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THE NEW RIVER COMPANY

The New River Company was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1619 with Sir Hugh Myddelton as its first Governor.  Under the Charter, it was a penal offense to throw rubbish or carrion into the River, while anyone washing clothes in it, or planting Sallow, Willow or Elm trees with five years of it, would incur the 'King's displeasure'.

The company became a significant landowner in the Clerkenwell district of Islington, and laid out streets and squares which take their name from people and places associated with the company, including Amwell Street, River Street, Mylne Street, Chadwell Street, and Myddelton Square. 

When London's population grew beyond a million habitants, the New River failed to give an adequate supply of water, and other companies were formed for the purpose of supplying different parts of London:  Chelsea Waterworks and others were started by various companies in succession.  Due to its source, it was not impacted by the ban on the supply of drinking water from the tidal Thames, under the Metropolis Water Act 1852 from 01 August 1855.

Dr. Frankland's analysis of water supplied to London during the month of October 1876 gave a relative degree of organic impurity, compared to a given volume of the Kent Company's water.  Dr. Frankland also compared the same from those of the months August and September.  Organic impurity was measured, relative to the Kent Water Company's benchmark, which supplied part of London (in areas, in direct competition with the others).

Water Analysis
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The New River's Original Course
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Table and map are courtesy of London Lost Rivers 

www.londonlostrivers.com/the-new-river-html

The water supplied by the latter five companies, drawing their supply exclusively from the Thames - when compared with that supplied in August and September - showed a marked deterioration in quality.  It had a higher proportion of contamination with organic matter.

The New River Company was taken over by the Metropolitan Water Board in 1904 and became part of the Thames Water in 1973.  

 

The company's former headquarters and laboratory at New River Head on Rosebery Avenue, are now private flats.  During daylight hours there is public access to a viewpoint over the gardens and into the adjacent garden of Nautilus House.  At the rear of the building (not open to the public, but visible from the gardens) are the remains of the 'Chimney' or 'Devil's' Conduit, a medieval conduit-head.  

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