Lea Bridge is located at the geographic and political edge of many things. It:
- is at the periphery and straddles the boundaries of the London Boroughs of Hackney and Waltham Forest;
- marks the crossing of the River Lea (historically also sometimes referred to as the River ‘Lee’) and the Walthamstow and Leyton Marshes;
- is separated from the wider Clapton area by Millfields (once known as the Mill Fields) and marks the boundary of Upper and Lower Clapton; and
- is the approximate boundary of the Upper and Lower Lea Valley and is at the fringe of the Olympic development area and the periphery of the ‘legacy’ planning for the wider area.
These many boundaries and edges are further reinforced by more subtle boundaries: Parliamentary constituencies; local authority ward boundaries; school catchment areas; primary care practice areas, etc.
Different parts of Lea Bridge are often absorbed or co-opted into plans for surrounding areas, but only parts such as the Lea Bridge gateway for the Olympic legacy, plans for Chatsworth Road’s regeneration, Clapton Pond, etc.
The Editors of this website believe that the cumulative effect of all of this is to make Lea Bridge a lower priority in plans for other areas and to precipitate the further fragmentation of a coherent urban area with distinct urban characteristics, a unique history and heritage, and with its own priorities.
This perceived fragmentation has influenced recent decision making, particularly in relation to heritage issues. Insufficient regard appears to have has been paid to the unique history and heritage of the Lea Bridge area.
The Editors, therefore, propose that Lea Bridge should be considered comprehensively, not as a coincidence of boundaries or the peripheral fragment of a larger whole.
We propose that all of the boundaries and urban edges are ignored and that the area should be considered from its centre looking outwards: ‘the view from the Lea Bridge’. This appears to us to be the correct focus of any heritage assessment because the evidence points to the fact that the crossings of the Lea at this point (by ford, bridge and ferry) preceded, and then led on to, the later development of the area.
Previous documentary sources approached the history of the area from other perspectives: geographical (such as Essex, Middlesex, Clapton, Lower Clapton, Hackney, Leyton and Low Leyton or Walthamstow) and thematic (such as the navigation, the Waterworks or the Lea Bridge Road). We believe that this may have distorted the historical narrative of the area and led to a lower prioritisation than the evidence supports.