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Regatta at Spring Hill (Hackney Achives)


In the 1860s, rowing was at its most popular, when Spring Hill was 'the Henley of the Lea'; at the August regatta in 1869 tradesmen raced from Willow point for money prizes and amateurs, including Hackney rowing club, for trophies. Processions of boats marked the opening and close of the season. Many clubs were short-lived: at least 22 with boathouses in Hackney were defunct in 1899, although a few had changed names and were among the 39 active clubs, 20 of them amateur and 19 of them tradesmen's. Most were affiliated to the Amateur Rowing Association of 1879 or the Tradesmen's Rowing Club Association of 1882, or to branches which had been formed for the Lea. Nine clubs used V. Radley's boatyard in Waterworks Road at Lea bridge, 22, including Clapton ladies' boating club, were nearby at Middlesex wharf, 13 of them using C. Meggs's yard, and 8 used Verdon's at Spring Hill.[1]


Decision by the Trustees to remove Hackney Brick Cistern Lock. A minute of 21 March 1861 records (the chamber’s) imminent removal. Later that year the navigation was dredged back to Pond Lane and the brickwork of the chamber was finally removed in March 1864.[2]


All the commissioners' roads, with part of Lea Bridge Road, were transferred to Hackney Board of Works.[3]

Saint James Clapton was a chapel of Saint John at Hackney until September 1863, when it was assigned a district.


Clapton toll gate 1820 (Hackney Archives)


From 1st July 1864, following the Metropolis Roads Amendment Act 1863 tollgates were removed from most roads, with administration passing to the incorporated vestries and district boards. However, the commissioners retained control of arterial roads outside the area of the Metropolitan Board of Works (established by the Metropolis Management Act 1855) including the Lea Bridge Road from the Hackney boundary to Snaresbrook (the Sixteenth District).[4]


Survey plan of the Schoolhouse indicates ‘infants school’.

Mr J. Fraser of Lea Bridge Road Nurseries wins first prize in the miscellaneous stove and greenhouse plants section of the First Great Show of 10th June 1865 including a very fine phaenocoma prolifera - ‘the most beautiful specimen of the kind exhibited for some years’.[5]


A brickfield leased with a wharf at Lea dock, north-west of Lea bridge, to James and Alfred Stroud in 1865 was the only one marked in 1883; probably it had gone by1901.[6] 


The Church of St. Peter, Aldborough Road (in Leyton, Hainaul Forest) was designed by Arthur Ashpitel in a 13th Century style, and was built with stone which had previously formed part of Westminster Bridge.[7] Ashpitel’s father, W.H. Ashpitel, was apprenticed to the engineer who designed the bridge which had been demolished. (CHECK engineers name and reference)


Charges that a severe outbreak of cholera in East London in 1866 was attributable to the company's water led to a Government inquiry. The charges were not substantiated.[8]

Under the Metropolitan Commons Act, 1866, the district board organized a petition for the enclosure of nearly 180 acres of Hackney’s commons and Lammas lands (preserved from 19th-century) collectively described as Hackney commons. These included North and South Mill fields (57½ acres),[9] although most were useful, rather than ornamental.

Old Ford site of the East London Waterworks was forced to close after an outbreak of cholera. This is presumably when Joseph Theakston’s water god statue is moved to the Old Water Wheel House at Lea Bridge Works.[10] The East London Waterworks site was then occupied by the L.M.S. Railway, Bow Goods Depot.[11]

Description of East London Waterworks at Lea Bridge: ‘In 1866 there was an estimated intake of 19 million gallons per day supplying between 471,109 and 700,000 homes (the engineers of the company gave the higher estimate). 13 filter beds at lea bridge covering an area of 12 acres. The beds were on either side of the lea connected by pipes beneath the river bed. The larger and newer engine at Lea Bridge has a 100in. cylinder and 11ft. stroke. With 250 horse power the engine alone cost 14,000l with the total cost of the engine house and chimneys etc. coming to 23-24,000l.’[12]

On 2nd August 1866, Charles Greaves, wrote to The Times to refute the suggestion that contaminated water had been allowed to enter the drinking water supply: ‘not a drop of unfiltered water has for several years past been supplied by the company for any purpose. It was the failure of the East London water company to protect its water supply, combined with the fact that its directors attempted to conceal its failure, which finally convinced Farr the campaigner of the critical role of polluted water in the propagation of cholera.[13]

A Captain Tyler, who was appointed to report upon the matter, questioned the Company's employees and discovered that on three occasions, in March, June and July 1866, a 24-year-old carpenter had admitted water to the Company's closed reservoir (from which drinking water was drawn) from an old, uncovered reservoir which was vulnerable to contamination, in breach of the 1851 and 1852 Metropolis Water Acts.

