Posts Tagged ‘River Lee’

South of Bow Locks – the 1980s

Saturday, February 6th, 2021

Bow Creek, Bow Locks, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, 1983 36v-52_2400

Back in the 1980s it wasn’t possible to walk beside Bow Creek from Bow Locks south to the East India Dock road, as the banks were occupied by various industrial and commercial sites, including two gas works and West Ham power station. And although there have been plans by the councils for many years, even today you can only walk down on the Newham bank as far as Cody Dock, on a path opened to the public some years ago with the ridiculous name of the Fatwalk, but since renamed. There is a tantalising walkway visible continuing past the dock along the former power station bank, but this is still closed to the public.

Clinic, Bromley-by-Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1983 35v-35_2400

While this was a limitation, it was also an opportunity to explore the two areas where roads ran close (or not too close) to Bow Creek to both the east in West Ham and west in Bromley and Poplar, and I was rewarded by some images I found interesting, though parts of my walks were along fume laden streets with heavy traffic.

Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach, Tweed House, view, Bromley-by-Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1983 35v-3pan_2400

Tweed House, a tall block of council flats on the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road next to the Limehouse Cut enabled me to take some pictures which I more recently stitched together to create two panoramas of the area – the individual pictures are also in the Flickr album. Click to see the larger versions on Flickr.

Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach, Tweed House, view, Bromley-by-Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1983 35v-4-pan_2400

From various places both on to the east and west of Bow Creek I found rather satisfyingly bleak views of the distant power station, including one with a young mother with a small baby in a pram.

Lochnagar St, Bromley-by-Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1983 36v-42_2400

Others were emptier still, like this

Lorry Park, Gillender St, Bromley-by-Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1982 32e-42_2400

or more minimal and just occasionally rather threatening; some streets around here featured in crime films and TV dramas of the era, gangster London.

Lochnager St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1982 32e-34_2400

But there was also a little chance for fun, with a cafeteria with two giant cooling towers to take away the cooking fumes and the unlikely name of Oasis.

Oasis, Cafeteria, Cafe, Bidder St, West Ham, Newham, 1983 36v-12_2400

Poplar Gas Works was on a rather smaller scale to Bromley-by-Bow, but its gas holders still dominated the working class housing around it. Two young girls playing on the grass came to see what I was doing and insisted on being photographed, though I perhaps should have stepped back a foot or two to avoid cropping their feet to get the gasholder in the frame.

Girls, Gasholder, Poplar Gas Works, Rutland Terrace, Oban St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1983 35v-55_2400

At East India Dock Road I was able to return to Bow Creek – and things got even more interesting (and although very different they still are) as I hope to show you in the next installment of my work from the Flick album River Lea – Lea Navigation – 1981-92 – the pictures above are all on Page 4.

Clicking on any of the images above should take you to a larger version on Flickr, and you can also go on to explore the album from there.


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.


Around High St Stratford

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

St Thomas's Creek, Cook's Road, Stratford, Newham, 1983 35q-34_2400
St Thomas’s Creek, Cook’s Road, Stratford, Newham, 1983

There is and long seems to have been some confusion about the naming of this part of the canal system that links the main line of the Lea Navigation at Bow Bridge to the City Mill River and City Mill Lock. On some maps (including Google’s) it is simply referred to as ‘Bow Back Rivers’ but I find it less confusing to give it the more local name, St Thomas’s Creek, sometimes written as St Thomas Creek. The creek got its name from St. Thomas’s Mill, sometimes called ‘Pudding Mill’, I think because of its shape, which also gave its name to the small stream the Pudding Mill River and was actually on that stream on Pudding Mill Lane. For those interested there is a good map of the area before the flood relief works of 1931-5 on British History Online.

