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Middlesex Filter Beds

Sluice winding mechanism



Thames Water, leased to Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA)

Date or period

Mainly building phases from 1760–1856.

Current Designation

Archaeological Priority Area

Group Value

Group value with the Essex Waterworks, Bridge weir, Hackney Cut.



Boundary wall and entrance gate pier


Cast iron hopper

Middlesex Filter Beds

This is the site of much earlier reservoirs,possibly as early as the fifteenth century. Tyssen’s mill was constructed here in 1707-1723, partly to supply drinking water to Hackney. This was followed by the foundation of the 'Hackney Waterworks' in about 1760, associated with water supply and treatment and with milling grains and needles. The construction of the Hackney Cut in 1766 established the western boundary of the site.

Early plan for the new reservoirs c.1828 (Hackney Archives)

The East London Waterworks Company acquired and remodelled the site from 1829 in order to draw water from Lea Bridge and channel it to the main Waterworks at Old Ford, to the south.The south-east corner, adjacent to the River Lea, may contain the archaeologicalremains of the original water intake of 1829-32 designed byOvid Topham.The surviving boundary wall and entrance gates may relate to this early phase of development by the Company.

The filter beds and central well-head visible today were first constructed in around 1856 as 'settling reservoirs'. The beds were later remodelled to incorporate advances in filter bed technologyin about 1886.

The filter beds were first served by water wheels (turbines) and later by theVictoria engine. The north-east corner contained theTurbine Houseof 1832. The entrance to the original mill race is still visible (possibly rebuilt) next to the currentLea Bridge Weir.

The engine houses have beendemolished down to floor level with some of the stones incorporated into a ‘henge’ sculpture nearby.

The fate of the Waterworks bridge over the aqueduct on the southern edge of the works is not known. The abutments of a former bridge across the Lea to the Essex waterbeds survive.

There are references to a tunnel beneath the Lea, linking the filter beds.

Renowned civil engineering contractor William Hoof constructed or reconstructed reservoirs at Lea Bridge from 1827-34. These are probably the easternmost of the Middlesex reservoirs; only later converted to filter beds.

Future Conservation

Consider incorporating into a Conservation Area.


Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland edited by A. W. Skempton.

leabridge.org.uk December 2012