We often talk to people about the New River and, whilst some are very knowledgeable, most will say that they’ve noticed it but have wondered what it is. If you are one of the latter, here are our answers to some FAQ’s:
- What is the New River? it’s an artificial watercourse built by human hand to bring water from the Chadwell and Amwell Springs (“Twin Springs”), near Ware in Hertfordshire, to Central London.
- When was it built? The New River was built between 1602 and 1613. It has flowed non-stop (and thus, been “London’s Tap”) ever since. Except momentarily when it was hit by a German parachute mine in WWII near Dame Alice Owen’s School.
- What’s so special about it? Even after 400 years plus, the New River is still the source of some 8% of London’s fresh water supply! It also provides an important habitat for a lot of wildlife. But it glides by relatively un-noticed; sometimes called one of London’s “Lost Rivers”.
- Whose idea was it? Sir Hugh Myddelton, a London goldsmith gets most of the credit but, in fact, an engineer, Captain Edmund Colthurst planned the meandering 39-mile route into London, and started the mammoth undertaking in 1602 using his own funds.
- What’s the Five-Inch Drop got to do with it? The flow of water at first depended entirely on gravity, so the original path tracked along the 100 feet contour on a very gentle gradient of five inches per mile, all the way into New River Head near Sadler’s Wells
- Where does its water come from now? As London’s requirements grew, the New River’s water supply was extended to the River Lea (via the gauge house just North of Ware) and to various pumping stations and boreholes built alongside its watercourse. Chadwell Spring still provides a significant flow too.
- Who owns it? Ownership was initially awarded to The New River Company (incorporated by royal charter in 1619). The Company was taken over by the Metropolitan Water Board in 1904 and became part of Thames Water in 1973.
If you have any other questions please get in touch – and we will do our best to find an answer!