Inventory Site Record

New River Company Filtration Works, including The Castle and Woodberry Wetlands (Hackney)

Brief Description

The New River was constructed in the early C17th to bring fresh water into London from Hertfordshire, with 2 loops flowing through Stoke Newington. Following complaints about water flow and leakage, the New River Company leased land and constructed 2 new reservoirs in 1836. Filter Beds and a Pumping Station resembling a medieval castle were built to the west in 1856. In 1946 the Filtration Works ceased to be used, and the New River was terminated beyond this point. The Stoke Newington Reservoirs are preserved as a nature reserve (East Reservoir) and for recreational use (West Reservoir). The Pumping Station was converted into an indoor climbing centre, which has an acre of garden around it. The East Reservoir nature reserve was opened to the public in 2016 as Woodberry Wetlands.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
New River Water Works; Stoke Newington Reservoirs; The Castle Climbing Centre
Site location:
Green Lanes (near Allerton Road), Stoke Newington. Woodberry Wetlands: West & Coal House Entrance, New River Path via Lordship Road/East & New River Entrance: 1 Newnton Close
N4 2RH / N16 5HQ
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Private Open Land, Public Open Land
Open to public?
Opening times:
New River Path unrestricted. Woodberry Wetlands: daily 9am-4.30pm .West Reservoir Centre:daily 9-5pm. The Castle Mon-Sat 9-7pm
Special conditions:
West Reservoir Centre: members. The Castle Climbing Centre: users
Woodberry Wetlands: Coal House Café.; East Reservoir Community Garden: visitor centre, eco-classroom. West Reservoir: sailing, kayaking, café, toilets, car park. The Castle: café, shop, garden
The Castle has opened for Open House + seasonal events in the Castle Garden (check website). East Reservoir: various activities including growing wild food in community raised beds, bird watching, arts and craft workshops, landscape design and construction, wild walks and mini-beast hunts along nature trail.
Public transport:
Tube: Manor House (Piccadilly). Rail: Stoke Newington, Stamford Hill then bus. Bus: 106, 141, 253, 254, 259, 279, 341
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.woodberrywetlands.org.uk; www.gll.org; www.castle-climbing.co.uk

Full Site Description

Green Lanes has been in existence as a track from at least the C16th and by the 1860s villas had been built in this area of Stoke Newington, prior to which it was open countryside. The New River, which flowed through Stoke Newington to Finsbury, was an undertaking by Sir Hugh Myddelton, a member of the House of Commons Committee that was considering water shortage in London in the C17th. Myddelton's scheme to bring a water supply to serve the City from Amwell Springs 38 miles away in Hertfordshire to Islington was given approval and the New River was constructed between 1609 - 1613, with financial backing from James I. There were two loops through Stoke Newington, with a 'New Cut' created c.1724 to provide a shorter course, which ran to the east of where the two reservoirs were later constructed. In 1825, following complaints about the water flow through Stoke Newington and also leakage, the New River Company agreed to make improvements, leasing 50 acres of demesne land in 1831 for the construction of new reservoirs for both water storage and purification. By 1833 William Chadwell Mylne, Surveyor to the New River Company, had constructed the two reservoirs and, in 1856, following the Metropolitan Water Act of 1852, the Filter Beds and Pumping Station were built to the south of the west reservoir, the Company having acquired a further 14 acres of land from the Eade Estate in 1855.

The Pumping Station was set on an artificial mound as if within a moat, and its design echoes that of a French or Scottish medieval castle, perhaps to pacify local objections to the loss of their view. The design by Robert Billings may have been based on Stirling Castle, and his drawings for the building were exhibited at the Society of British Artists in 1856. The Pumping Station has parapets and three towers of different shapes, the tallest of which was the boiler house chimney; the square-topped tower housed the water tank; the 'keep' housed 2 steam engines, and the buttresses the fly wheels. Additions were made in ensuing years, including a new engine house in 1888 and in 1936 the Metropolitan Water Board, which had taken over the New River Company in 1904, made further alterations to the Pumping Station but in 1946 both pumping station and filter beds ceased to be used, and the New River was terminated beyond this point.

