River Lea/Bow Creek - Bromley by Bow
The River Lea continues to flow south, and is met by a junction with Bow Creek. Bow Creek is met from the east by the Three Mills Wall River, and Channelsea River. The Channelsea flows south west and is met by the Prescott Channel from the north an Abbey Creek from the west. At Bow Locks the Creek become Bow Creek and is met by the Limehouse Cut from the west.
TQ 38162 82040
The Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach road choked with barely moving traffic parallels the complicated Lea back rivers as they near Bow Locks. The old village of Bromley by Bow barely features. This was - and in some ways still is - a busy industrial area with some important works. Many of them produced chemicals of various sorts, but there was an important gas works - with a row of listed gas holders extant, as well as maltings, a glass works, a paper mill and a safe works. Most importantly here is London's last working tide mill - a vast establishment which turned out grain for half London's huge gin trade. Recently used as a TV studio it is open to visitors to gasp at.
Post to the east West Ham Station
Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road A12
Finished in 1969, following London County Council’s road proposals for the northern approach road to the Blackwall Tunnel, this involved the underpass from the Bow Bridge intersection. The new road completely removed the blitzed remains of the parish church of St Mary and St Leonard. Cutting historical links through the area it creates a channel through the old road pattern which has few relationships with it.
Four Mills Bridge – original bridge over the Limehouse Cut now a modern bridge
Ventilation shaft in brick at Four Mills Bridge
The final 2.25 miles of the River Lea are known as Bow Creek which is tidal, providing insufficient depth for navigation at low tide. By an act of 1571 Lord Mayor was able to make improvements to the river and the work is thought to have included a new cut between Old Ford and Bow Locks, known as Bow River, and not subject to tolls. In 1765 it was surveyed by John Smeaton who recommended replacing the locks and making a new cut to the Thames. Access from the creek to Bow Back Rivers was altered in the 1930s when The Prescott Channel was built.
Landmylles Lock. This once stood in the river north of Bow Locks. The site is not clear and it was derelict by 1600. It was connected to a tide mill of that name.
Bow Locks. There had been gates at the site of Bow Locks since at least 1307. These were rebuilt in 1573 by the owners of the tide mill overseen by the City of London. They were rebuilt again in 1721 and in 1852 a lock was built although the gates also remained. The lock was rebuilt in 1900, and a second lock constructed alongside it in 1931 when it was called Neild Lock after the then Chair of the Lea Conservancy. The lock handled a considerable volume of ccommercial traffic until 1980. The fall into the river and lock apparatus can be seen. Until 2000 high tides continued to flow over the top of the lock and a flood wall and a second set of gates were built to prevent this and to allow the to lock to be used at all states of the tide
Bridge over the lock. The bridge was built as part of the 1930s upgrade to the Bow Back Rivers, and was an early example of the use of reinforced concrete to achieve a slender design. It had a ribbed brickwork surface to enable the horses to get a good grip on it. Upgrading work in 2004 included a new surface as well as replacement of defective concrete and a new handrail.
British Waterways Depot. This includes a number of buildings including a toll house and lock keepers accommodation and offices.
Bromley by Bow
Means ‘woodland clearing with brambles’. Previously called Bromley St.Leonard. Bromley by Bow. The parish grew around the Benedictine nunnery. In the 18th the area was still rural. In 1770 The Limehouse Cut, cur South Bromley off from the old village and many old houses were destroyed during the late 19th and early 20th. The creation of the Blackwall Tunnel approach road from 1959, and the East Cross Route in 1973 isolated Bromley from the Lea.,
This is now Gillender Street
Chemical works. The complex of chemical works at the end of Canning Road is more than complicated. A number of works existed in the 19th and early 20th subject to many take overs and changes of ownership. These include:
Abbey Mills Chemical Works. In the mid 1860s Thomas Bell, a manufacturer of superphosphates and artificial manure leased two acres.
West Ham Chemical Works. This was founded by James Childs, who made sulphuric acid from about 1866–82. It was taken over by W. C. Bacon & Co. with City offices in Mincing Lane.
