Posts Tagged ‘Lee Navigation’

Timber – Lea Navigation

Saturday, December 19th, 2020

Timber made up a very large proportion of the commercial traffic on the Lea Navigation, certainly in the twentieth century. In its earlier years barge traffic on the River Lea and its canalised sections was largely of agricultural products – malt, meal and grain – being carried down to London, with barges being returned empty or carrying coal upstream. Trade was substantial even before the construction of the navigation began following plans by John Smeaton and the 1767 Act of Parliament, and the river carried an estimated 30,000 tons a year coming mainly from around Ware and Stanstead Abbotts.

The flash locks then in use, with gates that were removed to allow barges to pass wasted large quantities of water and tolls were high, and they also meant that loads going upstream were restricted to a third or a quarter of the 35-40 tons of a downstream load. There were many later improvements to the navigation, though most of the current system comes from an 1866 Act of Parliament.

Timber yard, Towpath Road, Dorford Wharf, Edmonton, 1983 34m-52_2400

In the twentieth century barges carried loads of 100 tons on the waterway and the main traffic was timber, carried upstream from the Surrey docks to a number of timber wharves, one of the larger of which was the Edmonton Wharf at the Lea Valley Trading Estate, which I think was operated by Hahn & Co Ltd, though I can find no further details.

Timber yard, Towpath Road, Dorford Wharf, Edmonton, 1983 34l-16_2400

I made several visits to this large site and took pictures, and returned in later years when it had become a bus depot. Back in 1983 there was another timber yard on the opposite bank of the navigation, which I think was called Dornford Wharf, though the old street plan I used labels this area of the east bank with this name.

Timber yard, Towpath Road, Dorford Wharf, Edmonton, 1983 34l-15_2400

In the Flickr album River Lea – Lea Navigation 1981-1992 I’ve captioned these images as being in Dornford Wharf, Towpath Rd, and I’ve also included a few more images which are simply slight variations on those show here – as well as many other images taken along the river.

Timber yard, Towpath Road, Dorford Wharf, Edmonton, 1983 34m-61_2400

Timber yard, Towpath Road, Dorford Wharf, Edmonton, 1983 34m-63_2400

Timber yard, Towpath Road, Dorford Wharf, Edmonton, 1983 34m-66_2400

If these huge trunks had been brought here by the navigation they will have been here some time as commercial traffic ended a couple of years earlier in 1981. There didn’t appear to be any work being carried on in the timber yard when I took these pictures, but they were possibly made on a Sunday.

Timber yard, Towpath Road, Dorford Wharf, Edmonton, 1983 34m-51_2400

At the side of the yard close to the towpath I came across an area that had clearly been used fairly recently to cut up some wood on a rather smaller scale but which had produced a prolific amount of sawdust.

Although the Flickr album River Lea – Lea Navigation 1981-1992 only currently contains black and white pictures, I did also make some colour transparencies when I was photographing the Lea Valley. Three of them, including the image above, were my contribution to the show Roof Unit Foundations at [ space ] in Hackney in 2007.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Lea – by the North Circular

Friday, December 11th, 2020

North Circular Rd, Edmonton, 1983 37c-44_2400

The North Circular Road crosses the Lea Navigation in Edmonton, where there are now a whole series of six bridges over it, though I think there were fewer when I was taking these pictures in 1983. The street map I used shows the North Circular as just a single carriageway, Angel Road, which on the east side became the Lea Valley Viaduct, and I think this picture is taken across the whole of the roadway.

Lee Valley Trading Estate, Angel Rd, Upper Edmonton, 1983 34m-41_2400

To the south of the North Circular there were industrial and commercial areas on both banks, with Clements International UPH, “Europe’s Largest Maker” on the west, a huge furniture showroom (I suppose the UPH stands for upholstery) and beyond it to the south a timber wharf.

Lee Valley Trading Estate, Angel Rd, Upper Edmonton, 1983 34k-46

On the east bank wasDorford Wharf and the extensive Lea Valley Trading Estate and Kingsway Industrial Estate, and another timber wharf, which I’ll post pictures from later.After re-instalapi-ms-wi-

On the east bank wasDorford Wharf and the extensive Lea Valley Trading Estate and Kingsway Industrial Estate, and another timber wharf, which I’ll post pictures from later.

