Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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New River Co

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1602 Edmund Colthurst first proposed the idea of building an artificial river to bring spring water into London.

1606 The New River was commissioned by the Corporation of the City of London to carry water from the Chadwell and Amwell Springs to Islington, London; the course of the river followed the contours of the land and had a gradual fall.

After surveying the route and digging the first two-mile long stretch, Colthurst encountered financial difficulties.

The scheme was completed by Sir Hugh Myddleton between 1609 and 1613. Its official opening took place on 29 September 1613 when water entered the reservoir now called the New River Head at Clerkenwell.

The overall length of the New River was just under 39 miles (even though the direct distance from the springs to London was only 20 miles). A total of 160 bridges were constructed and 60 culverts dug underneath it, to allow passage of brooks, streams, etc. All in all this was a major achievement for the engineers of the time.

1700 Supplemented by water from the River Lee

1767 Robert Mylne was appointed assistant surveyor of the New River Co, to work with Henry Mill.

1771 Mylne was appointed surveyor of the New River Co

1810 Mylne retired from his position with the New River Co

1811 Robert's son William Chadwell Mylne was appointed surveyor

1816 Proposal to amalgamate with the West Middlesex Water Co generated opposition on the grounds that a monopoly serving two-thirds of the Metropolis was not in the customer's interest[1] but it was pointed out that the New River Co would improve its situation by replacing its wooden mains with iron ones[2]. As a result the New River Co, when it introduced pumps, was able to raise water to the higher floors in buildings, something its competitors could not do. In addition the company was delivering pure water rather than water from the river Thames[3]

1822 The New River Co purchased the water supply licence of London Bridge Waterworks which had been dissolved. Later that year, Borough Waterworks Co purchased the licence from the New River Company.

1800s Deep wells were dug along the route and pumping stations built.

1845 William Chadwell Mylne junior was appointed River Surveyor

1850s Many of the river's bends were eliminated, saving 12 miles.

1859 James Muir was appointed Engineer on William Chadwell Mylne senior's retirement.

1875 William Chadwell Mylne junior retired as Surveyor due to ill health.

Some parts of the New River have been piped underground and today the river flows into Stoke Newington reservoir.

1903 Compulsorily acquired by the Metropolitan Water Board, established to bring the 9 private water companies supplying water to London under a single public body.

Note: A number of cast iron arch bridges were constructed near Ware. One of these dated at c.1837 by Historic England, is featured here. Others here, here, and here. One here and here is clearly dated 1836. One here is apparently dated 1817, 'Span approx 4.5m. Inscribed `New River Co.', `Priestfield Iron Works near Bilston' (Staffordshire).[4]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times Mar 11, 1816
  2. The Times Feb 26, 1818
  3. The Engineer 1866/09/14
  4. [1] Historic England listing: TL3514SE NEW RIVER 829-1/9/197 Bridge over New River on north side of Hertford Rd at TL 3574 1401, via WaybackMachine
  • Engineering timelines: Sir Hugh Myddleton [2]
  • Wikipedia