“Jim Lewis is an extraordinary man” says architect Terry Farrell who credits him with revealing that the Lea Valley was the cradle of the post-industrial revolution.
It was thanks to Richard Rutter at the Lee Valley Park, now with British Waterways, that I first came across Dr Lewis. That was ten years ago.
Another book soon followed and now there are three new ones published by the Middlesex University Press.
In Battleships, Buses and Bombers: A history of transport in the Lea Valley, the author proves that it was not just British flying that was developed in the Lea Valley but steam engines and buses. London Transport was invented there.
Brunel’s Tamar bridge has girders supplied by the Thames Ironworks in Bow Creek where great ships were built.
Most revealing is the chapter explaining how the name Vauxhall was taken to London in the 13th century and brought back to Luton with the invention of the motor car.
Water and Waste: Four hundred years of health improvements in the Lea Valley starts with the parallel New River, still bringing water to the capital, and ends with the revolutionary London Waste EcoPark between Pickett’s Lock and Tottenham Marshes.
A chapter called ‘The Valley That Feeds The Metropolis’ has pictures of cucumber greenhouses at Cheshunt and flower pot drying houses at Tottenham.
Particularly interesting is the chapter on the recently reopened Markfield Pumping Station at Tottenham.
The third book, From Gunpowder to Guns, is the story of the Gunpowder Mills at Waltham Abbey, a forgotten site until a few years ago, and the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield which has now become a residential island.
The chapters in each book are concise. There are maps and the illustrations show both the past and present of the now Olympic valley.
Indeed I await with great interest Dr Lewis’s next book in this series which is called From Eton Manor to the Olympics: More Lea Valley secrets revealed.