New River 400 year anniversary

Frank Hopkins writes,

Reflect as you turn on the tap that the regular supply of fresh water to London dates back only 400 years to Michaelmas Day 1613. On that 29 September the sluice gates of the New River were opened. The water course ran for 40 miles from springs in Hertfordshire to the Round Pond (now the New River Head) at Sadler’s Wells. A formal ceremony of inauguration was graced by the presence of the Mayor of  London with great fanfare.  For water sellers who carried supplies in wooden buckets slung from their shoulders their livelihood sadly ended. For residents the waters of the New River brought in contrast a new quality of life.

St. Mary’s as Islington’s Parish church played a role in the New River’s inception and in the maintenance of the Islington section.  “Local government” issues were addressed by the Vestry of Parish churches at that time hence St. Mary’s involvement with the New River Company. In 1904 the Metropolitan Water Board took over and later became Thames Water.

A number of events have been planned to celebrate the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the New River:
  • Wednesday 18th September at 8.00pm. Talk on “The Opening of the New River” in the Council Chamber at Islington Town Hall, Upper Street. Andrew Smith, Islington Building Preservation Trust and Darian Mitchell, Amwell Society will speak about the construction and the history of the New River. Admission free but a donation of £1 is invited.
  • Churches along the route of the New River have been invited to ring their bells on the anniversary Sunday 29 September, also to include the New River in some way during their services. Islington churches ringing their bells include St. Mary’s, St. Mary Magdalene and St. James’s. Churches from Ware, Broxbourne and Cheshunt to Enfield and Wood Green will also be ringing their bells.
  • Sunday 29 September from 1.30 to 5.00 pm. Re-enactment of the 1613 opening ceremony with a play by the Face Front Inclusive Theatre Company, music, singing and fireworks. The event at the New River Head is by invitation, application by email to: All are welcome to take part  in these events.