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London - Introduction. Geology. Surface.

London, the metropolis of England, and the chief town of the British empire, is situated on both banks of the river Thames, about 50 miles from its mouth, St Paul’s Cathedrall being in 51o 48’ N. lat. And 0o 5’ 48" W. long. The old City of London is wholly included in the country of Middlesex, but the town beyond the City limits extends into portions of three other counties,- namely, Surrey and Kent on the south, and Essex on the east. The area and population of the various governmental divisions of London are given below (pp. 821, 822).


Site. A great part of London is built on sands and gravels belonging to the Drift period, marking the ancient bed of a much larger river than the present Thames. This formation, resting immediately on the London Clay, extends along both banks of the present river, with an average breadth of about 2 miles; but in some parts there is immediately adjoining the banks a considerable breadth of alluvial deposits, or occasionally of artificially constructed embankments. On the north bank the alluvial soil comprehends the greater part of Westminster; on the south bank it stretches east from Lambeth Bridge, gradually widening to a breadth of about half a mile, and from Southwark to Deptford occupying a still wider area. The sands and gravels again occur at Greenwich Hospital, but are succeeded by the Greenwich and Woolrich marshes. The Isle of Dogs opposite Greenwich is constructed wholly of artificial embankments and at one time the area it now occupies formed part of the mouth of the Lea, along whose banks the alluvial formation runs northwards between Bow and Stratford to Stoke Newington, widening to a considerable area at the marshes of West Ham and Plaistow. At Faregam, Battersea Park, Cheapside, Victoria Park, and to the south of Stoke Newington, there are considerable to the surface throughout the whole of north-west London, with the exception of a small portion to the south of regent’s Park, which is encroached upon by the sands and gravels, and the summits of Hampstead and Highgate, which are occupied by the silicious sands of the Bagshot series. In west London the Clay extends south to Kensington Gardens, and in north London it occupies part of Islington and the district north of Highbury and Stoke Newington. South of the Thames it encroaches irregularly on Wandsworth, Clapham, Camberwell, and Depthford, and comprehends nearly all the district round Sydenham. The Lower Tertiaries are represented by the Thanet sands at Greenwich and in the neighborhood of Deptford, by the Woolwich and Reading beds, which occur at Camberwell, Dulwich, and Lewisham, and by the Blackheath beds, which are best seen at Blackheath. Chalk, the basement rock of the London basin, and the source of the water supply for the deep wells, only crops to the surface in the neighborhood of Greenwich.


The original surface of the soul of London has been much altered in the course of generations, the depth of made earth being often very great. At one period the Thames flowed straight from Lambeth to Limehouse, and the greater part of the district now stretching south and east of the river to the range of heights in the neighborhood of Sydenham and Greenwich was occupied by marshes or shallow lagoons. North of the Thames the greater part of London is built on several ranges of small eminences lying between the river and the northern heights of Hampstead (430 feet), Highgate, and Hornsey. The original city clustered round the eminence now crowned by St Paul’s, and formerly intersected by the ravine of the Walbrook. To the north and east it was bounded by an extensive fen, from which Finsbury takes its name. To the west was the Fleet river, which flowed from Hampstead in a south-easterly direction to King’s Cross, and then more southerly to Clerkenwell, where on account of the steepness of its banks it received the name of Holebourne or Hollowburn. It was navigable to King’s Cross, and for a long period formed a convenient and well-protected harbor for the city. Amore extended elevation, included in the district now occupied by the Inns of Court, Bloomsbury, and Soho, was bounded on the west by the Tyburn, which rose near the Swiss Cottage and, after an easterly course till reaching the present Regent’s Park, flowed southwards nearly in the line of marylebone Lane and Bond Street. Tyburn Hill was bounded on the west by the Westbourne; and to the south and west an extensive range of low ground, now included in Westminster, Pimlico, Chelsea, and Kensington, was in early times for the most part covered by water. westwards the low ground is bounded by Notting Hill, whence an elevated region lying between the smaller eminences and the "northern heights," and including Primrose Hill, runs in a north-westerly direction to Camden Town, Islington, and Highbury. The hilly regions in the neighborhood of Kensington and Notting Hill formed part of an extensive forest, and St John’s Wood was originally a dense thicket.

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