New River Village

New River Village, Haringey

A high-density, high-price housing estate in north-east Hornsey, built on the 15-acre site of a former waterworks in the early years of the 21st century

New River Avenue sculpture - geograph-3326251-by-David-Anstiss

The New River is an artificial waterway constructed in the early 17th century to bring potable water from Hertfordshire to London. Following alter­a­tions to the river’s course – eradic­ating what had been known as the Hornsey loop – and the intro­duction of laws requiring London water companies to filter their output, the New River Company estab­lished the Hornsey water­works in the late 1850s.

The site was recon­figured from the 1880s onwards, and the surviving red-brick buildings dotted around the perimeter of what is now New River Village were the last to be constructed by the New River Company before the Metropolitan Water Board took over in 1904.

At the end of the 20th century Thames Water built a new water treatment plant beside the reservoir (located just beyond the top of the map below), vacating the southern half of the site and freeing it up for redevel­opment.

Designed by the trendy urban archi­tects Stock Woolstencroft (now Stockwool), New River Village is one of several London projects under­taken by St James, a joint venture between Thames Water and private developers the Berkeley Group exploiting the oppor­tun­ities offered by disused utilities sites. When the ‘village’ was completed in 2008 it consisted of 622 studios and apart­ments in nine blocks with under­ground car parking.

Hidden London: New River Village pump house
The Pump House, seen in 2014

A (narrow) linear park borders the New River and the Victorian pump house at the entrance to the estate was converted into a restaurant – which has since changed hands two or three times.

The scheme’s highly publi­cised USP was an arrangement sponsored by St James and facil­itated by ‘cultural brokers’ Futurecity alloc­ating the pump house annex to Royal Academy of Arts schools’ students as a gallery and studio complex. This didn’t last long and in 2011 St James sold the gallery to Jehovah’s Witnesses for conversion to a Kingdom Hall. The “ground­breaking cultural partnership” has since been airbrushed from the history of all involved, though at the time of writing it still appears on Futurecity’s abandoned Pinterest page.

New River Village’s archi­tecture won several awards. Some critics expressed fears that its “brash appearance” might not date well but it has at least stood the test of the decade that has passed since its creation.

Postal district: N8


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* The picture of New River Avenue (sculpture and Amazon Apartments) at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright David Anstiss, and the picture of the Pump House is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Julian Osley, both at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.