The New River is neither new, nor a river.
It is a water supply aqueduct, completed in 1613, to bring drinking water from Hertfordshire to North London.
Before 1600 London’s water supply was limited to the River Thames, local streams, wells and springs. These sources, often contaminated, were distributed by sellers carrying water in wooden buckets.
King James I authorised the construction of the New River in 1604 to bring water from springs in Hertfordshire and Middlesex to London. He provided half the costs of the works upon the condition that he received half the profits.
In 1609 the authority to carry out the works was given to Hugh Myddelton, a goldsmith and merchant adventurer, who proceeded to build the New River over the next four years. The New River Company was created by Charter in 1619 with Myddelton as the first Governor.
The importance of the New River
Building the New River marked the start of the water industry, and it still remains an essential part of London's water supply. Up to 220 megalitres are carried along the channel daily for treatment, which represents some 8 per cent of London's daily water consumption.