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Saddlers Mill Stream and the Boundary Ditch

Saddlers Mill Stream is quite likely unknown to many present day residents of Lower Edmonton as it is almost entirely hidden from view. The short remaining length of Boundary Ditch may likewise not be known to anyone not from that part of town.
The page received a minor addition in March 2011, was tweaked a bit in October 2013, and was had some information added in August 2014. However it is best considered as dating from around 2005 at latest.


Saddlers Mill Stream (sometimes seen spelt Sadlers) is something of a forgotten watercourse in Edmonton as it is culverted for just about its entire length, though it can be seen between Village Road and Wellington Road in Bush Hill Park. The Village Road end is obscured by foliage (October 2002) but if you look out for a block of flats called something like Brook View if coming from the north you might avoid walking past it completely. It can be seen more easily at the Wellington Road end if you keep your eyes open (photo) and if you walk from the south it is just past a Private Road (marked as Athole Gardens on my map) and a block of flats called something like Saddler's House.

Apparently it rises at the northern end of Chase Side (Enfield Town) and crosses Town Park from where it is part of the northern boundary of Edmonton and the course can then be traced on the 1894 maps when it was largely still in the open. It runs under London Road between the junction with Bush Hill and Private Road and runs roughly south-south-east to run between Village Road and Wellington Road where it can still be seen as mentioned above. On the east side of the road it would seem to be under the footpath running through to Longleat Road. It is now flowing more or less due east under the railway line, First Avenue and St Marks Road. It continues for a way running somewhere near Leighton Road or Alberta Road and then abruptly turns south as a place I reckon is just before the Great Cambridge Road. It then heads south under the road and through the Chatsworth Drive / Dimsdale Drive area before running under the railway at a place I reckon is probably around 100 yards south of the footbridge.

A later map than was available when I wrote the above suggests the stream splits from the Boundary Ditch (see later) just north of Alberta Road at the west end, and then flows under Alberta Road more towards that end than the Cambridge Road end. The area was still being built up at the time of that map.

The original text for this page dating from sometime before 2005 was probably based on the 1894 map in the absence of better information and suggested that It runs south to the railway junction and swings east for about 100 yards which must be somewhere near Hamilton Road (renamed Chris Andrew Way in 2009) before running south again diverting slightly westwards to run under the embankment to the railway bridge. It runs alongside the railway before turning back on itself and then to the east-south-east on a course that seems to match that of Salmon's Road.

In August 2014 a check of later maps that hadn't been freely available ten years previously seemed to reveal the stream running in the open in a pretty straight line behind the houses in St Edmund's Road and clearly running under the embankment for the railway overbridge. Projecting the line south of the bridge would take it under Croyland Road. This might suggest the stream was diverted in a culvert as the area was built up in the early 20th Century. The curious alignment of Salmon's Road, and its name, still lends itself to the thought that the stream might be under the road.

You could quite reasonably argue that the road would be named after the wrong stream if that were the case, however old maps do suggest there were more channels about in the past and even links between Saddlers Mill Stream and Salmon's Brook in the area, so perhaps which stream is known by which name could have changed too.

Running under Junction Road and Kenwood Road the stream then then takes a clearly man made south, east, south, east stagger to skirt the site of the old Croyland Road School and run along the north side of Croyland Road (just north of the present pavement I would imagine as the buildings are set back a little and there are no obvious manholes to access it elsewhere). It then runs underneath the Hertford Road and along the south side of Bounces Road which quite possibly contributes to the offset road junction here (I haven't gone looking for it but there is a suggestion that at the western end it is under the roadway close to the pavement). It then turns south to run under what is now the eastern pavement of Montagu Road and used to join Salmon's Brook where the latter is culverted under the road but has been diverted in recent years (see later).

In a contribution on the message board, 'Ron' recollects that Saddlers Mill Stream was still open along part of Bounces Road as late as the early-1950s.


Walking along Montagu Road in February 2003 and approaching the line of Salmon's Brook I came across a digger working at the side of the pavement and when I looked at what was going on I realised that they must be clearing the silt out of the Saddlers Mill Stream in the culvert. My photos on the left above are rubbish but the two on the right courtesy of the Montagu Road Flood Action Group are somewhat better!

By this point some readers might be puzzled at my claim that the stream is hard to see and wondering what on earth I am talking about. I repeated the bit about the stream only being visible between Village Road and Wellington Road from Dalling and I feel sure I have seen the same thing stated by others. I inferred the 'only' because if it were visible elsewhere it seems strange not to mention it. The face that modern maps still mark the stream running along the boundary of a public park between London Road and Village Road is perhaps a strong indication that I was misinformed.