Phoenix Black Works. There in 1888 when a deep well was bored on site.
The Stirling Chemical Works. Thus was founded in 1866 by Dunn, Squires & Co., (aka Dunn & Co. Dunn, Heathfield & Co) they also made oil of vitriol – described as “ether sulphuric for anaesthesia”. The works was taken over by Thomas Tyrer and Company. Tyrer was interview by William Booth in 1893 as were members of the workforce’s club. Tyler bought the freehold in 1900. In the 1930s they became associated with the Albright & Wilson chemical group and in 1942 were taken over by them. In 1966 this became Bush, Boake, Allen Ltd. With several sites in east London. It is thought that some of the buildings from this works remained on site.
Thomas Bell & Co. 1870–82. Vitriol works. F. W. Berk & Co. took over the Bell works before 1886. They later went into a partnership with Spencer, who had developed a new process with sulphuric acid manufacture in partnership with Rudolf Messel in Silvertown. The works became known as Berk Spencer in 1965
Berk Spencer. The site was operated by Steetley Chemicals Ltd under the name Berk Spencer Acids until 1983 when it was transferred to RTZ/Borax. They continued to run the plant until 1990. All the buildings apart from the gatehouse and an office building were cleared. The site was then bought by a Muslim religious organisation who hope to develop it.
The Channelsea flows down to meet the Abbey Creek and then runs parallel to the Lea where it interchanges with it at Bow Locks.
Pacific Wharf. This was on the southern edge used by chemical industry from the 19th and eventually petro-chemicals by Glico.
This private road was the access road into the Bromley by Bow Gas works from Stephenson Street on the works’ eastern side. It appears to have been built during the ownership of the works by the Gas Light and Coke Co (the Chartered Company) rather than the original Imperial Company. It was developed as a trading and light industrial area from the 1970s and included relocations from the London Development Corporation area.
London and Thames Haven Petroleum. Set up in 1886 by wharfage interests. Taken over in the 1880s by David Phillips who went onto control major shipping interests as Baron Kylsart.
Coventry Cross – this was the name of a pub present in 1690. It was used for the parish dinners after the 'beating the bounds' ceremony.
Bromley Steam Mill. The mill was probably on this site in the early 19th. Here Thomas Hills may have first demonstrated the production of sulphuric acid using pyrites instead of brimstone – this was a revolutionary process which he patented together with Uriah Haddock. However the primacy of the invention was challenged in court.
195 Walmsley's Malt Roasting Works. The maltings had been there since at least the 1870s when Ballard commented on their “empyreumatic odour” when the cylinders are emptied. The Coventry Cross estate was built on the site which was demolished in 1934.
Coventry Cross Estate. Opened 1935 with 178 pre-war flats built by the London County Council in a series of blocks. Now demolished.
Private road going into what was the Chemical Works site.
Crow. Called Crow’s Road as the access to Thomas Crow’s tar works. Thomas Crow had an ammonia works and a laboratory here in the 19th. He bought waste gas works tar and ammonia which he processed, holding patents in tar distilling processes. In 1836 Thomas Crow rented Westbury House in Barking, and was probably a Conservator of the River Lea- both implying considerable prosperity.
Gas Lighting Improvement Co Limited. sole manufacturers of the Carburine Motor Spirit, 1912
2 New Mills House. Duke of Wellington Pub. The pub dates from the mid 19th and was a Watney’s house but was rebuilt with the block of flats and is now in a ground floor unit.
This was previously Brunswick Road which was an extension of St. Leonard’s Road
1 Queen Victoria Pub. A 19th pub, marooned by the motorway. It was a Charrington's house and it closed in 2001. Toby ceramic plaque remains 0n the wall. Now housing
14 Rising Sun. Later called the American Diner. Now closed and demolished.
Warehouses. Dowgate wharf. 19th brick warehouse of P B Burgoyne and Co Ltd. This was also Aplins Distillery
21-22 The London Wastepaper Company warehouse. This has been described as a 19th brick
Boiler House with a rear hexagonal brick chimney. However it was built in 1880-81 as a still house for the Four Mills Distillery, together with adjacent spirit store and bonded warehouse. This windowless building was a three-storey-high hall for distilling apparatus, heated by steam for the production of raw alcohol from fermented malt. The steam was raised in a boiler house now demolished plus a 140ft hexagonal chimney shaft
Warehouse. 20th curved to follow the road, alternating floors in red and yellow brick.
