Temple Mills

Temple Mills, Newham/Waltham Forest

A former industrial, commercial and railway area beside the River Lea that was transf­ormed for the 2012 Olympic Games

Hidden London: Wetland alongside the River Lea, Temple Mills, by Marathon

A crossing point on the River Lea brought early human activity to this locality and evidence has been found of a Roman camp nearby.

In 1185 William of Hastings, steward to Henry II, granted land here to the Knights Templar, who later built wooden water­mills. After the disso­lu­tion of the order in the 14th century their property passed through a variety of hands (including the Crown’s) and milling and related agri­cul­tural indus­tries continued to grow. The name Tempylmylle was first recorded in 1461.

A White Hart tavern stood at Temple Mills from the early 18th century.

In the latter part of the 19th century the mills were demol­ished and the Great Eastern wagon works were moved north­wards from Stratford, with marshalling yards spreading inex­orably. The works were modernised in 1958 as part of a programme that made them the largest in Britain. British Rail later added a Freight­liner terminal.

The wagon works closed in 1983 and railway utilities progres­sively vacated other parts of the site over the following few years.

The Corpo­ra­tion of London relocated Spital­fields market to a site north of Ruckholt Road in 1991 and the A12 East Cross Route was constructed across Temple Mills later in that decade.

In 2007 Eurostar’s Temple Mills depot and engi­neeering centre opened on a site imme­di­ately north of New Spital­fields Market.

Hidden London: pre-Olympic demolition of houses in Temple Mills

A swathe of Temple Mills was scarred by construc­tion work on the Channel Tunnel rail link and the entire southern half of the locality was then trans­formed for the 2012 Olympic Games. Derelict land was reclaimed, factories and ware­houses were flattened, as were social housing, a trav­ellers’ site and students’ accom­mo­da­tion in the surpris­ingly hilly area around Clays Lane – a road now erased from the face of the earth. The photo above, taken in February 2007, shows the demo­li­tion of houses on Trafford Close in advance of the Olympics.

Most of the area once occupied by the Temple Mills wagon works, sidings and goods sheds has now meta­mor­phosed into East Village, with Westfield Stratford City to the south and Stratford Inter­na­tional station between the two.

North-west of East Village a ‘vibrant new community’ called Chobham Manor has recently taken shape. The photo­graph below shows apart­ments at Ruckholt House, on the corner of Villiers Gardens and Derny Avenue. Beyond Chobham Manor, Olympic facil­i­ties for cycling, hockey and tennis have been retained.

Hidden London: Ruckholt House, photographed by Oast House Archive

Postal districts: E10, E15 and E20


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* The picture of wetland alongside the River Lea at the top of this page is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright Marathon, and the picture of Ruckholt House is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright Oast House Archive, both at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse of these images is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.