I had noticed that on the west side of London Road between the petrol station and a block of flats the driveway surface seemed very much like some culverted parts of Salmon's Brook. On the east side I had noted a wall which seemed very much like it started off as a bridge side and behind it I glimpsed a cut in the ground like you would expect for a stream. Aerial photos also showed the same definite line where the maps mark the stream. So the line of the stream was clear to me. There is also Riverside Park to the south of it reached by a wide path from Park Avenue and although this may be named after the house called Riverside that was once on the otherside of the Bush Hill and Park Avenue junction it may simply have been named because it runs alongside the stream. Unfortunately it seems that I never got around to walking around the part to see if the stream was still visible, or whether it was just the old valley of it with the stream culverted underground (of if I did I never noted what I discovered and I've now forgotten).

In October 2013, John Rowland wrote to say that although he had only been to the park once about decade previously, his recollection is that the stream was indeed in the open alongside Riverside Park.

This area is all a little vague on the 1895 map and on the west side of London Road there seems to be a watercourse running towards the New River just to add to the confusion (though I do struggle to see what is what on the old maps sometimes).


Had Saddlers Mill Stream not taken its diversion away from the boundary it would pretty much line up with the ancient (well very old anyway!) 'boundary ditch' (photo left) you see marked on maps running east from the Hertford Road and which I consider to be part of the northern border of Lower Edmonton (though one road on the wrong side sneaks into the N9 postcode). When I looked at it last there was a definite flow to it which started from two pipes disappearing under the Boundary pub and some of the water looked discoloured. This suggested that it is perhaps more than just a ditch these days and now Lesley Anderson then made a useful contribution to the message board enlightening me further...

For information: The Boundary Ditch forms part of the Sadlers Mill diversion scheme which was built in the 60's. Frequent flooding occurred at Hertford Road/Bounces Road juction due to the insufficient capacity of the Sadlers Mill stream to carry surface water from both Enfield and Edmonton. Therefore the Sadlers Mill splits upstream and runs in a separate culvert under the houses in Galliard Road where it is discharged into the Boundary Ditch and then into the Brimsdown ditch where it meets with Salmons Brook downstream. This reduced the pressure on the Sadlers Mill and stopped the flooding in the Hertford Road. However, further urbanisation and strain on the Sadlers Mill has recently lead to problems with it being able to discharge satisfactorily when the Salmons Brook is running high — hence the flooding at Montagu Road in October 2000.

Looking back at the 1894 O.S. Map with my eyes open, the boundary ditch can be seen to indeed continue from where the Saddlers Mill Stream turns south and join up with the part that is visible today. It then continues beyond the railway line to the river. The line of the ditch would take it along of just south of Progress Way, across Woodstock Crescent somewhere online with or near Woodpecker Close, across Mayfield Crescent and behind the houses in Elmcroft Avenue. Heather Cornish has said on the message board that she remembers the houses on the north side of Elmcoft Avenue having to give up part of their gardens so a ditch could be culverted so this rather sounds like it may be part of the diversion scheme mentioned.  I wonder if perhaps the diversion scheme simply exploited all of the old Boundary Ditch which might have already been culverted where roads crossed it. Speculation of course but it would make some sense.

In March 2011 I was thinking more about the route across Woodstock Crescent and realised a few things I had overlooked, or had never mentioned on this page and then forgotten about. Firstly I have probably mentioned elsewhere on this site that the boundary of Lower Edmonton and Ponders End crossed Woodstock Crescent near Woodpecker Close. It used to be the different style of street lighting that was an indicator in the 1960s and 1970s (and possibly before and after that time). A look at an appropriate map shows a ward boundary following the boundary between numbers 70 and 72. These properties don't have the usual alley between them and the boundary is skewed towards the west. That I would suggest is where the Boundary Ditch is to be found. Similarly Woodpecker Close was built much later than Woodstock Crescent and yet there was room to fit it in between two terraces, so that would suggest space was left around something. The rear gardens of the houses in Elmcroft Avenue also get slightly longer as they approach Mayfield Crescent, suggesting they are following the line of something that was there first.

