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Black Path

Black path

The Black Path through South Millfields c.1905 (Hackney Archives)

The Black Path is a historic diagonal path which dissects north east London from Columbia Road Flower Market to Walthamstow.

The route has both historic and modern purposes.It was probably used to drive cattle, sheep and poultry to the meat market at Smithfield and carry produce to be sold at Spitalfields market.It is reputedly the pilgrimage route from London to Waltham Abbey and possibly further to Walsingham.

Both Margaret Audley (in 1616) and David Doulben (in 1633) left money in their wills for the upkeep of the route. (1)

The route became known as the Market Hauliers (or Porters) Route, along which were pulled barrows and carts bringing produce from the fields to the London markets.

Today, the path is a strategic walking and cycle route connecting together a string of open spaces.

The route is not axial and has been distorted and divereted over time.Historic maps indicate the path once split into three after crossing the Lea at Lea Bridge.

The route is not indicated in a plan of 1742 or the 1747 maps of the Leyton and Walthamstow Levels. It is shown in John Coe's map of 1822, which coincides with the opening of the new Lea Bridge of iron in 1819-22, although the first bridge of wood of 1748 may also mark the elevation of the route's importance.

The origin of the name Black Path is difficult to decipher.A bridge over theBlackmarsh or Shortlands Sewerwas known as Blackbridge, part of a chain of bridges across the valley forming Monoux's Causeway. An area north east of Lea Bridge was once known as 'Black Marsh'.The route crossed a field called 'Black Breeches' in 1822.

The name may however be of more recent origin and refer to the clinker and ash surface of the route; a byproduct of the Hackney Waster Destructor.

A tramway ran parallel with the route from Low Hall Farm Sewage Works to a junction with the main railway at Lea Bridge, remnants of which can still be seen today.


(1)Tudor Hackney. National Archives.

leabridge.org.uk December 2012