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New River Company Filtration Works Hackney
   

New River Company Filtration Works

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The New River was constructed in the early C17th to bring fresh water into London from Hertfordshire, with 2 loops flowing through Stoke Newington. Following complaints about water flow and leakage, the New River Company leased land and constructed 2 new reservoirs in 1836. Filter Beds and a Pumping Station resembling a medieval castle were built to the west in 1856. In 1946 the Filtration Works ceased to be used, and the New River was terminated beyond this point. The Stoke Newington Reservoirs are preserved as a nature reserve (East Reservoir) and for recreational use (West Reservoir). The Pumping Station was converted into an indoor climbing centre. A Community Garden has been established by the East Reservoir.
   
Previous / Other name: New River Water Works; Stoke Newington Reservoirs; The Castle Climbing Centre
Site location: Green Lanes (near Allerton Road), Stoke Newington. East Reservoir: Newnton Close
Postcode: N4 2RH
Type of site: Private Open Land; Public Open Land
Date(s): 1829-56
Designer(s): Pumping Station: Robert Billings
Listed structures: LBII*: Engine House of MWB; ancillary building to north of Engine House. LBII: boundary wall and railings to former pumping station
Borough: Hackney
Site ownership: Thames Water. Reservoirs: Thames Water (East)/ LB Hackney (West)
Site management: The Castle Climbing Centre/London Wildlife Trust/LB Hackney and Greenwich Leisure Ltd
Open to public? Yes
Opening times: New River Path unrestricted. East Reservoir Garden Mon-Fri 9.30-5.30 (extended in summer).West Reservoir Centre:daily 9-5. Castle Mon-Sat 9-7pm
Special conditions: West Reservoir Centre: members. Castle Climbing Centre: users
Facilities: East Reservoir Community Garden: visitor centre, eco-classroom. West Reservoir: sailing, kayaking, café, toilets, car park. Castle: café
Events: Castle has opened for Open House. East Reservoir: various activities including growing wild food in community raised beds, bird watching, arts and craft workshops, landscape design and construction, wild walks and mini-beast hunts along nature trail. 2013: events to celebrate the New River's 400th anniversary (check website for details)
Public transport: Tube: Manor House (Piccadilly). Rail: Stoke Newington, Stamford Hill then bus. Bus: 106, 141, 253, 254, 259, 279, 341
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2013
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. East Reservoir: www.wildlondon.org.uk; West Reservoir: www.gll.org.

Fuller information:

Green Lanes has been in existence as a track from at least the C16th and by the 1860s villas had been built in this area of Stoke Newington, prior to which it was open countryside. The New River, which flowed through Stoke Newington to Finsbury, was an undertaking by Sir Hugh Myddelton, a member of the House of Commons Committee that was considering water shortage in London in the C17th. Myddelton's scheme to bring a water supply to serve the City from Amwell Springs 38 miles away in Hertfordshire to Islington was given approval and the New River was constructed between 1609 - 1613, with financial backing from James I. There were two loops through Stoke Newington, with a 'New Cut' created c.1724 to provide a shorter course, which ran to the east of where the two reservoirs were later constructed. In 1825, following complaints about the water flow through Stoke Newington and also leakage, the New River Company agreed to make improvements, leasing 50 acres of demesne land in 1831 for the construction of new reservoirs for both water storage and purification. By 1833 William Chadwell Mylne, Surveyor to the New River Company, had constructed the two reservoirs and, in 1856, following the Metropolitan Water Act of 1852, the Filter Beds and Pumping Station were built to the south of the west reservoir, the Company having acquired a further 14 acres of land from the Eade Estate in 1855.

The Pumping Station was set on an artificial mound as if within a moat, and its design echoes that of a French or Scottish medieval castle, perhaps to pacify local objections to the loss of their view. The design by Robert Billings may have been based on Stirling Castle, and his drawings for the building were exhibited at the Society of British Artists in 1856. The Pumping Station has parapets and three towers of different shapes, the tallest of which was the boilerhouse chimney; the square-topped tower housed the water tank; the 'keep' housed 2 steam engines, and the buttresses the fly wheels. Additions were made in ensuing years, including a new engine house in 1888 and in 1936 the Metropolitan Water Board, which had taken over the New River Company in 1904, made further alterations to the Pumping Station but in 1946 both pumping station and filter beds ceased to be used, and the New River was terminated beyond this point.

The Board purchased the freeholds of the Stoke Newington reservoirs from the Church Commissioners in 1958, and these are preserved as a nature reserve and for recreational use. The area surrounding the reservoirs and pumping station had ceased to be rural by the 1880s, with housing developed on all sides. At one time there were elaborate gardens located across Green Lanes, now built over with a housing estate, although the C19th brick boundary wall, iron railings and piers to Green Lanes remain. The East and West Reservoirs are divided by Lordship Lane and are visible from the New River Path, a publicly accessible path that runs along the northerly boundary of both reservoirs, from Bethune Road in the east to Green Lanes in the west.

In 1971 the Metropolitan Water Board's proposal to demolish the Pumping Station was met with vigorous local protest and the building was listed in 1974 and saved. Another threat of demolition arose in 1988 when the water industries were being privatised and associated land was being disposed of, but the pumping station was again saved, although the Filter Beds were emptied in 1990 and the site developed for housing. In 1994 planning permission was given to redevelop the Pumping Station and it was converted into an indoor climbing centre in 1995 by architect Nicholas Grimshaw. It is now used as The Castle Climbing Centre. The grounds surrounding the building remain as a grassed mound, and have notable horse chestnut trees. Shrub beds have been planted adjacent to the building and to the rear is a garden where many of the vegetables, fruits, salads and herbs served in the Climbing Centre Café are grown.

The East Reservoir was designated a local nature reserve with New River Path and is managed by The London Wildlife Trust. The Trust has created a new community garden between the New River and East Reservoir, which has a fully equipped eco-classroom with a living roof, and provides a base for school visits and a variety of community projects. Near the garden is an old oak tree, with tree house bird hide, and there are varied wildlife habitats, a pond and river, mini-nature trails, vegetable patches and living willow structures.

The West Reservoir is now the used by Stoke Newington West Reservoir Centre as a water sports and environmental education centre, funded by Sport England Lottery, and run for LB Hackney by Greenwich Leisure Ltd with facilities for sailing and kayaking.

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the New River, London Wildlife Trust has teamed up Thames Water to run a series of walks and events to enable people to learn more about the wildlife as well as the history of the New River.

Sources consulted:

John Wittich 'London Villages', (Shire Publications) 3rd ed. 1987; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); David Mander, 'Look Back Look Forwards! An illustrated history of Stoke Newington' (Sutton Publishing) 1997; 'Stoke Newington Pumping Station, London N16, Analysis of a Building' on Castle website.
Grid ref: TQ323869/TQ328877
Size in hectares:
   
On EH National Register : No
EH grade :
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
No
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
No
 
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
On Local List:
In Conservation Area: Yes
Conservation Area name: Stoke Newington Reservoirs, Filter Beds & New River
Tree Preservation Order: No
Nature Conservation Area: Yes (Reservoirs) - Metropolitan Importance
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: Yes
Special Policy Area: No
Other LA designation: Open Space (E & W Reservoirs, New River Path);Green Link;E Reservoir: Local Nature Reserve;New River:Green Corridor
   

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