The New River in Enfield

This article by Stephen Gilburt was first published by The Enfield Society in newsletter 190, Summer 2013, on the occasion of the 400th Anniversary of the opening of the New River. It coincided with an exhibition at the Dugdale Museum entitiled “Water, water everywhere: 400 years of the New River”.

The New River was constructed by Sir Hugh Myddelton between 1609 and 1613, to bring drinking water from springs at Amwell and Chadwell in Hertfordshire, and later from the River Lea at New Gauge, between Hertford and Ware, to a reservoir at New River Head, Islington. From there the water was carried through elm pipes to the City of London. The New River roughly followed the 100 foot contour, which involved long detours, and had a fall of about 15½ feet over its 40 mile length. This was later reduced to about 24 miles, using embankments and aqueducts, to a new terminus at Stoke Newington. The route through the borough of Enfield includes about 12 miles of the original course, of which 6 miles are still in use. The disused loop around Enfield Town has been preserved as an ornamental feature and was restored with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

For more information, see London’s New River by Robert Ward (Historical Publications, 2003).

All the photographs are by the author except the last which was provided by Andrew Lack.

In 1820-21 the cast iron Flash Lane aqueduct was constructed with brick parapets and was supported on three brick piles to carry the New River over Cuffley Brook.

This pumping station in Whitewebbs Road was built in 1898 by the New River Company to raise water from an underground aquifer to the New River. It is now the Whitewebbs Museum of Transport.

Enfield Town loop by Gentleman’s Row in 1969. The listed wrought and cast iron foot bridges date from the early to mid 19th century. This one at the North end of Chase Green Gardens was subsequently named the “Chris Jephcott Bridge” in April 2017 in honour of the past President of The Enfield Society.

The Grade II listed 19th century 40-foot brick water tower in Quaker’s Walk was intended to provide an improved water supply to a newly built estate in Bush Hill Park, although it was never used for its original purpose.

Gates were operated form this late 18th century Grade II listed Bush Hill sluice house to control the flow of water over the Bush Hill frame.

The Grade II listed Clarendon Arch, rebuilt in 1682, forms the entrance to a brick vaulted tunnel constructed to carry Salmon’s Brook under the Bush Hill frame. The frame was an aqueduct made of caulked timber, later lined with lead, which was replaced by an earth embankment in 1786.
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