New interpretation boards along New River Loop in Enfield Town

The Enfield Society has teamed up with Enfield Council to help educate visitors about the history of the 411-year-old watercourse

One of the New River Loop interpretation boards in Southbury Road
One of the New River Loop interpretation boards in Southbury Road

New interpretation boards have been installed along the 1.25-mile route of the New River Loop in Enfield Town thanks to a partnership between The Enfield Society and Enfield Council.

Highly illustrated, the five new boards tell the story of the New River and Enfield Town’s historic watercourse. Together they create a New River Loop trail describing its history and heritage.

The New River was first opened in 1613 to provide fresh drinking water for Londoners, supplied by several springs in Hertfordshire and later by the River Lea. The original course of the artificial waterway was a lot longer because the limits of construction methods at the time meant the route needed to wind its way around insurmountable obstacles.

After being straightened in the 19th Century using tunnels and aqueducts, many of the redundant ‘loops’ of the New River were filled in, but Enfield retained its section as an attractive feature of the town centre.

The Enfield Society trustees Sue-Grayson Ford and John Cole wanted to help bring this history to life and encourage visitors to explore the route with a series of new interpretation boards. They worked on the design and text for the panels with Martin Jones, senior landscape architect at Enfield Council.

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Writer and Journalist Nick Higham, author of The Mercenary River, was asked to fact-check some elements of the project following his recent talk at the society’s Jubilee Hall.

The project is part of a wider council desire to maintain and improve the health, quality and appearance of the New River Loop. This has included relaying the footpath to the west of Carr’s Basin, repairs to the wooden sides of the waterway and to both pumps at either end of the loop, as well as a significant desilting project in 2022.

John Cole said: “The Enfield Society has been active in cleaning up parts of loop in recent years and, along with local residents, reports problems concerning the loop to the council. 

“The project is part of a wider unfunded project to restore and improve access and its appearance. It is hoped that the future Enfield Town project, part funded by Transport for London around Enfield Town Station, might support this aim.”

The five trail interpretation boards comprise two lecterns, two upright panels and a larger unit in Chase Green Gardens which will also be used by a local residents’ association. Information on the boards includes an activity question aimed at children and how the New River was a “triumph of early engineering”.

One of the boards also tells the story of a “grisly murder” that took place after a drinking session in The Crown and Horseshoes Pub, while another explains how royalty, including Elizabeth I and James I, hunted their own deer on the nearby Royal Chase.

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