From reservoirs left to nature to ghost platforms – take a walk through East London’s industrial past

Covered Central Reservoir, Middlesex Filter Beds Nature Reserve. Photograph: Claire Ward / CC BY-SA 2.0

April is a nice time to discover the wealthy industrial archaeology heritage that London has to provide.

The Lea Valley has lengthy been London’s manufacturing epicentre, and it nonetheless bears many marks of its past. Most apparent are the warehouses – functioning and transformed – that line its banks. Less evident to the informal customer are these issues which have fallen into disuse.

A very good place to kick off an exploration is the Middlesex Filter Beds simply reverse the Lea Bridge roundabout. Now a nature reserve, the positioning was developed in 1852-53 by the East London Waterworks Company to present protected ingesting water for the world, a perform it served till its closure in 1969. Still seen are a vary of pumps, sluices and railway traces through which water was cleaned and transported.

Until comparatively just lately, waterways have been the primary means through which items circulated. Running roughly perpendicular to the Lea are the Grand Union and Regents canals, very important arteries that linked the Thames and to north and east London and past. At its peak, Regent’s Canal carried two million tonnes of freight a 12 months, together with many uncooked supplies utilized in manufacturing. The canals have been additionally methods of life for many who lived on their banks, and complex social ecosystems shaped across the varied occupations related with boats, horses and freight. Towpaths and locks are the obvious up to date remnants of former canal life, however many canal boats themselves have additionally been reworked for contemporary utilization. Nineteenth and early twentieth century watercraft from Dutch tjalks to Thames lighters even the odd submarine are actually refitted as properties retailers and eating places.

Over the course of the second half of the nineteenth century, the railways regularly started to displace rivers and canals as technique of transport. Though London stays related by a dense community of railways traces, not all survived the rise of street transport within the submit-warfare interval. The Parkland Walk that runs from Finsbury Park within the south-east through Hornsey and Crouch finish to Alexandra Palace within the northwest traces the road of the previous Edgware, Highgate and London Railway that was constructed in 1873 and closed in 1954. The railway mattress runs flat, chopping through hillsides with huge brick partitions and hovering excessive above avenue stage on raised beds. Ghost platforms can nonetheless be seen alongside the facet of the observe the place commuters as soon as waited at stations.

Just the opposite facet of Finsbury Park from the southern finish of the Parkland Walk lies the positioning of a former manufacturing unit, now Gillespie Park. This little slip of land tucked between the railway line and the previous Arsenal station is unexpectedly bucolic (suppose wildflower fields, hedgerows and stiles), however between the Eighteen Nineties and the Nineteen Sixties it housed the manufacturing unit that manufactured Stephens Ink, which was allegedly used to signal the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. You can nonetheless see a part of the manufacturing unit wall and entrance to the precise of Arsenal Tube station.

On 15 April Rob Smith will probably be main a guided tour of the Middlesex Filter Beds and different Clapton websites, adopted by an Industrial History of the Lower Lea on 30 April:

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