Tyler wrote ‘a case of grave suspicion exists against the water supplied by the East London Company from Old Ford’. He estimated that 4,363 deaths had occurred between 1 July and 1 September, of which 3,797 had occurred in areas supplied only by the East London Company, and a further 264 in an area it shared with the New River Company. Thus, 93% of deaths occurred in areas supplied wholly or in part by the East London Company.[14]


Two more filter beds, on the Essex bank, were built under an Act of 1867.[15]


Charles Greaves appeared before a Parliamentary committee, on behalf of the East London Waterworks Company, where he was appointed engineer in the latter part of 1851. He confirmed that in 1829 he was authorised to take the water above the tidal influence of the Thames above Lea Bridge, ‘it having become objectionable to continue deriving the supply from the river during its tidal flow, a movement was made to take the water from the river above the tidal flow, and Lea Bridge was the part chosen, and power was acquired to take the water from there’. Compensation reservoirs were made for the benefit of the millers to provide certain compensation reservoirs for the mill interests below Lea Bridge.

An open aqueduct was made from the river, near Lea Bridge, to the reservoirs at Old Ford under the Act of 1829, in the neighbourhood of Lea Bridge Mills. From 1829 until 1852, water was taken, from the ‘Lea Bridge Mill-tail’. ‘In the year 1850 a change in the rights grew up, by which the company were enabled to take their water above Lea Bridge Mills, but that privilege was only partially exercised, as new works were designed for taking it at a considerable distance above’.[16]


The Lea Conservancy Act 1868 placed the navigation in the hands of a new Lee Conservancy Board and replacing the Trustees of the Lea Navigation.[17]


Arthur Ashpitel dies.


Specialist clubs abounded in the late 19th Century. Some served only one district, such as Lea Bridge amateur horticultural society in 1869.[18]


[1] A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10:  Hackney: Social and Cultural Activities, pp. 65-73. 1995

[2] 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 845/15 and NA Rail 845/15)

[3] A History of the County of Middlesex Volume 10: Hackney: Communications, pp. 4-10, Fn 55.  T.F.T. Baker (Editor). 1995

[4] Metropolitan Turnpike Trust (Wikipedia)

[5] Proceedings of the Royal Horticultural Society Volume January 1 to December 31 1865. Page 131

[6] A History of the County of Middlesex, Volume 10: Hackney: Economic History, pp. 92-101. Fn. 93 1995

[7] A History of the County of Essex: Volume 5: The Borough of Ilford, pp 249-266, Fn 173. W.R. Powell (Editor). 1966

[8] A History of the County of Essex: Volume 5: Local Administration and Public Services: Utility Services, pp. 37-47, Fn 6. W.R. Powell (Editor). 1966

[9] A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney: Public services, pp. 108-115, Fn 59. T.F.T. Baker (Editor) 1995

[10] Public Monument and Sculpture Association National Recording Project

[11] Official Guide to the Metropolitan Borough of Poplar. Issued by Authority of the Poplar Borough Council Published by Ed. J. Burrow & Co.Ltd., Cheltenham. 1927

[12] The Waterworks of London. Zerah Colburn and William H Maw (pre-printed form ‘Engineering’). 1868 (Google books)

[13] The Times, 2 August 1866:10.

[14] Narrative of proceedings of the General Register Office during the Cholera Epidemic of 1866. Parliamentary Papers, 1867: vol.58, pp. 14-15.

[15] A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney: Public services, pp. 108-115, Fn 85. T.F.T. Baker (Editor) 1995

[16] House of Commons. East London Water Bills, &C.;Session 5 February-21 August 1867- Reports From Committees: 1867. 

[17] National Archives London Metropolitan Archives ACC/2424

[18] A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney: Social and Cultural Activities, pp. 65-73. 1995

Recollections, comments, contributions and corrections

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