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The River Lea
River Lea
in England
England
originates in Marsh Farm, Leagrave, Luton
Luton
in the Chiltern Hills
Chiltern Hills
and flows generally southeast, east, and then south through east London
London
where it meets the River Thames, the last section being known as Bow Creek. It is one of the largest rivers in London and the easternmost major tributary of the Thames. Its valley creates a long chain of marshy ground along its lower length, much of which has been used for gravel and mineral extraction, reservoirs and industry. Much of the river has been canalised to provide a navigable route for boats into eastern Hertfordshire, known as the Lee Navigation. While the lower Lea remains somewhat polluted, its upper stretch and tributaries, classified as chalk streams, are a major source of drinking water for London. A diversion known as the New River, opened in 1613, abstracts clean water away from the lower stretch of the river for drinking.[1] Its origins in the Chilterns contribute to the extreme hardness (high mineral content) of London tap water.[2]

Contents

1 Etymology 2 Course 3 River history 4 Alleged predator 5 Narrative accounts 6 In popular culture 7 Notable fisheries 8 See also 9 Tributaries 10 References 11 External links

Etymology[edit] The name of the River Lea
River Lea
was first recorded in the 9th century, although is believed to be much older. Spellings from the Anglo-Saxon period include Lig(e)an in 880 and Lygan in 895, and in the early medieval period it is usually Luye or Leye. It seems to be derived from a Celtic (brythonic) root lug-meaning 'bright or light' which is also the derivation of a name for a deity, so the meaning may be 'bright river' or 'river dedicated to the god Lugus'.[3][4] A simpler derivation may well be the Brythonic word cognate with the modern Welsh "Li" pronounced "Lea" which means a flow or a current. The spelling Lea predominates west (upstream) of Hertford, but both spellings (Lea and Lee) are used from Hertford
Hertford
to the River Thames. The Lee Navigation
Lee Navigation
was established by Acts of Parliament and only that spelling is used in this context. The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority also uses this spelling for leisure facilities. However, the spelling Lea is used for road names, locations and other infrastructure in the capital, such as Leamouth, Lea Bridge, the Lea Valley Walk and the Lea Valley Railway Lines. This spelling is also used in geology, archaeology, etc. to refer to the Lea Valley. The divergent spellings of the river are also reflected in the place-names of Luton
Luton
and Leyton: both mean "farmstead on the River Lea".[5] Course[edit]

The river viewed from Enfield Island Village

The source is usually said to be at Well Head inside Waulud's Bank
Waulud's Bank
at Leagrave, but there the River Lea
River Lea
is also fed by Houghton Brook, a stream that starts 2 miles (3.2 km) further west in Houghton Regis. The river flows through (or by) Luton, Harpenden, Welwyn Garden City, to Hertford
Hertford
where it changes from a small shallow river to a deep canal at Hertford
Hertford
Castle Weir, which then flows on to Ware, Stanstead Abbotts, Hoddesdon, Broxbourne, Cheshunt, Waltham Abbey, Enfield Lock, Ponders End, Edmonton, Chingford, Tottenham, Walthamstow, Upper Clapton, Leyton, Hackney Wick, Stratford, Bromley-by-Bow
Bromley-by-Bow
(past Fish Island), Poplar, Canning Town
Canning Town
and finally Leamouth
Leamouth
where it meets the River Thames
River Thames
(as Bow Creek). It forms the traditional boundary between the counties of Middlesex
Middlesex
and Essex, and was used for part of the Danelaw boundary. It also forms part of the boundary between Essex
Essex
and Hertfordshire.

A pedestrian suspension bridge spans the boating lake created where the widened river flows through Wardown Park
Wardown Park
in Luton.

For much of its distance the river runs within or as a boundary to the Lee Valley Park. Between Tottenham
Tottenham
and Hackney the Lea feeds Tottenham Marshes, Walthamstow
Walthamstow
Marshes and Hackney Marshes
Hackney Marshes
(the latter now drained). In their early days, Tottenham
Tottenham
Hotspur and Leyton
Leyton
Orient played their matches as football amateurs on the Marshes. South of Hackney Wick
Hackney Wick
the river's course is split, running almost completely in man made channels (originally created to power water mills, the Bow Back Rivers) flowing through an area that was once a thriving industrial zone. Inside Greater London
London
below Enfield Lock
Enfield Lock
the river forms the boundary with the former Royal Small Arms Factory, now known as Enfield Island Village, a housing development. Just downstream the river is joined by the River Lee
River Lee
Flood Relief Channel. The man-made, concrete-banked watercourse is known as the River Lee
River Lee
Diversion at this point as it passes to the east of a pair of reservoirs: the King George V Reservoir at Ponders End/ Chingford
Chingford
and William Girling Reservoir
William Girling Reservoir
at Edmonton known collectively as the Chingford
Chingford
Reservoirs; and to the west of the Banbury Reservoir at Walthamstow. At Tottenham
Tottenham
Hale there is a connected set of reservoirs; Lockwood Reservoir, High Maynard Reservoir, Low Maynard Reservoir, Walthamstow
Walthamstow
Reservoirs, East Warwick Reservoir and West Warwick Reservoir. It also passes the Three Mills, a restored tidal mill near Bow. River history[edit]

