Making history

The River Lea has a rich industrial heritage
The River Lea has a rich industrial heritage (credit James Cracknell)

Lindsay Collier from Lea Valley Heritage Alliance on the launch of a new exhibition celebrating the region’s industrial history

Most people are familiar with the Industrial Revolution that happened north of the Watford Gap. But what happened nearer to home?

For more than 200 years the Lea Valley region has been unrivalled in the world for its industrial activity; producing everything from paper tissues to battleships, as well as the most important industrial invention of all, the diode valve. Yet the story of this industrial significance has never yet been celebrated collectively – it is a travesty that this remains the case.

The River Lea flows south from Leagrave Marshes near Luton and finishes at Bow Creek by the River Thames. It has even been described by many historians as London’s most important river, because it has for many years provided London with its drinking water and acted as a river highway to transport commodities into London from Hertfordshire.

It was clear to me that something had to be done to ensure that this national and world story was not forgotten. Two years ago I started an organisation called Lea Valley Heritage Alliance (LVHA). Like any new group it was difficult to get people to understand our aims and objectives, which were basically to make sure that the story of the Lea Valley becomes known to the world and celebrated.

LVHA now has several members, including the London Legacy Development Corporation, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, and nearly every museum in the Lea Valley area. Last year our work started to get noticed, which resulted in a meeting with the secretary of state for culture, organised by our now patron, Sir Iain Duncan Smith.

However, the general election came along and derailed progress with our plans until early this year. A presentation to all interested parties is now scheduled to be held on Thursday 27th February at the House of Commons. Future plans include travelling exhibition celebrating many of these forgotten stories, fittingly called Made in the Lea Valley. With us now having left the European Union, there is no better time to put the ‘Great’ back into ‘Great Britain’ with this and other future industrial heritage projects.

If you would like to sponsor Made in the Lea Valley or to find out more: