In geographical terms the River Lea holds a leading position in east London’s development. The river was a power source, a communication corridor and the focus of important industries.
Water mills and fish weirs existed on the River Lea since medieval times and street names such as Pudding Mill Lane still reflect this. Animal droves from Essex also ended here and that spawned numerous animal processing industries that produced, by 1856, stenches that “cannot be described or even imagined”.
Discoveries during excavation for the Pudding Mill Lane portal produced evidence for an earlier industry. Several rows of timber posts infilled with wattle frames were found. They possibly represent the remains of fish weirs or revetments for a mill race.
Radiocarbon dating tells us that the structures were established by the mid-15th century, but perhaps they did not last long. Fish weirs had been a problem for other river users for centuries. Historic records of 1571 tell us that barge owners petitioned the City of London to allow removal of weirs from the river as their numbers were seriously impeding navigation.
Water mills are structures that use waterwheels or turbines to drive a gearing mechanism to roll, grind or mill products such as flour, wood, textile or metal.
A fish weir is a barrier placed in tidal waters to obstruct the passage of fish.
The Magna Carta (AD1215)
“All fish-weirs are in future to be entirely removed from the Thames and the Medway, and throughout the whole of England, except on the sea-coast”
A mill race is a channel that carries a swift current of water which drives a mill wheel.