The River Lea
River Lea
at Amwell, home of the Amwell Magna Fishery, was fished by Izaak Walton
Izaak Walton
– author of The Compleat Angler

The river below Kings Weir

Rowing boats on the River Lea

Bow Creek (tidal) meets the Limehouse Cut
Limehouse Cut
(canal) with a view of London's Docklands

The river flows south from Tottenham
Tottenham
Lock. The large housing development to the west, Bream Close, is situated on a small island in the river, whilst in the distance the Gospel Oak to Barking Line crosses the river on a high bridge.

In the Roman era, Old Ford, as the name suggests, was the ancient, most downstream, crossing point of the River Lea. This was part of a pre-Roman route that followed the modern Oxford Street, Old Street, through Bethnal Green
Bethnal Green
to Old Ford
Old Ford
and thence across a causeway through the marshes, known as Wanstead
Wanstead
Slip (now in Leyton). The route then continued through Essex
Essex
to Colchester. At this time, the Lea was a wide, fast flowing river, and the tidal estuary stretched as far as Hackney Wick.[6] Evidence of a late Roman settlement at Old Ford, dating from the 4th and 5th centuries, has been found. Somewhere between 878 and 890 the Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum
Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum
was drawn up that amongst other things used the course of the Lea to define the border between the Danes and the English. In 894, a force of Danes sailed up the river to Hertford,[7] and in about 895 they built a fortified camp, in the higher reaches of the Lea, about 20 miles (32.2 km) north of London. Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great
saw an opportunity to defeat the Danes and ordered the lower reaches of the Lea drained, at Leamouth. This left the Danes' boats stranded, but also increased the flow of the river and caused the tidal head to move downriver to Old Ford. In 1110, Matilda, wife of Henry I, reputedly took a tumble at the ford, on her way to Barking Abbey
Barking Abbey
and ordered a distinctively bow-shaped, three-arched, bridge to be built over the River Lea
River Lea
(The like of which had not been seen before), at Bow. During the Middle Ages, Temple Mills, Abbey Mills, Old Ford
Old Ford
and Bow were the sites of water mills (mainly in ecclesiastic ownership) that supplied flour to the bakers of Stratforde-atte-Bow, and hence bread to the City. It was the channels created for these mills that caused the Bow Back Rivers to be cut through the former Roman stone causeway at Stratford (from which the name is derived). Improvements were made to the river from 1424, with tolls being levied to compensate the landowners, and in 1571, there were riots after the extension of the River was promoted in a private bill presented to the House of Commons. By 1577, the first lock was established at Waltham Abbey and the river began to be actively managed for navigation.[8] The New River was constructed in 1613 to take clean water to London, from the Lea and its catchment areas in Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire
and bypass the polluting industries that had developed in the Lea's downstream reaches.[9] The artificial channel further reduced the flow to the natural river and by 1767 locks were installed below Hertford
Hertford
Castle Weir on the canalised part of the Lea, now the Lee Navigation
Lee Navigation
with further locks and canalisation taking place during the succeeding centuries. In 1766, work also began on the Limehouse Cut
Limehouse Cut
to connect the river, at Bromley-by-Bow, with the Thames at Limehouse Basin.[9] The River Lea
River Lea
flows through the old brewing and malting centre of Ware, and consequently transport by water was for many years a significant industry based there. Barley was transported into Ware, and malt out via the river, in particular to London. Bargemen born in Ware were given the "freedom of the River Thames" — avoiding the requirement of paying lock dues — as a result of their transport of fresh water and food to London
London
during The Great Plague of 1665–66. A local legend says that dead bodies were brought out of London
London
at that time via the river for burying in Ware, but there is no evidence for this.[10] The Waterworks River, a part of the tidal Bow Back Rivers, has been widened by 8 metres (26 ft) and canalised to assist with construction of the Olympic Park for the 2012 Summer Olympics. In 2009, Three Mills
Three Mills
Lock was installed on the Prescott Channel
Prescott Channel
to maintain water levels on the Lea, within the park at a depth of 2 metres (7 ft). This allowed access by 350–tonnes barges to ensure that at least 50% of the material required for construction could be delivered, or removed, by water. (These figures are under review. It is stipulated that the governing body has re appraised these figures)[11] Alleged predator[edit] On 5 August 2005, a Canada goose
Canada goose
was pulled underwater very quickly, as observed by some boat trippers. Several cygnets have also mysteriously disappeared and it was suggested that the creature responsible was a large fish or caiman. The goose's attacker was speculated to have been a crocodile as a pike would probably not have been able to take such large prey; authorities however strenuously denied that there might be a crocodile in the river.[12] On 13 December 2011, a similar attack occurred when another Canada goose went "vertically down". Observed by two boat trippers on a section of the Old River Lea
Old River Lea
close to the 2012 Olympic Stadium, the 7 kilograms (15 lb) goose vanished "in the space of half a second". The observers did not see any sign of the creature. Again a pike or mink was suggested, in view of their predation upon ducks, although it was still argued that a goose would be much too large for such a fish. Yet again, British Waterways
British Waterways
stressed the absence of a crocodile. It was presumed that the creature was still at large, if it existed at all.[13] Other suggestions for the predator have been a snapping turtle or, more likely overall, a wels catfish (which are known to exist in small numbers in the Thames and its tributaries).[14] Narrative accounts[edit] The poem A Tale of Two Swannes is set along the River Lee. It was written by William Vallans and published in 1590.[15] The river also features in the early chapters of The Compleat Angler
The Compleat Angler
by Izaak Walton. A guide to walking along the river valley was written by Leigh Hatts,[16] and an account of a walk along the complete length of the river in 2009 was published as a blog by "Diamond Geezer".[17] In 2014, German writer Esther Kinsky published a novel, Am Fluß ("Along the River"),[18] based around her walks along the River Lea beginning at Horseshoe Point and ending at the river's mouth where it joins the Thames. In popular culture[edit] A documentary about the river was presented by Griff Rhys Jones
Griff Rhys Jones
and broadcast by the BBC
BBC
in 2009.[19] Two episodes of the 2008 television programme The Compleat Angler presented by Geoffrey Palmer and Rae Borras feature the river.[20] On November 20, 2015, Adele
Adele
released her album 25, including a song entitled River Lea
River Lea
whose lyrics refer to the river as a symbol of roots, history and change.[21] River Lea
River Lea
is a track on singer Nick Mulvey's EP Fever to the form released in 2014.[22] The River Lea
River Lea
features in the second series of the ITV crime drama Unforgotten, broadcast in January–February 2017 – the plot revolves around the discovery of a long-dead corpse in a suitcase which is fished out of the river. The precise location is not made clear but it appears to be in the north London
London
reaches of the Lea.[23] The poet Yang Lian - formerly an exile, now a resident - dedicated a book of poems to the Lee Valley.[24] Notable fisheries[edit]

