• The River Lea

  • Humans and nature

    "In this actual world there is then not much point in counter-posing or restating the great abstractions of Man and Nature. We have mixed our labour with the earth, our forces with its forces too deeply to be able to draw back and separate either out." - Raymond Williams (1980)
  • Favourate Quote:

    We end, I think, at what might be called the standard paradox of the twentieth century: our tools are better than we are, and grow better faster than we do. They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides. But they do not suffice for the oldest task in human history: to live on a piece of land without spoiling it." - Aldo Leopold (1938)
  • Lea Valley and River Photos

    the greenway at plaistow station 2017

    P2250469p

    Lea Valley Navigation Walk

    Bracket fungus

    Edge of bracket fungus

    Silver Birch in April

    Pear blossom

    Dew on a white fritillary

    Snake's Head Fritillary close up

    Canoe Slalom 2017 Senior, U23 & Junior Team Selection Trials, Lee Valley White Water Centre

    More Photos

West Ham and the River Lea

West Ham was located east of London on the Essex side of the River Lea that formed the eastern border of London. The Lea was an important part of West Ham from the very beginnings of industrial growth in the area. Tidal mills harnessed the river for power and calico and silk printers relied on the purity of the water for their work. The river was also source of drinking water and used for sewage disposal. During the mid-nineteenth century chemical factories, a large railway engineering works and a shipbuilding works were built along the banks of the Lea and its back rivers in West Ham. These many uses of the river also started to come into conflict with each other. Pollution in the river forced the calico and silk printers to leave West Ham. Sewage in the water supply was identified as the main cause of the 1866 Cholera epidemic in East London. The diversion of too much water for drinking disrupted the other uses of the Lea, causing sewage and other wastes to collect in the otherwise drying river beds and disrupting the barge traffic that industry relied on to supply raw materials. The Lea was also a threat to the growing borough of West Ham as the suburb was mostly built on land below the natural high water mark of both the Lea and the Thames. The relationship between the industrial suburb of West Ham and the river Lea is the central topic of my dissertation. My second chapter, that I have now begun researching, looks at the water famines of 1895, 1896 and 1898 when the East London Waterworks Company restricted the water supply by turning off the flow of water to East London and eastern suburbs like West Ham for between 18 and 20 hours a day. I will post another blog entry focusing on these famines in a few weeks when I’ve done more of the research.

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