Yardley's Box Factory, Stratford High St, Stratford, Newham, 198336m-63-positive_2400
Warton House, former Yardley’s Box Factory, High St, Stratford, 1983

The earliest connection of the Yardley name to soap-making was in the first half of the 17th century, when a Yardley was given the concession to produce soap for the whole of London, but the company dated its founding as ‘Clever Brothers’ to 1770. This company making soaps and perfumes was taken over by William Yardley in 1823 and passed on to his son Charles when he died the following year. The company moved from Bloomsbury to a large factory on Carpenters Road Stratford in 1904 and bought land on Stratford High St in 1918. In 1913 they had trade-marked a picture by Francis Wheatley from his 1793 series, the ‘Cries of London’ to use in their advertising, replacing the primroses in his picture by lavender, and when they built a new art deco box factory in 1938 this was installed at a large scale on the building. Yardleys moved to Basildon in 1966, needing large premises, but in 1967 were taken over by British American Tobacco who sold the business to Beecham in 1985, who again sold it on after they merged to be SmithKlein Beecham. The company went into receivership in 1998. Parts of the box factory – including this section on the High St next to the Northern Outfall Sewer and the Waterworks River are still there, all that is left of Yardley’s in Stratford.

Stratford High St area, Stratford, Newham, 1983 36m-14_2400
Stratford High St area, 1982

I cannot remember exactly where I took this or the next picture, though from other exposures on the same films both are clearly somewhere not far from Stratford High St. I think the canal seen at right here is probably St Thomas’s Creek.

Timber yard, Stratford, Newham, 1982 32v-22_2400
Timber yard, Stratford High St area, 1982

Timber was the main product carried on the Lea Navigation in the later years of its use, and I think this timber yard was probably close to the main stream of the navigation. My attempts to find it again in later years were unsuccesful.

Cafe, Stratford market, Stratford, Newham, 1983 36p-35_2400
Cafe, Stratford market, Stratford, Newham, 1983

The notices on the door offer not just ‘Jellied Eels’ but ‘Best Jellied Eels’, along with ‘Loch Fine Kippers’. My contact sheet puts its location as Stratford Market in Burford Road, just off High St to the south.

Barge, Lea Navigation, Bow Bridge, Bow Flyover, Tower Hamlets, Newham, 1981 29t-26p_2400
Barges, Bow Bridge, October 1981

These last two pictures were some of the first I took in the area after I heard on a radio interview that commercial traffic on the Lea Navigation was to come to an end in a few weeks time.

I think it was the same day that I picked up my camera bag and got on the train to come to look for and photograph any remaining activity. It was a slow journey to Bromley-by-Bow from where I spent an hour or so walking along beside the navigation between Bow Locks and Bow Bridge, where I found three barges loaded with cut timber, photographing all three from the bridge and going down onto the wharf for another picture.

Barge, Lea Navigation, Bow Bridge, Tower Hamlets, Newham, 1981 29t-25_2400
Barges, Bow Bridge, October 1981

I find it hard now to understand why I took so few pictures – only around 30 exposures on the entire visit, and just these two where I found evidence of any remaining commercial traffic.

More pictures from the area on page 3 of my 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.


City Mill Lock & Blaker Rd

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

City Mill Lock, Blaker Rd,  Stratford Marsh, Stratford, Newham, 1990 90-9f-32 (2)_2400
City Mill Lock, Blaker Rd, Stratford Marsh, Stratford, Newham, 1990

City Mill Lock connected the tidal Waterworks River with the Bow Back Rivers which are a part of the Lea Navigation and thus at a constant level. There is another lock connecting the two systems further north where Carpenters Lock connects the Old River Lea to the start of the Waterworks River close to Carpenters Road. Both locks were built in the 1930s when considerable work was carried out, mainly to reduce flooding but also with the intent of increasing commercial traffic on the Back Rivers, particularly the City Mill River. But I think this never happened and by the 1960s these streams were seldom if ever used.

City Mill Lock, Blaker Rd,  Stratford Marsh, Stratford, Newham, 1983 36m-35_2400
City Mill Lock, Blaker Rd, Stratford Marsh, Stratford, Newham, 1983

The River Lea was at least theoretically navigable at the right stage of the tide some way further north – and of course much further by kayaks, though there are legal restrictions on parts of its many streams.