The Board purchased the freeholds of the Stoke Newington reservoirs from the Church Commissioners in 1958, and these are preserved as a nature reserve and for recreational use. The area surrounding the reservoirs and pumping station had ceased to be rural by the 1880s, with housing developed on all sides. At one time there were elaborate gardens located across Green Lanes, now built over with a housing estate, although the C19th brick boundary wall, iron railings and piers to Green Lanes remain. The East and West Reservoirs are divided by Lordship Lane and are visible from the New River Path, a publicly accessible path that runs along the northerly boundary of both reservoirs, from Bethune Road in the east to Green Lanes in the west.

In 1971 the Metropolitan Water Board's proposal to demolish the Pumping Station was met with vigorous local protest and the building was listed in 1974 and saved. Another threat of demolition arose in 1988 when the water industries were being privatised and associated land was being disposed of, but the pumping station was again saved, although the Filter Beds were emptied in 1990 and the site developed for housing. In 1994 planning permission was given to redevelop the Pumping Station and it was converted into an indoor climbing centre in 1995 by architect Nicholas Grimshaw. It is now used as The Castle Climbing Centre, and is recognised as the premier indoor climbing centre in the south-east of England. Since May 2009 it has been working to implement an environmental policy with the aim of 'making the Castle Climbing Centre a benchmark for environmental and economic sustainability and to demonstrate that there is a place for sport and commerce in a sustainable future without compromising financial success and high standards'. In 2012 The Castle won 2 environmental awards.

The grounds surrounding the building remain as a grassed mound, and have notable horse chestnut trees, and shrub beds adjacent to the building. A Boulder Field has been constructed in recent years to provide outdoor climbing facilities. In September 2009, The Castle began to develop the 1-acre green space around the building as a productive community garden based on the principles of permaculture design, growing fruit, vegetables and herbs for The Castle Café kitchen, as well as herb products for the shop. The garden today has café plots, herb growing areas, a forest garden with fruit and nut trees, a wildlife pond, bee hives, garden shelter and cob oven. There is a focus on education, and staff work with volunteers and the local community, holding regular events such as weekend workdays and a garden volunteer programme, and child-friendly events take place throughout the year. The seasons are celebrated with traditional events including Wassail in January, Summer Solstice in June and Bonfire Night in November as well as an annual Garden Party in August when events combine climbing, music and food.

The East Reservoir was designated a local nature reserve with New River Path and is managed by The London Wildlife Trust. The Trust has created a new community garden between the New River and East Reservoir, which has a fully equipped eco-classroom with a living roof, and provides a base for school visits and a variety of community projects. Near the garden is an old oak tree, with tree house bird hide, and there are varied wildlife habitats, a pond and river, mini-nature trails, vegetable patches and living willow structures.

The West Reservoir is now the used by Stoke Newington West Reservoir Centre as a water sports and environmental education centre, funded by Sport England Lottery, and run for LB Hackney by Greenwich Leisure Ltd with facilities for sailing and kayaking.

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the New River, London Wildlife Trust teamed up with Thames Water to run a series of walks and events to enable people to learn more about the wildlife as well as the history of the New River. In 2016, the East Reservoir was opened to the public for the first time when Woodberry Wetlands was created as a new wetland nature reserve around the old reservoir, a joint project of the London Wildlife Trust and Thames Water. The 17-ha site was officially opened on 30 April 2016 by Sir David Attenborough.

Sources consulted:

John Wittich 'London Villages', (Shire Publications) 3rd ed. 1987; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); David Mander, 'Look Back Look Forwards! An illustrated history of Stoke Newington' (Sutton Publishing) 1997; 'Stoke Newington Pumping Station, London N16, Analysis of a Building' on Castle website; London Wildlife Trust Woodberry Wetlands website: www.woodberrywetlands.org.uk

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ323869 (532600,187310)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Thames Water. Reservoirs: Thames Water (East)/ LB Hackney (West)
Site management:
The Castle Climbing Centre/London Wildlife Trust/LB Hackney and Greenwich Leisure Ltd
Pumping Station: Robert Billings
Listed structures:
LBII*: Engine House of MWB; ancillary building to north of Engine House. LBII: boundary wall and railings to former pumping station
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:
Conservation Area name:
Stoke Newington Reservoirs, Filter Beds & New River
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes (Reservoirs) - Metropolitan Importance
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Open Space (E & W Reservoirs, New River Path);Green Link;E Reservoir: Local Nature Reserve;New River:Green Corridor

New River Company Filtration Works, including The Castle and Woodberry Wetlands

West Reservoir - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 10/09/19 12:06

Click a photo to enlarge.

More photos

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