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Floods & flood prevention

This marker, which can be seen beside the towpath between Springfield Park and Markfield Park, shows the maximum height of the catastrophic floods of 1947.

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Lea Bridge Road flooded in 1947

Hansard, 27 March 1947

Lea Bridge Waterworks (Flooding)

 Mr. Sorensen; asked the Minister of Health if he will state the damage by floods at the Lea Bridge waterworks; what steps were taken to deal with the danger of a contaminated water supply; how many were affected and for how long; and whether danger to health has now been removed and the normal water supply entirely restored.

Mr. J. Edwards: The whole works were out of action. Water supplied from other sources or carted was treated, and the public was advised by broadcasts and other means to boil it before use. The population affected was approximately 1¼ million, but piped supplies were made available within a short time for all but 350,000 of these. A piped supply is now being provided to nearly all the houses in the area, but consumers are advised as  a precautionary measure to boil water used for cooking and drinking until further notice. Thanks are due to all those who gave such speedy and effective help.

Mr. Sorensen: Is the Minister aware that the tanks which took water out sometimes carried water which was fit for drinking purposes, and sometimes it was quite otherwise, and that should be cleared up? Further, have precautions been taken to see that if abnormal flooding recurs it does not again affect the filtering of the water?

Mr. Edwards: I was not aware of the first point, but I will look into it. I think we shall learn such lessons as we can from our experience in this matter.

Mr. Bossom: Can the Minister state whether he has consulted with the Minister of Fuel and Power to see whether additional fuel can be given?

 Mr. Charles Williams: How can they boil water without fuel and electricity?

HC Deb 27 March 1947 vol 435 cc1372-3 

The River Lea drains a catchment of approximately 1400km² and includes much of North London, and parts of Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

A history of flooding

Severe flooding may account for the fact that so little built fabric remains that points to the long history of the Lea Bridge area.

Bridges, watermills, residential neighbourhoods, farms and public houses and works have all been built, but then abandoned and demolished.

The history of the East London Company works at Lea Bridge records a continuing susceptibility to flooding. Floods struck the area in 1877, when it was reported that: ‘the lands lining the river bank are for many miles on both sides quite submerged and many of the cottages and fishing houses are from two to four feet deep in water. In some circumstances the inhabitants are living in the upper storeys: The necessities of life being conveyed to them by boat’.

The works were threatened again in 1903, but the threat receded.

Pathe newsreel of flooding at Middlesex Wharf between 1910 and 1919.

The works were eventually inundated in 1947, the first time in their history, followed again by flooding the following year.

The City of London holds a copyrighted photograph of flooding on the Lea Bridge Road in 1947 (opens a new page).

Early flood prevention

The London County Council undertook flood prevention, straightening some of the bends in the River by introducing four 'cuts', the old channels being retained to form islands. These are now the Springfield Marina; the island adjacent to King's Head Bridge; 'the Friends' (where the island is now lost); and the White House bridge (where the island is also lost).

In 1938, the Lea Conservancy Catchment Board developed a plan to alleviate flooding in the Lea Valley.

1947 Floods

The floods of March 1947, that affected nearly all the main rivers of the south of England, caused the greatest flood event in the Lea since records began 100 years earlier. The floods were caused by snowmelt, followed by rainfall and were unique in their volume and persistence.

The floods of 1947-8 revived interest in a Lee Conservancy Catchment Board pre-war flood protection scheme, including a flood relief channel.

In 1950, work began on the construction of the new channel from Tottenham to below Lea Bridge and was completed in 1960.

A curtain flood wall was constructed around the Lea Bridge works that stands today. At each entrance gate there are slots into which planks could be inserted to seal the works in case of flooding.

Sources

Hackney Public Services A History of the County of Middlesex Volume 10. Hackney pp.108-15 (http://www.british-history.ac.uk)

A History of the County of Essex: Problems of Public Administration

Environmental Statement Annexe Flood Risk Assessment Olympic, Paralympic & Legacy Transformation Planning Applications February 2007

© leabridge.org.uk December 2012
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