Lee Valley Trading Estate, Angel Rd, Upper Edmonton, 1983 34n-24_2400

I think all of the businesses by the navigation were closed, including the cafe here. Now the whole area has been cleared.

Timber yard, Towpath Road, Dorford Wharf, Edmonton, 1983 37c-31_2400

Although commercial traffic on the Lea Navigation had come to an end, there were still a number of lighters on it, including this one moored in front of a timber wharf. There were so many timber wharves on the Lea because the entrances to the Limehouse Cut and Bow Creek leading to the Lea Navigation were opposite the Surrey Docks, where ships brought in timber from the Baltic and elsewhere and which had large storage ponds where it was stored and seasoned.

Lee Valley Trading Estate, Angel Rd, Upper Edmonton, 1983 34n-23_2400

There is still a timber merchant not far away, just to the north of the North Circular at Ash Wharf, but none of its timber comes in by barge.

You can click on any of the above images to see a larger version in the Flickr album River Lea – Lea Navigation 1981-1992.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Ponders End & Edmonton

Monday, December 7th, 2020

Lea Navigation, Brimsdown, Ponders End, 1983 34m-22_2400

I’m not sure why the name Ponders End so appeals to me. It has a rather down to earth quality (or perhaps down to water) which is apparently reflected in its etymology, stretching back over 600 years to the Ponder family, with a John Ponder being recorded as far back as 1373. He or his family apparently got their name because they kept or lived by a fishpond or mill pond on the River Lea. Ponders End was their end of Edmonton.

Lea Navigation, Ponders End, 1983 34m-23_2400

The River Lea was important for the movement of people and goods from the earliest times and was improved for navigation at various times in the middle ages; later the first modern gated lock on a river was built at Waltham Abbey in 1577 and the basis of the current Lea Navigation – including the Limehouse Cut – were laid in the 1770s, though there were further improvements well into the 20th century. You can read more on Wikipedia. In recent convention the spelling Lea is used for the river and natural features, and Lee for those man-made features such as the navigation but I tend to use Lea for both.

Lea Navigation, Ponders End, 1983 34m-24_2400

Because of its good transport links to London, industry began to arrive here in the 19th century, with wharves along the canal. Later with the growth of motorised transport development became centred along the Great Cambridge Road, the A10, a short distance to the west, particularly after its improvement in the 1930s. When I took these pictures back in 1983 the area was full of factories, but many were derelict, their demise accelerated by Thatcher’s national flight from manufacturing – something which was at the centre of my recording of out post-industrial landscape

Lea Navigation, Brimsdown, Ponders End, 1983 34m-32_2400

The area had turned its back on the canal where all commercial traffic had ceased a couple of years earlier, but many of the structures were still present. Now almost all have been replaced by warehousing and some residential development. In later years I photographed around the little that remained, including Wright’s Flour Mill, parts of which date from the 18th century.

Lea Navigation, Brimsdown, Ponders End, 1983 34m-36_2400

Back in 1983, there was no GPS and it was hard to determine the exact location of the pictures I took as I walked beside the navigation, and I made few records that would help. In a few pictures it is possible to see features which still exist, particularly the tall blocks of council flats close to Ponders End station.

Thorn Lighting, Edmonton, 1983 37e-34_2400

The last two pictures are of one of Edmonton’s best known and largest industries, Thorn Lighting. Julius Thorn opened his Atlas Lamp Works Ltd in Edmonton in 1932, and later at the start of the war a second factory in Tottenham. The company is now part of the Austrian company Zumtobel. I think that these two pictures are part of their Angel Road site. The main production moved from here to Merthyr Tydfil soon after the Second Wolrd War, but speciality lamps were produced here until around the late 1960s.

Thorn Lighting, Edmonton, 1983 37e-35_2400

More pictures in River Lea – Lea Navigation 1981-1992 on Flickr. Click on any of the pictures above to go to a larger version in that album, where you can also comment on the pictures.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.