Hidden London

Lea Bridge

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Waltham Forest/Hackney

An industrial and working-class residential district straddling the River Lea east of Clapton. There has been water-related industry here since the time it was called Jeremy’s Ferry. The first waterwheel was erected in 1707 and this was followed by mills grinding corn (and even pins and needles), and a water pumping station. The mills presented an obstacle to navigation, which was overcome by the opening of the Hackney Cut, from Lea Bridge to Old Ford, in 1769. At around the same time, the Lea Bridge turnpike improved accessibility to the City and the district became fashionable for a while with merchants and bankers. On the eastern side of the river, Lea Bridge station (opened in 1840, but now closed) was the earliest railway connection in the Leyton and Walthamstow area and soon brought the construction of workers’ housing. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, filter beds were constructed on both sides of the river and in the 1930s factories replaced agricultural smallholdings. Some of the old utilities and industries have since closed and the Middlesex Filter Beds have become a nature reserve within the Lee Valley Regional Park. The western side of the district has remained primarily residential, and is sometimes known as Millfields. With EU funding, Lea Bridge is now undergoing regeneration, providing infrastructure improvements to its industrial estates. The newly enhanced area has been given the name Lea Bridge (or Leyton) Gateway. Lee Valley ice centre hosts skating and ice hockey events, and has seating for a thousand spectators. The neighbouring Lee Valley stables have an indoor riding school and outdoor hacking facilities, as well as offering carriage driving and side-saddle tuition. Around half the population of Lea Bridge is white and a quarter is black or black British. The Asian community is predominantly of Indian descent on the Hackney side and of Pakistani descent in the Waltham Forest part.

click for area map (opens in a new window)
The image overstates the beauty of Lea Bridge, much of which is given over to industry and utilities

Postal districts: E5 and E10
Population: 22,197 (wards of Leabridge, Hackney and Lea Bridge, Waltham Forest)
Further reading: Waltham Forest Oral History Workshop, The Road to Jeremy’s Ferry, Waltham Forest Oral History Workshop, 2003

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