Since the Olympics, the tidal flow on the river has been regulated by a new lock on the Prescott Channel at Three Mills which I photographed in 2010. The original intention of British Waterways that the river above this point should be non-tidal but its level still varies, perhaps simply with the river flow.

City Mill Lock, St Thomas's Creek, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983 36m-22a-positive-2_2400
City Mill Lock, St Thomas’s Creek, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983

The lock gates had clearly seen rather better times and the lock was unusable. These gates were replaced as a part of the makeover of the area for the Olympics.

City Mill River, Stratford Marsh, Stratford, Newham, 1983 35v-15_2400
City Mill River, Stratford Marsh, Stratford, Newham, 1983

Just to the west of the lock, behind the lock keepers house, St Thomas’s Creek turns towards the north and becomes the City Mill River. A few boats were moored here, next to Blaker Rd.

City Mill River, Blaker Rd,  Stratford Marsh, Stratford, Newham, 1983 35v-13_2400
City Mill River, Blaker Rd, Stratford Marsh, Stratford, Newham, 1983

Continuing north beside the City Mill River along Blaker Road led to a footpath which went under the Northern Outfall Sewer in a tunnel. It was possible to access the Greenway walkway on the sewer from here.

City Mill River, Blaker Rd,  Stratford Marsh, Stratford, Newham, 198335v-26_2400
City Mill River, Blaker Rd, Stratford Marsh, Stratford, Newham, 1983

From where you could look down on the path and the railings beside the river.

City Mill River, Stratford Marsh, Stratford, Newham, 1983 35v-25_2400
City Mill River, Stratford Marsh, Stratford, Newham, 1983

This is the view looking back down the City Mill River towards City Mill Lock, now rather different.

City Mill River, Railway, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983 36m-43

The footpath led on past the Northern Outfall Sewer to a rather strangely angled basin taking the river under the main railway lines. From here you could continue walking beside the river and eventually reach the north end of Marshgate Lane and Carpenters Road.

The last time I tried to repeat this walk, in 2019, it was not possible, with work still taking place in the area and fences stopping me. As well as work still taking place after the 2012 Olympics, parts were blocked by work on Crossrail.

More pictures on Flickr.


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.


Around Warton Road

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

Robbialac, Warton Rd, Stratford, Newham, 1983 35p-15_2400
Jenson and Nicholson, Robbialac Works, Warton Road, Stratford, London E15.

Jensen and Nicholson were the makers of Robbialac paints and had premises here on Warton Road, offices on the Goswell Rd and a further works in Stratford on Carpenters Rd. The business was started in 1821 at the Barbican by William Kingham and John Jenson became a partner in 1840, taking over the business in 1848. He was joined in 1856 by Wilfred Nicholson.

Following a fire which destroyed the company’s factory, Nicholson decided to move to Stratford Marshes and a few years later Nicholson took over the company, which continued to trade under the name Jenson and Nicholson Ltd. As well as Robbialac enamel paints for cars and home decoration, the company also made Copal varnishes and distributed Cuprinol wood preservatives. In 1960 they merged with Berger Paints forming Berger, Jenson and Nicholson who after various takeovers became a part of Crown Paints and were then acquired by the Dutch company Akzo Nobel. (Information from Grace’s Guide https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Jenson_and_Nicholson.)

The name Robbialac came from the 15th century Italian ceramicist Luca Della Robbia, famed for his brightly coloured enamels and the word lacquer. The major Portuguese paint manufacturer Tinta Robbialac, founded in 1928, also uses it as a brand name.

Bridgewater Rd, Stratford, Newham, 1983 35q-12_2400
Bridgewater Rd, Stratford, Newham, 1983

The concrete bridge here is an early use of ferro-concrete I think had a plaque on it stating it had been built using the Hennebique system and certainly deserves preservation. I photographed it on various occasions and it survived the Olympics and was still present when I last visited the area, but I’m unsure if it will be retained in the future.