London County Council Fire Station. Built as Brunswick Road Fire Station in 1909-11 for both horse and motor engines by London County Council Architects' Department Fire Brigade Section, perhaps designed by W.E. Brooks. There were four storeys of accommodation over 3 ground floor appliance bays and an office. It is in red brick and there is a large sign with metal lettering in a distinctive typeface: L.C.C. FIRE BRIGADE STATION A.D. 1910. A stone plaque reads: 'This station was opened by Jocelyn Brandon Esq. Chairman of the Fire Brigade Committee London County Council on May 19th 1911' It is now studios and flats –
Bow Paper Mills. Appears to have been on site and was soon after renamed Lloyd's Paper Mills. If had been leased by Edward Lloyd in 1885. He held patents in paper manufacture and the works produced paper for Lloyd's List. A store and loading bay remained used as a Calor Gas Shop plus some other buildings. Demolished 2012
Ratners Safe Works. Ratners dated from 1896 and was run by Daniel Ratcliffe who had developed innovations in safe manufacture while working for other safe manufacturers and locksmiths. Had taken over the buildings of the paper mill by 1896. A machine shop and other buildings remained. A cold rolling machine on site was of considerable historic interest. It was by Craig and Donald of Glasgow and dated from 1891 and was still in use in the 1960s. Works demolished 2012
Soap works. An office building remained. Demolished 2012.
London & Glasgow Foundry 1896, made baths
Empress Wharf. Ornamental Moulding Works 1896. Augustus Engert had developed machinery for mouldings for picture frames, etc. They had previously been in Shoreditch. It was later Dussek Bitumen & Taroleum Ltd.
A Hutchinson and Son Ltd, Lea Foundry
Lancaster and Co Galvanizing Works
Tredegar Wharf. Now the site of housing developments
28 The Distillers Arms, This pub was present by 1874 and since the early 1980s has been a dodgy club.
Tesco. Store which has been there since the 1980s, now poised to take over the whole area.
Imperial Street – which is still a short stretch of road round the back of Tesco’s petrol station – seems to have been named for the Imperial Gas Co or for Imperial Works in Three Mills Lane.
Limehouse Cut. Opened in 1770, the cut is just over a mile long and is an access point for boats entering or leaving the Lee. It is essentially a cut on the Lea Navigation, was proposed by John Smeaton in 1766 and construction was supervised by Thomas Yeoman in 1770. It is London’s earliest canal.
Bromley Lock. Originally there was a lock at the Bromley end of the canal built at the time of the original construction. It was rebuilt in 1854 to accommodate larger barges but removed before 1900. Some remains can be seen in the wall of the Cut.
Floating walkway because there is no towpath
Path along the north side of the Abbey Creek which went from Abbey Mills to Three Mills. Going along the wall – and embankment to prevent flooding.
Flood level marker and plaque
Rough grass and scrub
Industrial and trading area within the old Bromley gas works site.
This channel between Three Mills River and Abbey Creek was built in 1930–35 as part of a flood relief. It was named for the chairman of the Lee Conservancy Board, William Prescott.
Three Mills Lock. Built in 2007 before the Olympics to allow building materials and freight to access the site by river. It can hold two 350 tonne barges and was designed by Tony Gee and Partners.
Upper Abbey Mills signal box. Opened in 1904 replacing an earlier box.
Railway Bridge for the District Line and also for the Fenchurch Street - Southend railway. It was built by the Great Eastern Railway, and leased to the London Tilbury and Southend Railway on 1889 with more added by the LTSR in 1905 when the lines were quadrupled. There was a signal box for the bridge called Bromley Ground Cabin opened in 1906.
The Low level intercepting sewer from Hammersmith via the Embankment crosses the Lea at Bow to go to Abbey Mills for onward pumping to Beckton.
