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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 ACC/2558/NR/11
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1778-1908
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 25.58 linear metres
Name of creator(s): New River Company


Administrative/Biographical history:

The New River was constructed between 1609 and 1613 by Sir Hugh Myddelton to bring water from Amwell and Chadwell in Hertfordshire to the City of London. The River terminated at the Commandery Mantles in Clerkenwell where ponds and a cistern house were constructed. From New River Head the water was distributed by pipes. The New River Company was incorporated by letters patent in 1619.

By 1660 it was necessary to supplement the flow of water in the New River by extracting water from the River Lee below Hertford. In 1709 an Upper Pond was built in Claremont Square some two hundred yards further up the hill from New River Head, to provide a greater head of water. Initially water was pumped to the Upper Pond from the Round Pond at New River Head by a windmill. This was replaced in 1720 by a "horse mill" which was in turn replaced in 1767 by a steam engine.

During the 19th century the original circuitous forty mile course of the New River was shortened and straightened by the construction of aqueducts, tunnels and underground pipes. Reservoirs were built at Stoke Newington in 1831 and 1833 and at Cheshunt in 1837. The Metropolis Water Act 1852 required water companies to filter all domestic water and to store it in covered reserviors. The New River Company built filtration works at Stoke Newington, Hornsey and New River Head.

The New River Company had purchased Sir Edward Ford's Waterworks at Durham Yard on the River Thames, and at St Marylebone and Wapping in 1667 (see Acc 2558/NR13/227-250). In 1818 and in 1822 the Company acquired the York Buildings Water Works and the London Bridge Water Works. Both of these enterprises had pumped water from the Thames. The New River Company ceased to extract water from the Thames for normal use, but maintained a steam engine at Broken Wharf for use in emergencies until 1850. For records relating to the York Buildings Water Works see Acc 2558/NR13/70/1-8 and page 53 of list of Metropolitan Water Board "Exhibits" (Acc 2558/MW/C/15). For records of the London Bridge Water Works see Acc 2558/LB/1-4, the list of Metropolitan Water Board "Exhibits", pages 11-13 and 27-28, Acc 2558/NR5/51-58 and Acc 2558/NR13/57-59. In 1859 the New River Company purchased the Hampstead Water Works, including the Hampstead and Highgate Ponds, which continued to supply unfiltered water until 1936. For records relating to the Hampstead Water Works see Acc 2558/NR5/22, Acc 2558/NR13/60-69, Acc 2558/MW/C/15/202/6 and Acc 2558/MW/C/15/337.

To provide additional water the Company sank twelve wells worked with steam pumps along the course of the New River. The first of these was Amwell Hill Well sunk in 1847 and the most recent was Whitewebbs Well sunk in 1898. By that date the possibilities of further supply from the Lee Valley seemed to be near exhaustion. In 1896 the New River Company combined with the Grand Junction and West Middlesex Companies to obtain powers to construct two new reservoirs at Staines to store water from the River Thames. The New River Company's Act of 1897 authorised the construction of two storage reservoirs, filter beds and a pumping station at Kempton Park to utilise the water from the Staines Reservoirs and pump it through a 42 inch trunk main 17 miles long to covered reservoirs at Fortis Green. These works were under construction at the time of the transfer of the metropolitan water undertakings to the Metropolitan Water Board in 1904.

The New River Company estate in Clerkenwell was developed as a residential area in the early 19th century, including the church of St Mark, Myddelton Square designed by the New River Company surveyor, William Chadwell Mylne. In 1904 the New River Company (Limited) was formed to take over the property interests of the New River Company in Clerkenwell, Islington, Enfield and other parishes in the vicinity of the New River.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the New River Company relating to water supply and distribution, including pipe order books; papers relating to works carried out; Engineer's papers; materials and fittings; papers relating to water supply; standpipe books; papers relating to Collectors; water rent account books and water rent rates; river and water gauges; pipe order books; river and water gauges; statistical returns and reports.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Within each company the records are divided as follows:
A (1) Corporate Records - including board minutes, parliamentary and legal papers.
B (2) Accounting Records - these are usually very extensive but do not include stocks and shares records which appear in section A.
C (3) Staff Records.
D (4) Water Supply and Distribution Records - including engineering and technical files.
E (5) Purchase Records - including stock books.
F (6) Property Records - many property matters are however dealt with in the legal papers in section A.
G (7) Miscellaneous Records.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Many of the archives of the New River Company were badly damaged or destroyed by a fire at the New River Office in Bridewell Precinct on 24 December 1769. For a report compiled in c.1951 on the charred remains of the minute books 1619-1769 and other documents salvaged from the fire see Acc 2558/NR13/1/1. All the surviving fragments of the minute books have now been repaired and have been catalogued as Acc 2558/NR13/2-5. Many deeds and other legal documents survived the fire, though some are fragile and incomplete.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in 1988, as part of a larger accession of records from Thames Water.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For more records of the New River Company please see references ACC/1262, ACC/1953, ACC/2246, ACC/2643, ACC/2919, ACC/3645 and LMA/4064.

Publication note:

For further information relating to the history of the New River Company see The New River: A Legal History by Bernard Rudden 1985 (GLHL 24.215 NEW) and Exploring the New River by Michael Essex Lopresti 1986 (GLHL 24.215 NEW).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
November 2009 to February 2010

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