That just leaves the bit between the two and a look at a map may help there too. There is an alley that starts at the end of the houses on Woodstock Crescent, runs between their back gardens and those in Mayfield Cresent, and the emerges onto Mayfield Crescent between two terraces. It was known as the 'Private Alley' when I was a child and used as a shortcut when playing games like 'run outs'. The space between the two terraces is again unusually wide and there isn't the usual wide alleyway, just this one narrow one. The last stretch of this would be perfectly online for the Boundary Ditch and again it is the ward boundary.

Looking at suitably detailed maps in August 2014, the ditch clearly runs just behind the houses on the north side of Alberta Road, continues south of the Progress Way industrial site being the houses in Woodgrange Avenue, and then does continue across Woodstock Crescent where I suggested, though it is very close to the south side of the space between the terraces, possibly even clipping the pavement. It can clearly be seen crossing Mayfield Crescent at the suggested location and behind the houses on Elmcroft Avenue.

I'd speculate the Brimsdown ditch is the one that started in what used to be a maze of ditchs in Brimsdown and seems to bypass the complicated layout of the River Lea around Ponders End Lock and run alongside the railway line before diverting east and south to join with Salmon's Brook where it turns south. The old maps suggest lots of ditches north and south of Pickett's Lock Lane (and in Brimsdown) which I guess reflects that the area was naturally marshy. Most of these seem to have gone but there are sewage treatment works and the lake in the Lee Valley Golf Course to add more modern complexity.

I suspect the comment about 'further urbanisation and strain' above may be referring in particular to the extensive new developments on Montagu Road which drain surface water into the Saddlers Mill culvert under Montagu Road. Having read a report on the flooding it would seem that stating this led to problems might not be universally accepted and that it could be considered that the root cause of the problems was just exceptional weather conditions. However I should imagine that it would exacerbate problems locally once they did occur.


As a result of the flooding problems it seems that it has been recognised that having the stream discharge into the brook under Montagu Road is no longer satisfactory and plans were made to divert it. Enfield Council obtained permission from the Environment Agency for this work and it started February 2004 (photos above). It looks rather like they are just cutting the corner and joining the brook shortly after it leaves the culvert. I don't know if the new part is going to be completely hidden but it would be nice to at least see a few yards of it.


Passing the area again in mid-May 2004 it rather looks like it is being covered over as I didn't really notice it. In fact all I could see of the new section was a hole where a large hose appeared. Looking at the photo you can see where the new section must enter the brook on the left but it seems pretty well hidden. The second photo is presumably the original place where the stream and the brook merged in the culvert. The merging point seems very close to the end of the culvert and I don't remember being able to see the brook so easily so even allowing for the top soil having been removed I wonder if the culvert is a smidgen shorter. Maybe not.

Looking back at the 1894 map I notice that there is a watercourse joining Saddler's Mill Stream where it turns south down Montagu Road. This appears in the area east of the Bury Street and Hertford Road junction and runs east and south. On the 1801 enclosure map it would seem that it comes from the Bury Street area itself where lots of water seems to be about and of course the other stream is just to the south. I find the intermediate online 1867 map too hard to pick features out on to really help out, though it could hint at a course all the way along Bury Street, perhaps even moving on to the north side. There are also indications of a watercourse alongside Pickett's Lock Lane which does strike me as a more natural direction than turning abruptly south. I suspect that again I am probably trying to simplify something that is more complex and there was probably a lot of 19th and 20th Century activity in this area.

Since writing the last paragraph I have come across a 1786 map which hints at the stream running east to the river along the Pickett's Lock Lane course I suggested above. It also hints at the course along the north side of Bury Street rather than down by Croyland Road. I probably shouldn't draw too many firm conclusions from it because it might not be too accurate in terms of scale or detail. Certainly 'Bouncers Lane' sounds like a forerunner or misspelling of Bounces Lane (Bounces Road) but it seems to be drawn more in the location of Town Road with another lane in the Bounces Road location. I have since seen an even older small scale map suggesting the course north of Bury Street as the primary one but also showing a link to Salmon's Brook in what must be the Balham Road area. I am not sure I can read much into that. A c. 1600 enclosure map shows the stream south of Bury Street and then as it approaches the Hertford Road there are links with Salmon's Brook, as suggested before, and it swings north under Bury Street again before heading east. There is no sign of anything in the Bounces Road area. Here the course down what is now Montagu Road dominates and the layout suggests that although we now consider the stream as feeding into Salmon's Brook, it is likely to be more the case that Salmon's Brook was diverted and took over the southern part of the stream.

© Copyright 2000-2018 Graham Johnson.
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