Lined by false acacia trees
Memorial to distillery workers killed in 1901. Enclosed by railings and London Plane trees.
Cody Dock. Previously known as St.Leonard’s Dock. This was built by the Imperial Gas Co. Rail sidings went to it from a junction at West Ham.
St. Leonard’s Street
Also known as Four Mills Street. This was the old main road and the old route to St Leonard's church. What is left of it runs parallel to the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach Road to the wet of this square. Much of the tunnel approach was built on the line of the road in the 1960s.
Bromley Station. Opened in 1858 having been built by the London Tilbury and Southend Railway and lying between West Ham and Burdett Road stations. It was north of the line, and east of St.Leonard's Street. In 1894 it was moved following a fire.
Bromley by Bow Station. Between West Ham and Bow Road on the District and Hammersmith and City Lines. Built by the London Tilbury and Southend Railway replacing ‘Bromley’ station. In the 1890s plans were made for a railway west of here to join with the Met. Line at Whitechapel and giving an alternative to the line from Fenchurch Street. In 1902 the station here was opened on the District Line. In 1968 it was renamed ‘Bromley-by-Bow’. The building remained on the east side of St. Leonard’s Street and dated from 1894, with a station masters house alongside. It was burnt in a fire in 1970 and replaced with an entrance in Talwin Street. In 1972 the current building opened on the west side. There is a large observation mirror at the end of the platform and by looking into it, the train driver can see all the way back down the platform. There are also designs on the brackets from the earlier railway company. There was a footbridge over island platforms which had to be rebuilt for electrification. In 1895 a gateway to the station from Devons Road was provided largely for railway staff from the North London depot and hospital workers. It closed during the Second World War but reopened with its own booking office, stairs and ramp. It finally closed in 1970. Railways services, As distinct from London Underground, do not regularly call at the station and in 1968 ownership of the station was transferred to London Transport.
Signal Box. This was built when the line was quadrupled in 1905 replacing one of 1893,
St. Leonard's Works. This was at one time a soap works and then, until, 1895 an asbestos works. Dux Chemical Solutions Co, making Duxeen which was a chemical treatment for canvas and paper. .
Bromley Goods Yard was south of the rail line east of St. Leonard’s Street. It opened in 1898
133 Fraser and Fraser. Steam boiler works. Founded in 1825 the company moved from the site in 1984. They were eventually taken over by Brown and Tawse one of the big houses was in their site which was north of the railway.
Canning Town Glass works. – This firm operated on a number of sites in east London, Sheerness and elsewhere. Although the address of this works was Stephenson Street they were north of Cody Road. This site was developed in the late 1920s and survived to be bombed in the Second World War. It included an office block.
The Greengate and Irwell Rubber Co. This works was immediately south of the glass works. In they had originated in the Royal Albert Dock and built the Stephenson Street works in 1914. They made rubber belting and tubing, hose, cables, proofed fabrics and clothing. Their main works was in Salford and the Canning Town works was bombed in the Second World War and never replaced.
Sugar House Lane
Three Mill Lane
The Domesday Survey recorded 8 mills in the West Ham area which must have included these mills - which means they are some of the earliest known tide mills. Three Mills was leased by Stratford Abbey. At the dissolution they were granted to Sir Peter Mewtys, and by the later 16yh there were two water mills used as a corn mill and a gun powder mill in 1588. In 1728, Three Mills were bought by Peter Lefevre, who ran the mills together with the distillery. The mill complex and distillery stand on an artificial island formed by Three Mills Wall River, Prescott Channel, Channelsea River and Bow Creek. Piles supporting horizontal timbers form a foundation for the House Mill and there is a revetment of the island on the north and west walls.