Waterworks River, Bridgewater Rd, Stratford, 1983 36m-62-positive_2400
Waterworks River, Bridgewater Rd, Stratford, 1983

The view looking south from the Bridgewater Road bridge along the Waterworks River to the Warton House on Stratford High St, and blocks of flats on the opposite side of the street off Abbey Lane, Albert Bigg Point and Aubrey Moore Point. The footpath on the bank at right was extremely overgrown and the gates to it were locked. At right is one of the many pylons that were taken down for the Olympics.

Carpenters Rd, Stratford, Newham, 1983 35p-51_2400
Carpenters Estate, Stratford, Newham, 1983

I am not sure of the exact location of this doorway with its interesting use of concrete. There were (and are) 3 point blocks on the Carpenters Estate and I think the one in the background here may be Dennison Point and this building may have been on the site now occupied by the Building Crafts College in Kennard Road which moved to a new building here in 2001.

Waterworks River, Railway Bridge, Stratford, Newham, 1983 35q-32_2400
Waterworks River, Railway Bridge, Stratford, Newham, 1983

I think this is from the footpath beside the Waterworks River looking north towards the bridge carrying the Eastern Region main line from Liverpool St across to Stratford. Possibly I had climbed down from Bridgewater Road as I think this path was closed at the time. The factory at right was on Warton Rd.

Waterworks River, Blaker Rd, Stratford, 1983 36m-52_2400
Waterworks River, view towards Blaker Rd from the Greenway, Stratford, 1983

The Waterworks River turns to the left in the distance to go under Stratford High St, with a channel going on under Blaker Rd to City Mill lock. The concrete pillar is part of the bridge carrying the Northern Outfall Sewer across the river and I wondered if the profuse fig tree growing here might be benefiting from some warmth from the sewage or possibly even be nourished by some leakage.

Kerry's, Greenway, Northern Outfall Sewer, Stratford, Newham, 1983 35v-23_2400
Kerry’s, Stratford 1983.

Kerry’s were a company that made and distributed a wide range of products, both those they made themselves and others branded with their name. In 1961 according to Grace’s Guide they were “Wholesale distributors to the motor, radio, electrical and cycle trades, also machine tool makers, specialising in centre lathes, boring mills, power saws, drills and special purpose machines” and even produced a light weight moped, the Capitano. Manufacturing moved to Basildon in the 1960s and the business was bought up and sold at the end of the decade.

Although Kerry’s address was Warton Road, I think the factory was actually rather closer to the Northern Outfall Sewer and reached over the bridge on Bridgewater Road.

More pictures on Flickr.


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.


Deep in the Olympic Area

Friday, January 8th, 2021

Footbridge, Carpenters Lock, Old River Lea, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983 35p-33_2400
Footbridge, Carpenters Lock, Old River Lea, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983

I titled my self-published book put together in 2010 on the Lee Valley ‘Before the Olympics‘ because many of the pictures in it were taken in an area that was then being largely destroyed for a few weeks of sporting activities in 2012.

Footbridge, Carpenters Lock, Old River Lea, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1992 92-8e51_2400
Footbridge, Carpenters Lock, Old River Lea, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1992

It was an area that over the previous 25 or so years had held a particular fascination for me as a post-industrial wilderness close to the centre of London, one of the world’s greatest cities. Within a few yards of busy major roads I could find myself struggling to walk along overgrown paths – and sometimes having to climb over or around fences to do so. For months a pair of secatuers were needed in my camera bag to cut through the brambles that barred my progress (though when I wrote earlier about this I slightly exagerrated them as a ‘machete’.)

