Lea Valley’s untold industrial history deserves a platform

By Lindsay Collier, Chairman of Lea Valley Heritage Alliance

The Grade 2-listed former Low Hall Pumping Station is the home of the Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum, Credit: Mike Seaborne

Long before the 2012 Olympic games, the idea of a museum celebrating the largest untold industrial story in the world was proposed, yet here we are in 2023 with nothing to show for many people’s endeavors to achieve this.

A meeting held a few years ago with then the Secretary of State for Culture Matt Hancock regarding the Lea Valley and also being given World Heritage Status came again to nothing.

Another presentation was then held in the House of Commons which was also arranged by the Chingford MP and our patron Sir Iain Duncan Smith soon also got forgotten about like many things due to the Covid lockdown.

I can also recall a meeting with LOCOG at Canary Wharf before the Olympic games commenced who knew nothing about the industrial past of the Lea Valley. Some heritage boards on the Olympic site would have been great, however, by then it was too late to do this, and the heritage concept of the games was a few puffing chimneys, the NHS, and hats with lightbulbs on at the closing.

We have also had a maiden speech in the House of Commons given by the current MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy regarding the region’s industrial heritage. A few years ago, Waltham Forest also held the London Borough of Culture with again another opportunity missed to highlight the importance of the region’s industrial past.

I would also argue that if this story is not important then why are most of the region’s industrial treasures in National museums? There is now however a chink of light in the armorer with a website being currently developed to tell this unique world story. There are several sites in the Lea Valley where an industrial museum could still be constructed.

Until a regional museum is developed, I am afraid to say that the Lea Valley region’s unique industrial story is still being sold down the River Lea.

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