The River Lea at Lea Bridge has been the site of many tragic deaths. These may point to the inherent dangers of the river (at least before the construction of the Flood Relief Channel); or perhaps the confluence of an increasingly polluted river with increasingly drunken antics in the late nineteenth century.
The Spectator Vol. 13, 1840
'On Sunday evening two boats one containing ten boys and the other three yonng men a woman and a boy ran foul of one another on the river I ea about five hundred yards from the Lea bridge and both boats were upset The accident happened within three yards of the shore and though numbers of persons witnessed it only four out of the whole number were saved The rest were got out of the water by drags in a very short space of time and means to restore animation were resorted to but without effect Mr J Wicks the brother of the landlord of a public house near the spot instantly launched a skiff when he saw the boats upset and he states that he got seven of the party out of the water in three minutes j yet none of them were reanimated He says he has been acquainted with the Lea for the last thirty years and has seen many persons drowned in it but that he had never known any one who had been submerged in its waters even for a minute recover from the effects of such submersion All the five in the smaller boat which was the first to sink were drowned including the woman The four who escaped are boys two of them swam to shore and two were picked up by a barge that was passing Another boy who could swim had just reached the bank when he was seized by one of those who were struggling in the water and was dragged to the bottom The depth of the river where the accident happened is ten feet An inqnest on the bodies began on Tuesday and was adjourned till Wednesday when the Jury after deliberating three hours returned a verdict of Accidental death with a deodand of 20 on the small boat. The Jury also strongly urged on Mr Wicks and on the other proprietors of boats on the Lea to discontinue the use and letting of such small boats to inexperienced persons.'
The Spectator, 1840