Old River Lee, Waterworks River, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983 33x-24_2400
Old River Lee, Waterworks River, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983

At times I spent hours wandering the area without meeting or seeing another living soul, or only across rivers, perhaps working in one of the many small businesses still at work, often in ramshackle buildings with smoke or steam emerging though ventilators or cracks. Or I would emerge from under a bridge or around a corner to see large industrial structures such as oil storage tanks.

Old River Lea, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983 35p-34_2400
Old River Lea, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983

It was of course an area that was bound to change, but not in the way it has. And the old was in some respects dystopian. Many of the remaining businesses were the kind that we like to hide away on the fringes, perhaps necessary but best kept out of sight. The River Lea was during the worst years of the development of industry the outer boundary of London, inside which there was a long history of restrictions to curb the activities of the most noxious and polluting industries; across that boundary almost anything went and factories were set up to enjoy that licence to pollute.

Old River Lee, Waterworks River, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983 33x-36_2400
Old River Lee, Waterworks River, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983

Those years of largely unfettered industrial activity had left their toxic legacy in the soil, though some plants seemed to thrive on it. There were schemes to tidy up the area in the 1990s, with some streams and paths being cleared and the route beside the Waterworks River being decorated with art from junior schools in the area, but nature soon took it back , and a few years later I was again struggling through shoulder-high weeds.

Waterworks River, Marshgate Lane, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1992 92-8e44_2400
Waterworks River, from Marshgate Lane, 1992

The Olympics were terra-forming, with tons of soil from the area being sterilised, tons being dumped elsewhere in landfill, and virgin soil brought in, in part from building work on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. A new landscape emerged, retaining the watery outlines of the old, along with the Greenway and the major rail routes but with different land, and none of what was previously present on the rest of its surface, though with new white elephants fast being constructed.

Waterworks River, Marshgate Lane, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983 35p-43_2400
Waterworks River from Marshgate Lane, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983
Waterworks River, Marshgate Lane, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1992 92-8e32_2400
Waterworks River, 1992
Footbridge, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983 35p-32_2400
Stratford Marsh, 1983
Marshgate Lane, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983 35p-36_2400
Marshgate Lane, 1983

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.


Stratford Marsh: Sewage and Rivers

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

Northern Outfall Sewer, Lea Navigation, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983 36o-24_2400
Two pipes and behind them the Northern Outfall Sewer

Part of Bazalgette’s great plan for freeing the Thames in central London from being a huge open sewer was to build large sewage pipelines to sewage works to the east of London. North of the river, the Northern Outfall Sewer, built in 1960-65, channels sewage from high level sewers serving North London and those from Central London to run under an embankment from Wick Road, across the Lea Navigation at Old Ford and past Stratford’s ‘Cathedral of Sewage’ at Abbey Mills which pumps up sewage from lower level sewers serving West London to join it and flow together to the sewage works at Beckton, the effluent from which is discharged into the Thames. Above the large pipes is a path for pedestrians and cyclists, rebranded at great expense as ‘The Greenway’ in the early 1990s.

Lea Navigation, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983 36o-34_2400
These two pipes close to the Greenway are perhaps for gas.

It provides a useful traffic-free route across Newham, but access to it is often poor, particularly for cyclists and for the past 15 or so years has been blighted by closures of various sections, particularly in Stratford Marsh for the 2012 Olympics and Crossrail construction as well as sewer maintainance. It should be open again now and is an interesting walk, though the slightly sweet sickly smell may put some off.

Towards Bow, from Northern Outfall Sewer, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983 33x-14_2400
Stratford Marsh and Bow, 1983
Lea Navigation from Northern Outfall Sewer, Stratford Marsh, Stratford, Newham, 1990 90-9h56_2400
The sewer path provides an elevated viewpoint. Lee Navigation and Bow 1990

Stratford Marsh north of the Northern Outfall was bounded by water. The Old River Lea ran from Carpernters Road through Carpenter’s Lock to join the Lea Navigation just south of Old Ford Lock and immediately north of the outfall. Along its east side was the Waterworks River (carrying most of the flow from the Lea and passing under the sewer close to Stratford High St, which it flowed under close to City Mill Lock. Running West from the other end of the lock was St Thomas’s Creek joining to the Navigation at Bow Bridge, and north the City Mill River linking to the Old River Lea.