Amwell Magna Fishery Carthagena Weir Dobbs Weir Fishers Green Kings Weir

See also[edit]

UK Waterways portal

Bow Back Rivers Lea Valley Lea Valley Walk List of rivers in England List of reservoirs and dams in the United Kingdom Locks and Weirs on the River Lea Lower Lea Valley Lee Navigation Tributaries of the River Thames Lea Valley Lines Walthamstow
Walthamstow
Pump House Museum

Tributaries[edit]

For a full list of tributaries, please expand the box entitled 'River Lea / Lee, England' at the bottom of this page.

References[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to River Lea.

^ "The New River Path" (PDF). Thames Water. Retrieved 27 June 2015.  ^ "EC1A 7BE — Water quality in your area". Thames Water. Retrieved 2012-03-03.  ^ J.E.B. Glover, Allen Mawer, F.M.Stenton (1938). The Place-Names of Hertfordshire. English Place-Name Society, vol. XV. Cambridge University Press. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) ^ Anthony David Mills (2001). Oxford Dictionary of London
London
Place Names. Oxford University Press. p. 133. ISBN 0-19-280106-6.  ^ Mills, A.D. (1991). The Popular Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Phaidon.  ^ Stepney, Bethnal Green
Bethnal Green
(1998). "Bethnal Green: Communications". A History of the County of Middlesex. 11: 88–90. Retrieved 15 November 2006.  ^ Hadfield, Charles (1968). The Canal
Canal
Age. Plymouth: Latimer Trend & Company. pp. 15, 19. ISBN 0-7153-8079-6.  ^ "William Vallans: A Tale of Two Swannes". spenserians.cath.vt.edu. Retrieved 2016-07-17.  ^ a b Enfield.gov.uk River Lee
River Lee
History ^ "Ware – The Story so Far – 3 of 3". Ware Online. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2010.  ^ Milestone 5 Archived 12 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine. demolish, dig, design January 2008 (The Olympic Delivery Authority) accessed 25 April 2008 ^ "Boat trip fuels 'river croc' tale". BBC. 5 August 2005. Retrieved 2011-12-27.  ^ "Goose-killer lurks in River Lea". BBC. 13 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-27.  ^ News report Retrieved 1 July 2012 ^ English Poetry 1579–1830, William Vallans:A Tale of Two Swannes. ^ L. Hatts, The Lea Valley Walk, Cicerone Press, 2nd edition, 2007, ISBN 978-1-85284-522-3. ^ Diamond Geezer, Walking the Lea Valley, with more photos on flickr. ^ Times Higher Education – Esther Kinsky book review Retrieved 29 May 2015 ^ BBC
BBC
One, Rivers with Griff Rhys Jones: The Lea, first broadcast 16 August 2009. ^ The Compleat Angler
The Compleat Angler
Retrieved 30 May 2013 ^ " Adele
Adele
– What she's singing about on 25" The Guardian, 19 November 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015. ^ "River Lea". Soundcloud.com. Retrieved 9 March 2016.  ^ Ben Travis (5 January 2017). "Unforgotten, Series 2: cast, locations and three other things to know as the ITV crime drama returns". Evening Standard. Retrieved 21 February 2017.  ^ Lian, Yang (2009). Lee Valley poems = Li he gu de shi. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books. ISBN 9781852248345. 

