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Rivers & Canals

Norfolk Broads



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River Lee Navigation

Old Ford Junction to Bow and Limehouse Basin - Map 2 of 2

  Hertford to Old Ford Junction Map 1 of 2

  Old Ford Junction to Regents Canal (Grand Union) Map 1 of 12


Maximum Dimensions

Limehouse to Old Ford Lock

Length 88ft, Beam 19ft, Headroom 6ft 9ins

Old Ford Lock to Enfield Lock

Length 85ft, Beam 15ft 9ins, Headroom 6ft 9ins

Enfield Lock to Hertford

Length 88ft, Beam 18ft, Headroom 6ft 9ins


Low Bridges

Check tides or flood conditions if close to maximum headroom between Limehouse and Old Ford.

Also check:

Ducker Mill Bridge, Hertford - 6ft 10ins

Folly Bridge, Hertford - 6ft 9ins

All other bridges are in excess of 7ft 9ins at normal levels.



Navigable length 27.75 miles, 19 locks

Parts of the River Lea (the spelling Lee defines the navigation) were used as navigations in Roman times, and much of the river was navigable before the reign of Elizabeth I. The first legislation passed for the improvement of the navigation was for the Lee in 1425. In 1577 an early pound lock was built at Waltham abbey, using two sets of mitred gates, a principle that became a standard feature of lock design. In the 17th Century the Lee was established as a source of water supply for London, a role it still fulfils. The navigation was steadily improved throughout the 18th and 19th Century, under the direction of various well known engineers.  during and immediately after World War I enlargements were carried out to allow 130-ton boats to reach Enfield, and 100-ton boats to reach Ware and Hertford. In the 1920's further improvements were carried out and in the 1960's locks were mechanised and duplicated. Timber had always been the main support of the Lee Navigation, a trade that sadly does not survive today. The Stort has never been a significant navigation commercially, and has not in fact carried any commercial traffic for some years. The navigation dates back to 1769 when the river was canalised to carry malt and barley as the main traffic. Sir George Duckett was the undertaker and first owner, and after his death the navigation passed through various brewery-associated hands until it was taken over by the Lee Conservancy in 1911. It would have prospered for more if the oft proposed but ill-fated schemes to build a canal from bishop's Stortford to Cambridge and the Fenland waterways had ever succeeded.

The 2012 Olympics

The 2012 Olympics has bought a major change to the landscape around the River Lee where it passes through Stratford. New footbridges, and changes to the existing bridges and access ways, cycleways and towpaths with miles of security have affected this stretch of the Lee. At the juntion with the Hertford Union Canal refurbished towpaths afford a breathtaking view of the Olympic Stadium that is built to the East bank of the river.