River Lee (England)

River Lee (England)

Geobox River
name = Lee/Lea

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country = United Kingdom
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region =
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city =
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length = 68
length_imperial =
watershed =
watershed_imperial =
discharge_location =
discharge_average =
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discharge_max_month =
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discharge_min_month =
discharge_min =
discharge_min_imperial =
discharge1_location = Luton Hoo, Luton
discharge1_average = 1.8
discharge1_average_imperial =
discharge2_location = Feildes Weir Nr. Hoddesdon
discharge2_average = 4.3
discharge2_average_imperial =
discharge3_location =
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discharge4_location =
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source_name =
source_location = Leagrave, Luton
source_region =
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source_country1 =
source_elevation = 115
source_elevation_imperial =
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source_lat_m =
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source_long_d =
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source_long_EW =
mouth_name =
mouth_location = Bow Creek, River Thames
mouth_country =
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mouth_elevation = 0
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image_size =
image_caption = River Lee at Hertford Basin
The River Lee or River Lea [Historically, the river has been called the "Lea", "Lee" or "Ley". The "Ley" spelling is seen in mediaeval documents but subsequently passed from common usage. Currently, "Lea" and "Lee" are the generally accepted spellings, with "Lea" used in reference to the original natural river and "Lee" referring to the canalised parts, such as the Lee Navigation. See River Lee (England)#Etymology.] in England originates in Leagrave Park coord|51.910338|-0.461233|region:GB|display=inline, Leagrave, Luton in the Chiltern Hills and flows generally southeast, east, and then south to London where it meets the River Thames coord|51.507113|0.009184|region:GB|display=inline, the last section being known as Bow Creek.


The name of the river is thought to mean "bright river" or "river dedicated to Lugus [a God] ". [cite book |title=The Place-Names of Hertfordshire |author=J.E.B. Glover, Allen Mawer, F.M.Stenton |publisher=Cambridge University Press |work=English Place-Name Society, vol. XV |year=1938]

The spelling Lea is predominant west (upstream) of Hertford, but both spellings are used from Hertford to the River Thames; the Lee Navigation was established by Acts of Parliament and should be so spelt. However, the variant spelling is used for several locations and infrastructure in the Capital, such as in Leamouth, Lea Bridge and the Lea Valley Railway Lines. The divergent spellings of the river are also reflected in the place-names of Luton and Leyton: both mean "farmstead on the River Lea". [cite book |author=Mills, A.D. |title=The Popular Dictionary of English Place-Names |year=1991 |publisher=Phaidon |location=Oxford]

Course of the river

The source is usually said to be at Well Head inside Waulud's Bank at Leagrave Common, but there the River Lea is also fed by a stream that starts convert|2|mi|km|1 further west in Houghton Regis. The river flows through (or by) Luton, Harpenden, Welwyn Garden City, to Hertford where it changes from a small shallow river to a deep canal at Hertford Castle Weir, which then flows on to Ware, Hoddesdon, Broxbourne, Cheshunt, Waltham Abbey, Enfield Lock, Ponders End, Edmonton, Tottenham, Upper Clapton, Hackney Wick, Stratford, Bromley-by-Bow, Canning Town and finally Leamouth where it meets the River Thames (as Bow Creek). It forms the traditional boundary between the counties of Middlesex and Essex, and was used for part of the Danelaw boundary. It also forms part of the boundary between Essex and Hertfordshire.

For much of its distance the river runs within or as a boundary to the Lee Valley Park. Between Tottenham and Hackney the Lee feeds Tottenham Marshes, Walthamstow Marshes and Hackney Marshes (the latter now drained). In their early days, Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient played their matches as football amateurs on the Marshes. South of Hackney Wick the river's course is split, running almost completely in man made channels (originally created to power water mills, the Bow Back Rivers) flowing through an area that was once a thriving industrial zone.

Inside Greater London below Enfield Lock the river forms the boundary with the former Royal Small Arms Factory, now known as Enfield Island Village, a housing development. Just downstream the river is joined by the River Lee Flood Relief Channel. The man-made,concrete banked water is known as the River Lee Diversion at this point as it passes a series of reservoirs: King George V Reservoir at Ponders End/Chingford, William Girling Reservoir at Edmonton and the Banbury Reservoir at Walthamstow. At Tottenham Hale there is a connected set of reservoirs; Lockwood Reservoir, High Maynard Reservoir, Low Maynard Reservoir, Walthamstow Reservoirs, East Warwick Reservoir and West Warwick Reservoir. It also passes the Three Mills, a restored tidal mill near Bow.