External links[edit]

Peter Marshall, The Lea Valley, photographs from 1980 to 2008 UK Urban Exploration Forums, River Lea
River Lea
through Luton, photographs of the underground culvert in March 2009 Wikipaddle: River Lea
River Lea
( Hertford
Hertford
Loop) at the Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine
(archived 28 July 2011), an article from a kayaking and canoeing perspective Trolling for Pike in the River Lee, 1831, by James Pollard
James Pollard
at Tate Britain Fly Fishing in the River Lee
River Lee
near the Ferry Boat Inn, 1831, by James Pollard at Tate Britain Love the Lea project

Next confluence upstream River Thames Next confluence downstream

River Ravensbourne
River Ravensbourne
(south) River Lea River Roding
River Roding
(north)

v t e

Locks and Weirs on the River Lea, England

Counties

Bedfordshire Hertfordshire Essex Greater London

Locks

Hertford
Hertford
Lock Ware Lock Hardmead Lock Stanstead Lock Feildes Weir
Feildes Weir
Lock Dobbs Weir
Dobbs Weir
Lock Carthagena Lock Aqueduct Lock Cheshunt
Cheshunt
Lock Waltham Common Lock Waltham Town Lock Rammey Marsh Lock Enfield Lock Ponder's End Lock Pickett's Lock Stonebridge Lock Tottenham
Tottenham
Lock Pond Lane Flood Gates Old Ford
Old Ford
Lock Bow Locks

Weirs

Horns Mill Weir Hertford
Hertford
Castle Weir Hartham Weir Ware Weir Feildes Weir Dobbs Weir Carthagena Weir Kings Weir Newmans Weir Middlesex
Middlesex
Filter Beds Weir

Hertford
Hertford
Union Canal (branch from Hackney Cut)

Hertford
Hertford
Union Bottom Lock No. 3 Hertford
Hertford
Union Middle Lock No. 2 Hertford
Hertford
Union Top Lock No. 1 Regent's Canal

Limehouse Cut (branch, at Bow Locks)

Bromley Stop Lock Britannia Stop Lock Limehouse Basin

Bow Back Rivers (branches of the Old River Lea)

Three Mills
Three Mills
Lock City Mill Lock Carpenter's Road Lock
Carpenter's Road Lock
(Under restoration, est. completion March 2017) Marshgate Lane Lock (defunct) Three Mills
Three Mills
Wall River Weir (These rivers form the waterways within the 2012 Olympic Park - they flow into Bow Creek)

v t e

River Lea
River Lea
/ Lee, England

Counties

Bedfordshire Essex Hertfordshire Greater London

Mouth

River Thames

Settlements

Leagrave Luton Harpenden Wheathampstead Welwyn Garden City Hertford Ware Stanstead Abbotts Hoddesdon Broxbourne Cheshunt Waltham Abbey Ponders End Edmonton Tottenham Upper Clapton Hackney Wick Stratford Bromley-by-Bow Canning Town Leamouth

Major tributaries

River Ash River Beane River Ching River Mimram River Moselle River Rib River Stort

Minor tributaries

Bayford Brook Broxbourne
Broxbourne
Mill Stream Cobbins Brook Coppermill Stream Cornmill Stream Cuffley Brook Dagenham Brook Hackney Brook Houghton Brook Knapps Brook Lewsey Brook Millhead Stream Pymmes Brook Rags Brook River Lynch Salmons Brook Small River Lea Spital Brook Theobalds Brook Turkey Brook Turnford Brook Woollens Brook

.