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The Lea Bridge Turnpike Road Act of 1757 provided for a bridge at Jeremy's Ferry, with tolls to improve the approach road both in Clapton (Mill Field Lane) and in Essex.[1] The track from Hemstall Green to the Lea (Lea Bridge Road) was restored having fallen into disuse. Jeremy’s Ferry was closed and the ford destroyed [2] and the Lord of the Manor of Hackney, Francis John Tyssen, was to be paid £150 per annum in recompense. Two houses were protected from possible damage or purchase - they were on each side of the Clapton entrance to the new road and belonged to Jeremy Marlow and John Lidderdale.

To protect owners living in Hackney, the 1757 Lea Bridge Turnpike Act exempted from tolls their carts driven across the bridge to collect hay from Leyton, and their horses and cattle driven across to pasture.[3]

In 1757, a third turnpike trust, for Lea Bridge and its new road, was set up. It was the only tollhouse which stood on the west side of the river.[4] [5]

The Ferry House Inn is described as ancient in 1757. Probably dating from the collapse of Lockbridge about 1612-30 and the subsequent opening of Jeremy’s Ferry, it was later known as the Horse and Groom, and demolished in the 1850s, when the filter beds were built.


Clapton tollgate erected at the junction of Upper Clapton and Lea Bridge roads, probably on the opening of Lea Bridge Road.


Francis Wragg began a horse drawn coach service from Walthamstow for gentlemen with daily business in the city along the newly opened turnpike.[6]


In 1760, a group of business men set up a Waterworks at Hackney, on the west bank of the Lea just below the newly erected Lea Bridge. These works included a new cut alongside the navigable channel over which were erected mills designed to raise water and grind corn, a water tower to drive water through underground wooden pipes to a reservoir at Clapton (probably Clapton Pond) from whence it was distributed to customers, and a lock in the navigable channel. This lock was a pound lock across the eastern half of the river and a single pair of gates across the western half.[7] (Wooden water pipe(s) of unknown date were found in 1909 in the vicinity of Rushmore Road/ Mayola Road.[8])

Abraham Ogier and other lessees of the Tyssens' corn mill at Lea Bridge increased the Waterwheel's power by making a weir which, in 1766, pumped water for Hackney.


Hackney Waterworks and Tidal Pound Lock (tidal) built 1761 at Lea Bridge - the Lea’s third pound lock. The lock soon attracted criticism from bargemen who thought it harmed the navigation. Disputes ensued, the Lee Navigation Trust’s trustees threatened to pull the lock down, the owners of the waterworks sought parliamentary sanction, but in 1762 an amicable settlement was reached. The Trustees leased the lock and appointed their own lock-keeper to supervise its use. The Trustees agreed ‘to appoint a proper person to open and shut the Lock or Cistern and floodgate standing on the River near Hackney’.[9]


The Trustees consulted John Smeaton (1724-1792), engineer of the Eddystone Lighthouse (1759), in August 1765 and July 1766. With the help from fellow civil engineer Thomas Yeoman, they reported in September 1766, proposing to convert the 50km Hertford-to-Greenwich stretch of river, with a fall of 33.8m, into the 45km long River Lee Navigation. Smeaton’s assistant engineer was Edward Rubie from 1769-71.


On 30 September 1766, Smeaton's report was laid before the Trustees. A thousand copies were printed. The River Lea Act of 1766 authorised extensive improvement works and the construction of locks, new sections, and the Limehouse Cut. The Act of Parliament[10] for "improving the navigation of the Lee from Hertford to the Thames, and for extending the navigation to the floodgates belonging to the Town mill of Hertford" was passed in 1767.[11] One of fifteen cuts defined by the Act was to be dug from between Lee Bridge and the buildings belonging to Hackney waterworks but was not to be nearer than ten yards to the buildings; it was then to pass through part of Hackney marsh and back into the Lee between Pudding Mill stream and Hackney Brook on the east side of Jones' calico grounds at Old Ford. The Act gave the power to charge a toll at Lea Bridge Lock of 4d per charldron ‘for coals culm or cinders’ and 3d per tom for other goods.

Smeaton noted that the pound lock at Lea Bridge was only ‘occasionally used', and he forcibly rejected its retention, `I also entirely reject the new cistern lock at Hackney as part of my scheme, as neither its floor nor the river below is deep enough for navigation, without flashes there, as at present'. The tide could still come as far up river as Hackney at this date. [12]

The Act of 1767 noted that the Hackney Pound Lock 'hath been found by experience to be of very great service and advantage to the Navigation'. This Act authorised a new cut from just below the Waterworks (at Lea Bridge) to Old Ford.