River history

In the Roman era, Old Ford, as the name suggests, was the ancient, most downstream, crossing point of the River Lee. This was part of a pre-Roman route that followed the modern Oxford Street, Old Street, through Bethnal Green to Old Ford and thence across a causeway through the marshes, known as Wanstead Slip (now in Leyton). The route then continued through Essex to Colchester. At this time, the Lee was a wide, fast flowing river, and the tidal estuary stretched as far as Hackney Wick. [ [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=22742 'Bethnal Green: Communications', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11: Stepney, Bethnal Green (1998), pp. 88-90] accessed: 15 November 2006] Evidence of a late Roman settlement at Old Ford, dating from the 4th and 5th centuries, has been found.

In 894, a force of Danes sailed up the river to Hertford, [cite book | last = Hadfield | first = Charles | authorlink = Charles Hadfield (historian) | coauthors = | title = The Canal Age | publisher = Latimer Trend & Company | year = 1968 | location = Plymouth | pages = p. 15, 19 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 0-7153-8079-6 ] and in about 895 they built a fortified camp, in the higher reaches of the Lee, about convert|20|mi|km|1 north of London. Alfred the Great saw an opportunity to defeat the Danes and ordered the lower reaches of the Lee drained, at Leamouth. This left the Danes' boats stranded, but also increased the flow of the river and caused the tidal head to move downriver to Old Ford.

In 1110, Matilda, wife of Henry I, reputedly took a tumble at the ford, on her way to Barking Abbey and ordered a distinctively bow-shaped, three-arched, bridge to be built over the River Lee ("The like of which had not been seen before"), at Bow. During the middle ages, Temple Mills, Abbey Mills, Old Ford and Bow were the sites of water mills (mainly in ecclesiastic ownership) that supplied flour to the bakers of Stratforde-atte-Bow, and hence bread to the City. It was the channels created for these mills that caused the Bow Back Rivers to be cut through the former Roman stone causeway at Stratford (from which the name is derived).

Improvements were made to the river from 1424, with tolls being levied to compensate the landowners, and in 1571, there were riots after the extension of the River was promoted in a private bill presented to the House of Commons. By 1577, the first lock was established at Waltham Abbey and the river began to be actively managed for navigation.

The New River was constructed in 1613 to take clean water to London, from the Lee and its catchment areas in Hertfordshire and bypass the polluting industries that had developed in the Lee's downstream reaches. [http://www.enfield.gov.uk/448/River%20Lee%20and%20Stort%20Navigation%20A%20History.htm Enfield.gov.uk River Lee History] ] The artificial channel further reduced the flow to the natural river and by 1767 locks were installed below Hertford Castle Weir on the canalised part of the Lee, now the River Lee Navigation with further locks and canalisation taking place during the succeeding centuries. In 1766, work also began on the Limehouse Cut to connect the river, at Bromley-by-Bow, with the Thames at Limehouse Basin.

The Waterworks River, a part of the tidal Bow Back Rivers, have been widened by convert|8|m|ft|0 and canalised to assist with construction of the Olympic Park for the 2012 Summer Olympics. A new lock is being installed on the Prescott Channel to maintain water levels on the Lee, within the park at a depth of convert|2|m|ft|0. This will allow access by 350–tonnes barges to ensure that at least 50% of the material required for construction to be delivered, or removed by water. [ [http://www.london2012.com/documents/oda-publications/demolish-dig-design-update.pdf "Milestone 5"] "demolish, dig, design" January 2008 (The Olympic Delivery Authority) accessed 25 April 2008]

Notable Fisheries

* Amwell Magna Fishery
* Carthagena Weir
* Dobbs Weir
* Kings Weir
* Fishers Green

ee also

* List of rivers in England
* List of reservoirs and dams in the United Kingdom
* Bow Back Rivers
* Locks and Weirs on the River Lee
* Lea Valley Walk
* Lower Lea Valley


* For a full list of tributaries, please expand the River Lee info box at the bottom of this page.


* "The Compleat Angler" by Izaak Walton


External links

* [http://www.leevalleypark.org.uk/ Lee Valley Park website]
* [http://www.riverlee.org.uk/index1.htm River Lee — Our River]
* [http://river-lea.co.uk/ River-Lea.co.uk]
* [http://wikipaddle.org/wiki/Hertford_Loop Hertford Loop] A Wikipaddle article from a kayaking and canoeing perspective.

River item line|upstream=River Ravensbourne (south)
downstream=River Roding (north)

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