Speaker John Polley talking about – London’s new river

On Tuesday 16th February, John Polley, born and brought up in London, made a zoom presentation to 44 members and guests of Bishopsteignton Probus Club. He talked about London’s new river, which is neither a river nor is it new !  It was called London’s new river by Captain Edmund Colthurst in 1604, who came up with the idea of a channel to bring fresh water from Hertfordshire to London which at the time had a shortage of fresh water and a rapidly expanding population.  In 1606 an Act of Parliament facilitated its development and the new river was formally opened in 1613. It was a major construction funded by the New River Company whose shareholders saw their shares increase from £13 in the 1930s to £206 by the 1730s and £2,704 by 1903.  During that period, average wages grew approximately fourfold whilst the share dividends grew nearly 200 times.

John Polley’s many photos and thorough research made this one of the club’s best zoom presentations that members had seen.  He outlined several of the problems encountered during costruction, primarily financial and engineering issues, although perhaps the biggest problem hit progress in February 1610 when, having built a quarter of the new river, work had to stop because there was significant opposition when they needed to take the river through Theobolds Estate, which included King James First’s residence, Theobolds Palace.  A solution was reached with the king whereby he put up half the construction costs in return for half of the profits, allowing work to re-commence in November 1711.

Picture is of a Drawing of Theobold’s Estate and King James First’s residence, Theobold’s Palace.

Even after the river was completed, engineering issues have arisen which needed to be resolved, including the removal of loops in the original course to straighten and so speed up the river flow.  Other major issues have been the need to build an aqueduct for the river above the M25 in order that the motorway could be built and the need to divert the river through a 25-ton steel tube, 96 feet long, in order that the Piccadilly Line could be extended.

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