House Mill. The building straddles the Three Mills Wall River and was once flanked by two houses and dates from 1776 in its present form. There is a stone date plaque with the initials of Daniel Bisson, whose family owned the mills in the 18th. The mill has five floors and a weather boarded north wall along six bays. The south wall has a series of circular cast-iron wall tie plates holding the brick front to the timber frame. The mill is 80 feet long by 50 feet wide and it bridges four mill races and two waterways with a span of 45 feet. The central tide race had gates which closed and re-opened automatically as the tide rose and fell. At the peak of the tide, a sluice was closed and the water flowed back to operate the mill wheels. In 1938, the mills were operated for 7 to 8 hours in every tide. The mill has four undershot water-wheels which last turned in 1941. It is said to be the largest tide mill ever built in England and is the largest surviving tidal mill in Europe.
Miller's House. This had been demolished in the 1950s and was reconstructed in 1983 by Julian Harrap. It is now the Visitor and Education Centre with a café. The original brick party wall with the mill and fireplaces remain.
Windmill. Built 1734, which survived until about 1840.
Gasworks. This was built on the site of the windmill in the late 1830s and was a small plant providing lighting for the mill and distillery.
Clock Mill. Fawcett & Co. were distilling here in 1727 but there is a date plate ‘DSE 1776’. It is in brick with five floors with dormer windows and brick walls which get thinner as they get to the top. It was semi tidal impounding at 12.5’ OD. There were three mill wheels, one of which is marked ‘Fawcett and Co. last used in 1952. The clock tower itself has windows with pointed brick arches and an octagonal timber bell turret with a weather vane and a 1750 bell. This tower is earlier than the main building and was part of an earlier mill. The clock dates from 1753 plus a brass` plate with details of an 1813 repair. A pair of drying kilns also pre-date the mill although their conical tops are 19th... Projecting from the south wall is a weather-boarded lucam, and below a cast iron crane for unloading grain from barges. The mill is used as offices.
House built in the mid 19th as a dwelling house. Later used as offices by H. M. Customs and Excise.
Roadway. Paved with granite setts and flagstones marking a pathway across from the House Mill to the Clock Mill. Listed
Bridge - north east of the House Mill built in the late 20th going to a cobbled square and gateway to a grassed recreation ground. Designed by Peter Fink of Artz Architecture and Clash Associates.
Barge stands in the pool below the Clock Mill which were for use at low tide.
Three Mills Distillery. From 1872 this was the Nicholson gin distiller which produced alcohol for sale to rectifiers of gin and for industrial use. Distilling ended in 1973. Some older buildings remain including bottling plant, rebuilt 1953, and Old Still House. The distillery was used in the Great War for the development of acetone supplies by Chaim Weizmann under secret conditions for the British Government. Weizmann went on to become the first President of Israel in 1948.
New Still House, 19th building contained 19th stills removed from Nicholson’s Clerkenwell works in 1967.
Laboratory built 890. This was originally a rectifying house.
Warehouse - single-storey spirit warehouse, c1830
Iron tram rails for coal trucks
Film Studio. Bow Studios, 3 Mills Island Studios and Edwin Shirley Productions were located here in in the 1980s. In the mid 1990s the three studios merged to become 3 Mills Studios. The studios now use the distillery area and the entrance is now a tall boarded timber gate with brick piers. The studio has produced a number of populist soap operas and game shows for TV.
Big Brother House. This stood for two years adjacent to the studios. The area is now a patch of grass. Contestants were evicted over an adjacent bridge which still stands.
Bonded Warehouse. This stood on the spit of land on the approach to Bow Locks. It was destroyed in Second World War bombing.
Crown Chemical Works. Kemball, Bishop and Co, making baking sundries - Citric Acid; Acid Sodium Citrate; Tartaric Acid; Cream of Tartar. They also worked on pharmaceuticals, notably penicillin
Imperial Chemical Works. Owned by Harper Twelvetrees. Twelvetrees was an American who manufactured laundry chemicals and moved here from Islington in 1858. He built the works around Eversley House, which became his home. He sold the works after only seven years, having built workers housing, and some social amenities,
Ransome and Dean
Three Mills Back River
Tide impounded for the mills at the sluice, thus could work the mills 16 hours a day.
Twelvetrees Crescent. Bridge into the gas works 1872, by Peter William Barlow, for the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company
Statue of Sir Corbett Woodall. Woodall was a 19th chairman of the Gas Light and Coke (Chartered) Gas Company. The statue was originally at Beckton and moved here in the 1960s.
Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works. The works was designed by E. Kirkham for the Imperial Gas Light & Coke Co. as their super out of town works in 1870. The London gas companies had been asked by the government to build large out of town works in this period and the Imperial – then the largest London gas company with works at Haggerston, Fulham and Kings Cross - commissioned this works to the highest possible standard. Work began in 1873 on an area of 170 acres and it was the intention of the company. to provide 60 million c/ft. per day. The company built four very large retort houses which began work in 1873 and 1876. Coal had to be barged to the works and to this end St, Leonard’s Dock was built. In 1876 – again through Government encouragement - the Imperial Company was taken over by the Gas Light and Coke Company (the older ‘Chartered Company’ with a works in Westminster, and currently constructing their own out of town works at Beckton). It has been said that in ‘many respects, notably purifiers, gasholders, engine rooms and other buildings, the design was superior to Beckton’. Under the control of the Gas Light and Coke Co however the Bromley works was left unfinished and side lined –and remained so for the rest of its history. No connections were made with the railway despite the fact that two lines ran alongside it. In the 1950s, following nationalisation, it was the second largest works of the North Thames Gas Board. The works was run down and continued working through the 1950s. eventually closed in the 1970s. The site is now largely light industry and trading.
Gas holder group. Seven holders 1872-1882. Designed and commissioned by Thomas Kirkham and Joseph Clark, followed, under the Gas Light and Coke Co., by Vitruvius Wyatt. There were once nine holders here. They have double tier guide frames with cast iron Doric and Corinthian columns and filigree webbed girders. They are all a bit different to each other and No.1. was given a spiral guided flying lift in 1927.
Memorial garden with lots of secondary woodland and it is thought this was perhaps an old garden. It contains a War memorial within the gas holder compound. Commemorating the employees of the gas light & Coke Company killed in both world wars. Moved to this site from Beckton Gas Works. Other memorials from other works were alongside it.
Congreve Rocket manufactory. The younger Sir William Congreve is known to have occupied an area of marshland here in the 1820s shown as a ‘rocket manufactory’ on contemporary plans. It is thought that some works on his rockets was undertaken here – these were developed at Woolwich and initially used for attacks on the French from the sea during the Napoleonic Wars. It might be noted that the younger Congreve was one of the originators of the Imperial Gas Company which took over the site some thirty years after his death.
London Gas Museum. The Museum was set up in office buildings of Bromley by Bow Gas works in the 1980s. It closed in the early 21st. The material – much of it valuable and uncatalogued – was bundled off to Leicester.
Prologis Park. Distribution company.
Ballard. Effluvium Nuisance
Bow Locks. Wikipedia web site
Brindle. Article re. Distillery
British History. Essex web site
British Listed Buildings web site
Closed pubs web site
Connor. Fenchurch Street to Barking
Dead pubs web site
Diamond Geezer blog site
Discover Bow Back rivers leaflet
Discover Three Mills leaflet
Docklands Light Railway Trail
East London Record
Explore the Lee & Stort leaflet
Friends of the Earth. Gasworks sites in London
GLIAS London’s Industrial Archaeology
Good Beer Guide. East London
Lea Valley Walk leaflet
Lee and Stort web site
Lewis. Industry and Innovation
Lewis. London’s Best kept Secret
Lewis. More Secrets Revealed
London Borough of Newham web site
London Gas Museum leaflet
London Railway Record
London Transport. Industrial Archaeology
Martin. London Industry in the 19th century
Mills. Gas and Chemicals in east London
Mills. People and Places in the early London Gas Industry
Morris. Archives of the Chemical industry,
Parkes. The Chemical Industry in West Ham
Sainsbury. History of West Ham,
Stewart, Gasworks in the North Thames Gas region
TBIAGC, A Survey of Industrial Monuments of Greater London
Three Mills Walk, leafet
Trench and Hillman, London Under London
Tucker. London Gasholders survey
Walford. Village London,
Wilson, London’s Industrial Heritage