dramatically, leading to a return of the river's once famous brown trout. This improvement in water quality has also seen other fish thrive with stocks of Chub, Roach and Perch all flourishing once again with the most popular angling spots situated on the river at Colliers Wood.

Local Nature Reserves

A stretch of the river between Trewint Street and Plough Lane in Merton has been designated as the Lower Wandle Local Nature Reserve (LNR). It is lined by mature trees and patches of grassland.[7][8] South of the Lower Wandle, an area of wetland between the River Wandle and the Wandle trail is the Wandle Meadow Nature Park LNR.[9][10] Another LNR adjacent to the Wandle is the Wandle Valley Wetland in Carshalton.[11][12]


On 17 September 2007, Sodium hypochlorite was accidentally flushed into the Wandle from Thames Water's Beddington sewage works. The chemical was being used to clean its tertiary treatment screens, but instead of being circulated back through the treatment works, it was accidentally discharged into the river. This resulted in over 2,000 fish of various species being killed. The company failed to notify the Environment Agency of the discharge, as the site manager thought it was minor. However, the company assumed responsibility for the mistake, and said they were "mortified" by the incident. The company immediately offered to meet local angling clubs and the Wandle Trust to discuss restocking and long term support for the work of the Trust.[13]

The company was fined £125,000 for the incident on 26 January 2009, with costs of £21,335.[14] This is thought to be the greatest ever penalty for a single offence of polluting controlled waters. However, in February 2010, on appeal, the fine was found to be "manifestly excessive" and was reduced to £50,000.[15]


The predominant geology of the area is chalk and London clay.

The river is heavily managed with artificial channels, runoff ditches and a few underground stretches.


The Wandle River in South Island, New Zealand is named after the River Wandle.

There have been at least four steamships named SS Wandle, three of which were built for the local Wandsworth, Wimbledon and Epsom District Gas Company.

In the 1980s, Wandle was the name of one of the districts into which the operation of London's buses was divided, and named after the river. Its logo was a water wheel above the London Transport roundel.[16]


Wimbledon Stadium and the Ram Brewery are both situated on the banks of the Wandle, as was the now-defunct Plough Lane stadium.

See also

Further reading

  • "River Wandle Companion and Wandle Trail Guide" by Bob Steel, with Derek Coleman. Culverhouse Books 2012, 248pp fully illustrated. Paperback and hardback. ISBN 978-0-9572582-0-4 and ISBN 978-0-9572582-1-1 . See
  • The Wandle Group edited by Doug Cluett and John Phillips The Wandle Guide Sutton Leisure Services 1997 ISBN 0 907335 330

Notes and references

  1. ^ Natural England - Geodiversity
  2. ^ H.E. Malden (editor) (1912). "Parishes: Caterham". A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  3. ^ H.E. Malden (editor) (1912). "Croydon: Introduction and Croydon Palace". A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Ordnance Survey map, courtesy of English Heritage
  5. ^ "Honeywood Museum". Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  6. ^ Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert (eds.). The London Encyclopaedia (1991 ed.). Macmillan. p. 947.   Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  7. ^ "Lower Wandle". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. 5 March 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "Map of Lower Wandle". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "Wandle Meadow Nature Park". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  10. ^ "Map of Wandle Meadow Nature Park". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  11. ^ "Wandle Valley Wetland". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  12. ^ "Map of Wandle Valley Wetland". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  13. ^ "Thames Water 'mortified' after 2,000 fish die in River Wandle » Environment". 21 September 2007. Retrieved 13 October 2010. 
  14. ^ "Environment Agency press release". Retrieved 13 October 2010. 
  15. ^ Thames Water fine for toxic spill in River Wandle cut BBC News, 15 February 2010
  16. ^ "London Transport - Local Bus Maps". Retrieved 27 August 2013. 

External links

  • The Wandle Trust
  • River Wandle Images
  • River Wandle on UK Rivers Guidebook
  • The Wandle Piscators fishing club
  • Nature Conservation Plan for the Lower Wandle Local Nature Reserve, Merton Council, 2001
Next confluence upstream River Thames Next confluence downstream
Beverley Brook (south) River Wandle Falconbrook (south)

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