Hackney Cut (Lee Navigation)

Whilst the Lea is a natural river, straight sections or 'cuts', were added in the 16th and 18th centuries to shorten the route for navigation. For some reason, the spelling of the name 'Lea' got changed to 'Lee' when referring to these new cuts. The section of the Lee Navigation between Old Ford Lock and Lea Bridge is known as the Hackney Cut and was built in 1769. The old River Lea meanders along to the east through what is now the Olympic Park.

Two new canals - Limehouse Cut and the Hertford Union Canal - were built to connect the Lee Navigation to Limehouse Basin and the Regent's Canal. The Hertford Union Canal joins the Hackney Cut at Hackney Wick, one of the few areas to still retain its old industrial character with several surviving 19th and early 20th century buildings, many of them now used as artists' studios.

Hackney Cut, like most of the Lee Navigation that falls within the Greater London area, is far busier now than it was even 10 years ago. Much of this activity relates to the hundreds of boats being used either as a lifestyle choice or simply as affordable accommodation. Narrow boat living has become so popular, in fact, that the Canal & River Trust is looking at ways to crack down on the number of boats that seem to be more-or-less continuously moored in places - i.e. most of the navigation - that are not designated for permanent mooring.

2017. Hackney Cut, looking north from Twelvetrees Crescent towards Stratford.

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2017. The Lee Navigation (left) and the River Lea run side-by-side between Bow Locks and Three Mills.

1983. The Lee Navigation north of Three Mills, looking west. The old Bryant & May match factory,                                                                                   subsequently converted into apartments called Bow Quarter, is in the background.

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2017. West side of Hackney Cut south of Stratford High Street.


2017. Hackney Cut north of Stratford High Street, looking south

1983. The Lee Navigation from the Greenway at Old Ford, looking south. 

2015. The industrial buildings in the photograph above have been replaced by apartment blocks.


2016. The section of the old River Lea that runs through the Olympic Park diverges from the Lee Navigation just below Old Ford Lock.

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2015. Hackney Cut at Fish Island, looking across the navigation to the Olympic Stadium.

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1982. Hackney Cut, looking north towards the former Clarnico confectionery buildings, White Post Lane, Hackney Wick.

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1990. Junction of the Hackney Cut and the Hertford Union Canal (right), looking south-west towards Fish Island.

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1982. Timber Wharf, Hertford Union Canal, Old Ford.

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2015. Hackney Wick is now crowded with house boats. 

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2015. The Hackney Wick end of Carpenters Road. A few Victorian and Edwardian industrial buildings have so far survived in this area, including the one in the centre of this photo that formerly belonged to the Clarnico confectionery company.

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2016. Hackney Cut at Hackney Wick, looking south-east across to the Olympic Park. 

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1990. Clapton Park Estate, built on the west bank of the Hackney Cut c.1970. These three high-rise blocks were demolished by Hackney                            Council in 1993.

2016. The old River Lea runs to the east of Hackney Marshes before joining the Lee Navigation                                                                                    just south of Lea Bridge.

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2016. Hackney Cut south of Lea Bridge. The remains of the Middlesex Filter Beds are behind the wall on the right.

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2016. Hackney Cut at Lea Bridge.

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    © Mike Seaborne 2017