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Engineers House, Lea Bridge Waterworks

Waterworks Main Building: 'The Engineers House'

Architectural Merit

Details

Ownership

Clancy Dowcra.

Date or period

The building probably dates from approximately 1853-1890.

Current Designation

Archaeological Priority Zone. Locally Listed Building.

Group Value

The Headquarters, the Octagonal Sluice building and the engine houses have strong group value, illustrating the organic growth of the water supply and treatment industry in this area. Furthermore, they are constructed of a similar palette of materials and form a defined frontage along Lea Bridge Road and to the River Lea. As well as the architectural relationship between the buildings, there is also an historic functional relationship and from an important historic group.

Condition

The building is in generally good condition but a part of the roof has been removed or possibly a skylight has collapsed, apparently allowing water ingress.

The physical relationship of the building with the River Lea, the weir and also the Lea Bridge Road has been maintained, but the adjacent filter beds appeared to have been covered over.

Archaeological Significance

The buildings occupy a site of potential archaeological interest within an area of archaeological constraint. The building is sited at the point of termination of the ‘Walthamstow Slip’, the Horse and Groom Public House and a possible ford.

Lea Bridge is a site of water supply possibly since Tudor times and certainly since the 1770s. Whilst this is mostly of archaeological value, the remnants, in the form of the river, tributaries and the wider landscape, remain.

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The East London Company’s Engineers Building was designed by G.E. Holman, supervised by Chief Engineer, W.B. Bryan, and built by Kirk & Randall. The building exhibits a strong civic/municipal presence combined with the domestic quality of an English country house. The design is in a picturesque style associated with the architect Richard Norman Shaw who used vernacular materials likehalf timberand hanging tiles, with projectinggablesand tall massivechimneys and with parallel to theArts and Crafts movement. The style is sometimes referred to as "Queen Anne style". The first floor galleried bay windows on the east elevation appear to express an important room, possibly a boardroom, orientated to obtain a commanding view of the engines sheds, boiler houses and filter beds the east.

The building is locally listed by Waltham Forest.

The physical relationship of the building with the river Lea, the weir and also the Lea Bridge Road has been maintained, but the adjacent filter beds appeared to have been covered over. The building is associated in terms of orientation and location with the adjoining engine houses and the former filter beds. It is considered that the buildings may merit listing for group value alone. After further research, consider national listing.

The building exhibits a strong civic/municipal presence combined with the domestic quality of an English country house.

The building is clearly designed to be read from the adjacent Lea Bridge Road and also from the river.

The design is in a picturesque style associated with the architect Richard Norman Shaw who used vernacular materials like half timberand hanging tiles, with projectinggablesand tall massive chimneys. The style is sometimes referred to as ‘Queen Anne style’, and with parallels to theArts and Crafts movement.

The first floor galleried bay windows on the east elevation appear to express an important room, possibly a boardroom, orientated to obtain a commanding view of the filter beds which would once lay to the east.

The railings to the front present a curious puzzle. They are of iron with a very robust design. It is possible that the railings remain, either in place or repositioned, from the Lea Bridge of 1802. They have certainly been altered, apparently to connect into the bridge of 1990. The railings do not appear to ‘belong’ to the waterworks. A photograph of 1890 shows the 1802 bridge with apparent iron open railings and open stanchion posts.

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The building is a rare survival. There are no known artefacts from the Old Ford works surviving. The buildings of the earlier works at Lea Bridge, principally the watermill and the pumping house, are now demolished down to their footings. It is important historically that the story of east London’s water supply is remembered because it has its own distinct narrative which prefigures later schemes.

The Waterworks also have a part to play in the story of opposition to the enclosure of the ‘Hackney commons’ and the defence of the ‘lammas lands’.

There are three or four listed buildings which bear comparison:

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  • Chingford Mill Pumping Station Lower Hall Lane (Grade II) - Pumping station built 1895 for East London Waterworks.
  • New River Head Headquarters 173-177, Islington of 1915-20 by Austen Hall for the MetropolitanWater Board.
  • Kew Bridge Waterworks (TQ 1877 787/18/10064)
  • Buffet and Central Offices (Dock Managers Office) at Royal Albert Dock 1883 Vigers and Wagstaffein the manner of Norman Shaw.
  • Former Coppermills, now Water Board stores. 1806 Listing NGR: TQ350808829.

Historical Association

The building serves as important reminders of the development of waterworks at Lea Bridge and along the Lea Valley from Tudor times to the present day.

The building is associated with the sequential development of water supply and treatment at Lea Bridge, particularly with the most extensive episode approximately 1850-1885 and related to the work off Charles Greaves Engineer to the East London Waterworks from 1851-7I.

The site is associated with the response to the Cholera epidemics of the 1850s and 1870s and marks the point at which parliament asserted control over the private water companies from around 1852.

Future Conservation

The building is associated in terms of orientation and location with the adjoining engine houses and the former filter beds. After further research, consider national listing.

It is considered that the buildings may merit listing for group value alone.

The planning authority should consider serving a Building Preservation Notice (BPN).

Consider Conservation Area designation.


View Lea Bridge Heritage in a larger map


leabridge.org.uk December 2012
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