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The New River is a man-made waterway in Englandmarker, opened in 1613 to supply Londonmarker with fresh drinking water taken from the River Lee and from Amwell Springs (which ceased to flow by the end of the 19th century), and other springs and wells along its course.


It starts between Waremarker and Hertfordmarker in Hertfordshiremarker and today travels down to Stoke Newingtonmarker. Among the districts it flows through are (from north to south):

Its original termination point was at New River Head near Clerkenwellmarker, Islingtonmarker, close to the current location of Sadler's Wellsmarker theatre — where water from the river was used to flood a large tank to stage an Aquatic Theatre at the beginning of the 19th century. Victorian Theatres in London accessed 14 September 2009 Today by following the New River Path it is possible to walk almost the whole length of the New River from its source between Hertfordmarker and Waremarker to its destination in Stoke Newingtonmarker, Hackneymarker.


design and construction of the New River is often attributed solely to Sir Hugh Myddelton. However, an Edmund Colthurst first proposed the idea in 1602, obtaining a charter from King James I in 1604 to carry it out. However, after surveying the route and digging the first two-mile long stretch, Colthurst encountered financial difficulties and it fell to Myddelton to complete the work between 1609 and its official opening on 29 September 1613. Myddelton gave some of the shares in the New River Company to Colthurst.

The expense and engineering challenges of the project—it relied on gravity to allow the water to flow, carefully following the contours of the terrain from Ware into London, and dropping around just five inches per mile (8 cm/km)—were not Myddelton's only worries. He also faced considerable opposition from landowners who feared that the New River would reduce the value of their farmland (they argued that floods or overflowing might create quagmires that could trap livestock); others were concerned at the possible disruption to road transport networks between Hertfordshire and the capital. Myddelton, however, was strongly supported by the king, who agreed to pay half the project's expenses in return for a 50% shareholding; such backing quickly silenced the scheme's critics.

When it was originally constructed, long sections, for example around Forty Hallmarker and in Hornseymarker, wound around the heads of small tributary valleys of the Lea. Other sections of the river, including the one in Harringaymarker, were carried across valleys in wooden aqueducts lined with lead and supported by strong timbers and brick piers. In at least one section, locals referred to the river as the boarded river. Improvements in canal making in the 18th century led to these sections being replaced by clay-banked canals.

Modern alterations

A winding original section of the channel that used to run through the town centre of Enfieldmarker has been cut off from the main flow, but is still maintained as an important local civic amenity, called the New River Loop. Another semi-redundant section of the New River's course between Canonburymarker and Islingtonmarker town centre now forms a picturesque walk alongside the now shallow stream.

Originally the course was above ground throughout, but more recently some sections have been put underground, enabling the course to be straightened. The picture (right) shows where the river now disappears underground in Hackneymarker to reappear in Islingtonmarker. This section used to run along the route of Petherton Road in Highburymarker. The algal bloom shows how stagnant the water is at this point, most of it being diverted into London's water supply just north of Clissold Parkmarker.

The New River Company was taken over by the Metropolitan Water Board in 1904 and became part of Thames Water in 1973. The northern part of the New River is still an important link in the supply of water to London.


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