New River Head

Posted by London Guided Walks on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 Under: Hidden

Clerkenwell is an area flowing with history of London's water supply. There is Myddelton Square, Amwell Street, Chadwell Street, Myddelton Street and River Street all in recognition to the New River. 

The New River Head, is on Rosebery Avenue and was built in 1920 to a design by Herbert Austen Hall who is more famously associated with the post-war design of several livery halls, primarily the re-building of Carpenters' and Clothworkers' Halls, but also the interior and north part of Fishmongers' Hall and an extension to Drapers' Hall in the City of London. The New River Head building encapsulates the 400 year history of mass water supply in the metropolis.

It was built as the headquarters of the former Metropolitan Water Board. It was Grade II listed by English Heritage in 1950 due to it's hidden gem; The Oak Room. The Oak Room, as the name suggests, displays carved woodwork, panelling, plasterwork and ceiling painting of 1693 which is unexpected of a post war building. Those who like architecture will certainly appreciate the impressive late essay in the Edwardian grand manner, retaining - particularly in the former board room and rental ledger hall.

The imposing entrance has the dates 1920 and 1613 inscribed. Why 1613?

The story of the New River begins in 1613...

C17th Londoners had a problem. They realised that their existing supplies of water, drawn from local springs (e.g. Sadler's Wells, Bagnigge Wells, Clerk's Well) and from the river Thames were no longer adequate. The springs were running dry and the water from the Thames was becoming increasingly polluted. 

A special room was added in the late C17th used for company meetings and dining. It was called the Court Room and was built by John Grene, Clerk to the Company from 1667 to 1697. Grene had married of Sir Hugh Myddelton, Elizabeth Myddelton. The Court Room later became known as the Oak Room.

The aqueduct became known at the New River. The grand opening ceremony took place when the New River was completed in 1613. The New River Company was formed to manage the operations. Myddelton became its first governor and was created a baronet in 1622 in recognition of his achievements. The New River Company received a royal charter in 1619.

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