City Mill River, Stratford Marsh, Newham, 1983 35p-24_2400
A rare boat makes its way around the Bow Back Rivers. City Mill River, 1983

Until the closure for the Olympics it was possible for boats to navigate around the area, leaving the navigation just above Bow Bridge on St Thomas’s Creek, going north up the City Mill River, then west along the Old River Lea back to the navigation, all these rivers being at the same level. In quite a few days of walking around the area I only saw two boats making the trip.

Signal Box, Stratford Station, Stratford, Newham, 1983 35p-65_2400
Channelsea River at Stratford Station, 1983

Another smaller channel, the Pudding Mill River, ran a little to the west of this down from the Old River Lea, disappearing under the railway lines which cut through Stratford Marsh (a couple of pictures in a later post.) This river I think disappeared completely under the stadium in the Olympic makeover; while all around them was changed (including the soil, much imported from elsewhere) the other watercourses in this area emerged largely unscathed though there were changes south of the High St, and I think the Channelsea River was possibly further marginalised.

Channelsea River, Jupp Rd, Stratford, Newham, 1983 35p-62_2400
Channelsea River, Jupp Rd, Stratford, 1983

Towards Hackney Wick 1982

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020

I continue my virtual walk downriver towards Hackney Wick.

Clapton Park Estate, Clapton Park,  Hackney, 1982 32k-64_2400

Past the Clapton Park Estate: Norbury Court, Bakewell Court, Ambergate Court and Sudbury Court at 172 Daubeney Road, each 20 stories with 114 flats, approved by Hackney Council in 1968. Three were demolished by explosions in 1993-5 but Sudbury Court was sold to a private developer who gave it a relatively minor make-over and renamed it Landmark Heights.

Clapton Park Estate, Clapton Park, Hackney, 1982 32k-53p_2400

Somewhere I passed a canal-side factory –

Hackney Wick, Tower Hamlets, 1983 36n-46_2400

as well as the wide expanse of Hackney Marshes, with what must surely be more football pitches and anyone needs

Hackney Marsh, Hackney Wick, Hackney, 1982 32z-62_2400

as well as some wilder areas where the hogweed grows

Hackney Marsh, Hackney Wick, Hackney, 1982 32u-13_2400

and was ambushed by a group of children

Hackney Wick, Hackney, 1982 32k-51_2400

who demanded I take their pictures.

Hackney Wick, Hackney, 1982 32k-42_2400

Clost to Eastway I came across a travellers site

Travellers site,  Eastway, Stratford, Newham, 1983  36o-12_2400

close to the River Lea, here looking a very serious river away from the navigation.

River Lea, Eastway, Stratford, Newham, 1983  36o-13 (2)_2400

My walk continued but in a less linear fashion wandering around Hackney Wick – in the next episode. You can see all the pictures and more in my 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.


Lea Valley 1993 – Around Tottenham Hale

Tuesday, December 29th, 2020

Stonebridge Lock, Northumberland Park, 1983 37c-22_2400

Continuing my pictures from walks along the River Lea and Lea Navigation in 1983 which are in my Flickr album River Lea – Lea Navigation 1981-1992.

Tottenham Hale station on the Victoria Line was a convenient starting point for walks both north and south along the Lea navigatiion, which is crossed by Ferry Lane around 200 metres from the station.

Stonebridge Lock is around 3/4 miles north up the path from Ferry Lane, where steps lead down to the towpath immediately after you cross Pymmes Brook. The view above is looking south back towards Tottenham Hale.

Lea Navigation, Tottenham, 1983 34l-51_2400

Thames Water Sludge Mains Bridge No 3 crosses the Navigation closer to Ferry Lane, and as well as a crudely painted landscape also carried racist graffiti from the National Party, a splinter group of the National Front which was active from 1976-83.

