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In early modern London, the term channel could refer to any natural or artificial waterway, from the Thames and Fleet rivers to roadside gutters, the latter of which were used primarily for sluice drainage purposes. In narrow streets, it was customary for a single channel to run through the centre of the roadway, while in wider streets it was customary for two channels to be built, one on each side of the road. The flow of water in these channels, which collected most of the city’s rainwater and runoff from any nearby wells, was intended to be constant. However, the illegal dumping of solid household or privy waste could lead to stopped-up channels or flooding in the streets. Jonathan Swift’s Description of a City Shower infamously depicts an epic flood of swelling kennels (channels) in northwest London, from the butcher stalls of Smithfield to Holborn Bridge, the gushing waste-laden contents of which would have emptied into the Fleet Ditch.1

Cite this page

MLA citation

Foley, Christopher. Channels. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 05 May 2022,

Chicago citation

Foley, Christopher. Channels. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed May 05, 2022.

APA citation

Foley, C. 2022. Channels. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 7.0). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

A1  - Foley, Christopher
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Channels
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 7.0
PY  - 2022
DA  - 2022/05/05
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 

TEI citation

<bibl type="mla"><author><name ref="#FOLE1"><surname>Foley</surname>, <forename>Christopher</forename></name></author>. <title level="a">Channels</title>. <title level="m">The Map of Early Modern London</title>, Edition <edition>7.0</edition>, edited by <editor><name ref="#JENS1"><forename>Janelle</forename> <surname>Jenstad</surname></name></editor>, <publisher>U of Victoria</publisher>, <date when="2022-05-05">05 May 2022</date>, <ref target=""></ref>.</bibl>