London’s Stonehenge | Nature’s Throne (aka Hackney Henge)
Did you know that London has its very own version of Stonehenge? Sure, it might not be thousands of years old, but that doesn’t mean that Hackney Henge – sorry – ‘ackney ‘enge is any less historic!
Along the Hackney Cut you can wander into a pleasant nature reserve on the site of the former Middlesex Filter Beds.
Just inside the gates you’ll find East London’s very own Stonehenge.
In reality it’s an artwork by Paula Haughney, completed in 1990. It’s constructed from huge granite blocks that were once the foundations of the Victoria Engine House.
Traces of the industrial past remain.
Paula has enhanced the stones with low relief carvings of local flora and fauna.
In the centre is an over-sized throne, seat of a giant. When I was there it was a lovely sight to see little children using it as a climbing frame.
East London Waterworks Company
There have been water-powered mills here since 1760. A water channel was dug to take River water to the wheels. Today almost all of it’s been filled in.
In their heyday the waterwheels provide 1,000 local families with water, ground corn for flour and were used for boring tree trunks to make pipes.
In 1796 a fire broke out and destroyed the mills. They were rebuilt in 1829 and taken over by the East London Waterworks Company.
However, only four years later the mills we rebuilt again, replaced by a new pump house which pumped water into a new reservoir in Stamford Hill.
1852 prompted further building, this time it was the threat of cholera. It wasn’t until a few year later that John Snow would prove that contaminated water was to blame, however there was sufficient concern to build the Middlesex Filter Beds.
Middlesex Filter Beds
They filtered water through layers of sand, gravel and finally the concrete base of the bed. Then pumped the clean liquid into a reservoir for the local population.
The beds – which grew to 25 at their height – were closed in 1969. On the map below you can see the site of the Middlesex Filter Beds and the blue arrow mark the Engine House (and current location of Hackney Henge).
Image from Layersoflondon.org – Charles Booth Poverty Maps (1886-1903) Leaflet | © Maptiler and OpenStreetMap contributors
Since 1988 they’ve been looked after by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and are a public wildlife reserve.
As well as Hackney Henge, another industrial survivor is the Middlesex Filter Beds Weir.
It marks the start of the Hackney Cut and was dug out in 1770.
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