Ferry Lane, Tottenham, 1983 34l-64_2400

A lone tree behind a gate somewhere on Ferry Lane (or its eastern continuation, Forest Road.)

Flood Channel, Leyton, Waltham Forest, 1982 32d-46_2400

The Lee Flood Relief Channel at Forest Rd. There are now tall recently built blocks of flats replacing the inustrial units and garage in this picture.

Ferry Lane Wharf, Tottenham Hale, Hackney, 1982 32d-56_2400

This extensive range of warehouses fronting the navigation immediately south of Ferry Lane has now been demolished and replaced by housing.

Ferry Lane Wharf, Tottenham Hale, Hackney, 1982 32d-55_2400

There is a channel here from the River Lee Diversion which takes excess water from the river and navigation north of Enfield, though usually most of the flow in this rejoins the navigation around half a mile further south.

Ferry Lane Wharf, Tottenham Hale, Hackney, 1982 32d-53_2400

The pattern of waterways it the Lea Valley is difficult to understand and as well as the diversion there are also various flood channels, as well of course as tributaries such as the Pymmes Brook and Dagenham Brook. In the old days there were various man-made channels to feed water mills, while more recently, particularly in the twentieth century various projects to control flooding in the area.

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.


Pymmes & Tottenham Marsh 1983

Sunday, December 27th, 2020

Pymmes Brook,  Edmonton, 1983 37c-55_2400

The Pymmes Brook is a stream in north London which runs from Barnet and joins the River Lea at Tottenham. It got its name from William Pymme who was given land in Edmonton by Edward II in the fourteenth century.

Pymmes Brook,  Edmonton, 1983 37c-56_2400

Although it begins from underground springs at Monken Hadley Common in the London Borough of Barnet, these supply relatively little of the water which reaches the River Lea, particularly when the river is in flood, augmented by water runoff from streets and sewage overflows along with the more normal industrial effluent. Because it used often to flood in its lower course, much is now in deep concrete channels, and in some places is culverted.

Pymmes Brook,  Edmonton, 1983 37c-65_2400

I’m no longer sure exactly where I took most of these pictures of the Pymmes Brook, but I think they were just a little after it flowed under the North Circular. I think some may actually be of the Salmons Brook which runs down from Enfield and joins it in Upper Edmonton. This gets its name not from the fish – which were probably once found in it before the area became urban and industrial – but from the 13th century landowner John Salemon.

Pymmes Brook,  Edmonton, 1983 37c-23_2400

The river runs more or less parallel to the Lea Navigation just a few yards away across Tottenham Marshes and only finally flows into the Lea close to Ferry Lane in Tottenham Hale.

Chalk Bridge, Tottenham, 1983 34l-13_2400

My pictures of the Lea continue south from Chalk Bridge and past Tottenham Marshes.

Lea Navigation, Tottenham Marshes, 1983 34l-31_2400

On the east side are the large Banbury and Lockwood reservoirs, part of a series up the Lea Valley providing water for much of east London.

Banbury Reservoir, from Lea Navigation, 1983 34l-24_2400

This is one of the most picturesque sections of the River Lea, certainly in its lower reaches. I could almost imagine Izaak Walton walking along here in conversation (as Piscator) with his friends Venator and Auceps on May Day holding the discussion of the relative merits of fishing, hunting and fowling as recorded in his ‘The Compleat Angler‘.

Lea Navigation, Tottenham Marshes, 1983 37c-33_2400

More pictures from the Lea in my Flick 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.


Before the Olympics – The River Lea

Sunday, November 29th, 2020

The Source of the River Lea, Leagrave, Luton, Beds, 1982 33d-56_2400
The source of the River Lea, Leagrave, Beds

Back in 1981 I kind of stumbled across the River Lea as I walked and photographed eastwards out of the city through Wapping, Limehouse and Poplar to Bow and Canning Town. Of course I’d known about it since my youth, growing up in Middlesex; it was our eastern boundary where civilisation ended and Essex began, but never something we visited.