The River Lee trustees made the straighter Hackney cut or New cut farther west under an Act of 1767[13], from Lea Bridge through the marsh and passing east of Hackney Wick.[14]


Lea Bridge Waterworks (re) founded.


At a meeting on 13th January 1768, the Navigation Trustees approved that Jeremiah Illsley of Hackney, Brickmaker, should dig ‘a navigable Cut from the River Lee near Hackney Waterworks into the same river near Old Ford’ for ‘threepence a yard’.[15]


When the Hackney Cut was opened in August 1769, the Hackney Brick Cistern Lock (at Cow Lane), possibly also referred to as the Waterworks Lock, was replaced by a pound lock, which stood at the head of the Cut.

Around this time, the Lea Bridge turnpike improved accessibility to the City and the district became fashionable with merchants and bankers.[16]

Rocque map shows Millfields Lane aligned with Lea Bridge Road, Marsh Lane, and Jeremy’s Ferry. The Lea Bridge road to the east is shown as a dotted line, possibly indicating a lower order path whilst the tracks to Leyton and Walthamstow are indicated by continuous lines suggesting a higher order.

The Hackney Cut had been built across Hackney Marshes to avoid a two miles (3.2 km) meander of the natural river course; clean water was now abstracted from the natural channel to a new reservoir at Old Ford.[17]


A permanent bridge at Lea Bridge, presumably preceded by a temporary one, was built only in 1772, of timber.[18] [19]

Navigation Trustees resolve that “A lock house be built at Lee Bridge for £49”. This is the ‘Lea Bridge half lock’ and the adjacent cottage.[20]


[1] A History of the County of Middlesex Volume 10: Hackney: Communications, pp. 4-10, Fn 91.  T.F.T. Baker (Editor). 1995

[2] A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6: Leyton: Introduction, pp. 174-184, W.R.Powell (Editor). 1973

[3] The Road to Jeremy’s Ferry. Oral history of “Leyton Gateway” Lea Bridge Road. Norma Crooks. 2003

[4] A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney: Communications, pp. 4-10. Fn 52.  T.F.T. Baker (Editor). 1995

[5] Lea Bridge Turnpike and the Wragg Stage Coaches. Walthamstow Antiq. Soc. W.G.S. Tonkin, 1974

[6] Lea Bridge Turnpike and the Wragg Stage Coaches. W. G. S. Tonkin, Walthamstow Antiq. Soc. 1974

[7] Navigation Devices along the River Lea, 1600-1767. Dr. Keith Fairclough

[8] GLSMR entry (MLO327)

[9] Minute Books of both the River Lee Trust (1739 - 1868) and the Lee Conservancy Board (1868-1948), held at the National Archives at Kew. Taken from Lee and Stort web site (www.leeandstort.co.uk/index.htm). (NA Rail 845/2)

[10] 7 Geo.II c51

[11] [11] The Navigation Of The River Lee (1190 – 1790). Occasional Paper New Series No. 36. J.G.L.Burnby and M.Parker. Edmonton Hundred Historical Society. 1978

[12] G.L.R.O. Acc 2558/NRI 3/188, Robert Mylne's Commonplace Book. part, questions put to Smeaton by Mylne when former was a parliamentary witness in favour of the canalisation scheme in 1767

[13] A History of the County of Middlesex Volume 10: Hackney: Communications, pp. 4-10, Fn 64.  T.F.T. Baker (Editor). 1995

[14] A History of the County of Middlesex Volume 10: Hackney: Communications, pp. 4-10, Fn 65.  T.F.T. Baker (Editor). 1995

[15] NA Rail  845/4

[16] Chambers London Gazetteer

[17]East London Waterworks Company, Brief history during the Snow era, 1813 - 1858. UCLA Epidemiology, accessed October 1 2007 (Wikipedia)

[18] Lea Bridge Turnpike and the Wragg Stage Coaches. W.G.S. Tonkin. Walthamstow Antiq. Soc. 1974

[19] A History of the County of Middlesex Volume 10: Hackney: Communications, pp. 4-10, Fn 92.  T.F.T. Baker (Editor). 1995

[20] NA Rail 845/4

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