Enfield’s industrial heritage
This article by Stephen Gilburt was first published by The Enfield Society in newsletter 176, Winter 2009.
Illustration 1. The New River was constructed by Sir Hugh Myddelton between 1609 and 1613 to bring drinking water from Hertfordshire springs at Amwell and Chadwell, and later the River Lea, to a reservoir at New River Head, Islington, from where it was carried through elm pipes to the City of London.
Illustration 2. Wright’s Flour Mill is Enfield’s oldest working industrial building. It was originally powered by water from a mill stream diverted from the River Lea and wheat arrived by barge. The 18th century mill, two houses and a barn are listed Grade II for their group value and, together with the water meadows, form the Ponders End Flour Mills Conservation Area. More details appear in newsletter 180, Winter 2010.
Illustration 3. This pumping station was built by the Metropolitan Water Board in 1898 to raise water from an underground aquifer to the New River. It is now the Whitewebbs Museum of Transport and is open between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and the last Sunday of each month (with some exceptions – telephone (020) 8367 1898 for details of open days, exhibitions and special events).
Illustration 4. The Lee Navigation was created when new cuts and locks, including those at Enfield Lock, Ponders End and Picketts Lock, were constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries to ease the transport of cargoes such as barley and malt to London breweries. More details appear in newsletter 208, Winter 2017.
Illustration 5. The Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) opened at Enfield Lock in 1816. RSAF pioneered the use in Britain of machinery for the economical production of interchangeable parts for small arms which included the Lee-Enfield magazine rifle and the Bren and Sten guns. After closure in 1988 many of the buildings were demolished for the Enfield Island Village development. A few of the more important ones were retained, including the main machine shop of 1854-8, which is listed Grade II. It now contains a small exhibition which can be seen on weekdays between 10am and 2pm. More details can be found in newsletter 187, Autumn 2012.
Illustration 6. A narrow-gauge railway linked the RSAF with the Royal Gunpowder Mills at Waltham Abbey, which were established in the 17th century and acquired by the Crown in 1787. After closure in 1991 the site was converted into a museum featuring a variety of exhibitions which explore the history and production of explosives. It is open between 11am and 5pm at weekends and on Bank Holiday Mondays between the end of April and the end of September. It is also open on Wednesdays in summer school holidays and to groups at other times by prior arrangement. (Telephone 01992 707370 for further information and details of special events.)
Illustration 7. GER 0-6-0 tank locomotive No.87 was built at Stratford in 1904. It remained in service until electrification in 1960. It is now preserved at the National Railway Museum, York.
Illustration 8. Edmonton Green station, with its original 1872 canopies, is on the Great Eastern Railway line from Liverpool Street to Enfield Town. Edmonton goods depot, served by the railway, closed in 1964.
Illustration 9. When the Great Northern Railway was extended from Grange Park to Cuffley in 1910, the 75-feet high, fourteen arch, Rendlesham viaduct was constructed across the valley between Gordon Hill and Crews Hill.
Illustration 10. The former Ediswan factory general office block of 1890, at Ponders End, occupies part of a site associated with Sir Joseph Swan (1828-1914), inventor of the incandescent electric lamp, Sir James Dewar (1842-1923), inventor of the vacuum flask, and Professor Ambrose Fleming (1849-1945), inventor of the diode radio valve in 1904, which marks the birth of the electronic technological revolution. Britain’s first radio valve and television cathode ray tube factories were opened here, in 1916 and 1936 respectively. This building is not listed, despite the site’s historical importance.
Illustration 11. The Grade II listed MAN (formerly Ripaults) factory in Southbury Road was built in the Art Deco style about 1930 by A. H. Durnford. It is the only remaining example of the light industry factories built close to the Great Cambridge Road in the inter-war period.