I began at Bow Creek, the River Lea’s tidal section which leads to its confluence with the River Thames at Leamouth, but soon after began to explore Stratford Marsh, a remarkable wilderness area around the Bow Back Rivers. I’d gone to Bow having heard a short radio report that commercial traffic on the Lea Navigation was to end in a few weeks time, and found it more or less already had, though I was able to find a couple of loaded barges moored by a wharf next to the Bow flyover, as well as quite a few barges empty and apparently abandoned.

River Lea, near Luton, Beds, 1983 33e-14_2400
River Lea

I put together a proposal to document the area around the Lea navigation and sent it, including some of the pictures I had already made, to try to obtain some funding for an extensive project on the area. Later I found the esteemed photographer I had approached to endorse my project was not one of the charmed circle who advised the funding body and promoted their own former students and protégées – and that outsiders were seldom if ever funded.

Works, Broxbourne area, Herts, 1983 34z-52_2400

When my rejection came I was downhearted – particularly by seeing some of the projects that did get support – and also rather angry. I still saw it as a worthwhile project and thought about ways I could carry it out funding it myself. I had little cash and a young family to support, so I had to keep costs to a minimum. I had to stick to using 35mm, to load cassettes from bulk film, do all the processing and printing myself and to give up the idea of producing a book.

White House Cafe, Lea navigation. Broxbourne area, 1983 34z-11_2400

Probably working with 35mm improved the project, giving me more flexibility than using medium format, where my choice of focal lengths would have been much more restricted. But loading cassettes from bulk did lead to more problems than using factory loaded film and my home processing facilities were a little on the primitive side. For some of the work I used Kodak Technical Pan, an extremely fine-grain film designed for high contrast copy work which could be tamed for pictorial use with reduced development – but which also meant reduced speed – depending on the developer used from ISO6 to ISO32. Later Kodak Technidol developer became available and made it much less sensitive to small changes in development time or agitation, and the results were more reliable. Technical Pan was I think discontinued in 2004.

Lea Navigation,  Broxbourne area, Herts, 1983 35a-32_2400

I worked on the project on occasional days in 1982-3, extending it to cover the area around the River Lea from its source to the Thames and then moved on to other things. Occasionally though I returned to the Lea and took more pictures, particularly in 1992 around Stratford Marsh, and later in that decade around Ponders End. In the early years of this century I walked the length of the river over several stages with my family and later went back a cycled much of it after I bought a Brompton folder which I could easily take on trains to suitable starting points. By this time I’d also exhibited work from this project in several shows. When the site for the London Olympics was announced in 2005 I began putting it on line, setting up the web site The Lea Valley and planning the book ‘Before The Olympics‘, which eventually I self-published on Blurb – and is still available.

In the last few days I’ve gone back to my contact sheets from 1981-3 and digitised a number of new images from them and am now beginning to upload them to Flickr, along with a few already from 1990-1992 previously scanned.

Riverside Cafe, Waltham Abbey, River Lea, Lea Navigation,  Broxbourne area, Herts, 1983 35a-42_2400

So far I’ve uploaded only the few images I made between the source at Leagrave (augmented as I made the exposure by a French photographer friend) to somewhere around Cheshust, close to the edge of Greater London. You can see more from this stretch already on Flickr, but there are very many more taken inside London Boroughs to come.

Broxbourne area, Herts, 1983 34z-46_2400

Some apologies. Some of the images are without full location details, which I have lost, and others were scanned with carrier glass that has caused clear ‘Newton’s rings’ in shadow areas, which are impossible to entirely retouch, though perhaps one day I’ll re-digitise them. Some of the negatives have also been damaged by an insect infection which takes extensive retouching and is in some images impossible to completely remove.

I’ll make further posts after I upload more pictures to the album, and will probably upload images from later years too.

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.