Inventory Site Record

Middlesex Filter Beds Nature Reserve and WaterWorks Centre (Hackney)

Brief Description

The Middlesex Filter Beds are important for their industrial heritage as well as for nature conservation. The 6 filter beds were constructed by East London Waterworks Co. in 1852/3 in order to provide safe water to the surrounding area. By 1969 more up-to-date facilities were needed and the filter beds here ceased to be used, becoming overgrown but a haven for wildlife. In 1988 Thames Water, which now owned the site, leased it to Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and it was opened as Middlesex Filter Beds Nature Reserve. Two sculptures were specially commissioned, Kate Malone's 'Rise and Shine Magic Fish' and Paula Haughney's 'Nature's Throne'.

Practical Information
Site location:
Waterworks Lane / Lammas Road (off Lea Bridge Road), Leyton
E10 7QB
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Open Land
Open to public?
Opening times:
open daily 8am - 4pm (winter) / - 6.30pm (summer)
Special conditions:
WaterWorks Centre and Café Fri/Sat/Sun 10am-4pm
Various events such as volunteer activities to clear reeds from ponds
Public transport:
Rail: Clapton then bus. Bus: 22A, 55, 56, 48.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.leevalleypark.org.uk

Full Site Description

The River Lea or Lee formerly marked the border between Middlesex and Essex; according to medieval chronicles King Alfred pursued the Danes up the river, which was also possibly used by the Romans. In 1830 the East London Waterworks Co., which had been established at Old Ford in Bow in 1807, bought Hackney Waterworks and cut a canal between Lea Bridge and Old Ford across the Hackney Marshes. There was a serious cholera outbreak in 1849 and the need for provision of clean and safe water led to the Company's construction in 1852/3 of the 6 Middlesex Filter Beds at Lea Bridge to supply purified water to the surrounding area. An additional 19 filter beds were later constructed, 7 of which were the Essex Filter Beds, now the Waterworks Nature Reserve. The Company also created new reservoirs at Walthamstow in 1861. In the early 1900s the East London Waterworks Company was taken over by the Metropolitan Water Board.

By 1969 more modern facilities for water treatment were needed and the Middlesex Filter Beds were replaced by the Coppermills Water Treatment Works in Walthamstow. As a result the unused filter beds here became overgrown and a haven for wildlife. Thames Water, which had owned the site from 1974, leased it in 1988 to Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA), which had taken over tracts of land and water including the Walthamstow Marshes (q.v.) in 1972.

The Middlesex Filter Beds were opened as a nature reserve and in the early 1990s artists Paula Haughney and Kate Malone were commissioned to make new works of art for the site. Malone's 'Rise and Shine Magic Fish' consisted of two large ceramic fish that were sited in a lake in one of the former filter beds, no longer in place. Haughney's 'Nature's Throne' was created from huge granite blocks that were once part of the foundations of one of the Engine Houses.

Sources consulted:

Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Lee Valley Regional Park Authority website: www.leevalleypark.org.uk

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ358865 (535910,186450)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Thames Water, leased to Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA)
Site management:
LVRPA Park Operations; The Filter Beds and Walthamstow Marshes User Forum
1850s; 1990s
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - SSSI
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Open Space

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.