The New River Path - Walk 2
Enfield to Islington
Today's walk picked up the route at Enfield and headed round the Enfield Loop, followed the river as it touches Finsbury Park, and skirted round Stoke Newington Reservoirs. The New River itself now flows into the East Reservoir and is pumped through pipes to Walthamstow for treatment. The West Reservoir is now used for water sports and the nearby former Castle Pumping Station is now a climbing centre. From here the path followed the 'heritage' route and headed into Clissold Park, along New River Walk and into Islington. The walk ended near to Sadler's Wells Theatre at New River Head, which is considered a site "of national historic importance having been in continuous use for the provision of public water supply for nearly 400 years".
Before 1600 London’s water supply was limited to the River Thames, local streams, wells and springs. These sources, often contaminated, were distributed by sellers carrying water in wooden buckets.
In 1600 Edmund Colthurst had the idea to bring water from the springs in Hertfordshire and Middlesex to London. Letters Patent were granted by King James I in 1604, and Colthurst, at his own expense, started to cut a channel from Chadwell Spring. Unfortunately lack of money soon halted these works. In 1606 a Parliamentary Act granted the Corporation of London the power to make a “New River for bringing water to London from Chadwell and Amwell in Hertfordshire”.
In 1609 the authority to carry out the works was given to Hugh Myddelton, a goldsmith and merchant adventurer, who proceeded to build the New River over the next four years. He employed Edward Wright, the mathematician, to survey and direct the course of the River and Colthurst as an overseer. By 1611 Myddelton realised he would not have the money to complete the project. King James I agreed to provide half the cost of the works on condition he received half the profits and that the New River could be constructed through his palace grounds at Theobalds. The King’s involvement overcame all opposition from local landowners to the scheme.
The New River remains an essential part of London’s water supply, carrying up to 220 megalitres (48 million gallons) daily for treatment; this represents some 8 per cent of London’s daily water consumption (from The New River Path booklet).
Distance: around 15 miles (including links to the stations).