The New River in Broxbourne

Nicholas Blatchley

Broxbourne Pumping Station
Nicholas Blatchley
Churchfields Bridge, Broxbourne
Nicholas Blatchley

The New River is, in fact, neither new nor a river. It’s an aqueduct, built in the early 17th century to bring clean water from Hertfordshire’s Lea Valley into London. Beginning in between Hertford and Ware, it flows right through the Borough of Broxbourne, from Hoddesdon to Waltham Cross, before crossing into Greater London (originally Middlesex).

It’s only in the town centre of Broxbourne, though, as it flows past St Augustine’s Church, that there are two listed structures associated with the New River.

The New River

The proposal to build a “new river” to bring clean water into London was discussed as early as 1570, but it wasn’t until 1604 that a charter was obtained for the project. After some reorganisation, Sir Hugh Myddleton took over the project. He set up the New River Company, whose investors included Sir Marmeduke Rawdon of Hoddesdon, and began work in 1608.

After opposition by local landowners had been silenced by support from King James I, whose Theobalds estate was home to part of the stretch, the New River was opened in 1613. It was an amazing feat of engineering for its day — the total distance of 27 miles was built with a constant fall of 5 inches per mile, allowing for gravity to do all the work.

However, Myddleton’s original design has been improved even further over the intervening centuries. In particular, several loops around the heads of valleys have been straightened out. In addition, a new outflow was created from the River Lea at New Gauge, between Hertford and Ware, to supplement the water derived from the springs at Chadwell and Amwell, further aided by the building of several pumping stations along the route.

Churchfields Pumping Station

One of these pumping stations is situated in Broxbourne, a short distance upstream from Station Road and Broxbourne Station. Standing on the west bank at the end of St Anne’s Park, it’s a fine example of Victorian industrial architecture.

Built in 1887, it’s described in its listing as:

Yellow stock and red brick, gault brick and stone dressings slate pyramid roof. Square main block has 4 pilasters each side giving identical bays with round-headed ground floor and circular upper level windows. Raised brick surrounds, stone key blocks, iron glazing bars. Stone cornice with paired brackets. E elevation has central, projecting, stone-pedimented doorcase. Single storey extension on N: 7 bays, 3 round-arched ground floor openings. Similar extension on W, 3 bays.

New River Bridge

A few hundred yards downstream from the pumping station, the New River goes under Station Road and between St Augustine’s Church and the park. Here, three bridges cross the river in rapid succession — one taking Churchfields across, followed by a footbridge and a bridge carrying Mill Lane.

The first of these, the Churchfields bridge, was built in 1868 and is Grade 2 listed. Although it doesn’t particularly stand out at first glance, it’s described as:

Cast iron on brick supports. Deep, horizontal beams have architrave and plinth mouldings and date plaque on E. Cast iron railings have octagonal end-posts with palmette and ball tops. Exceptional example of bridge on the New River.

This page was added on 19/05/2023.

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