Prescott Channel

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Prescott Channel
Prescott Channel.jpg
The Prescott Channel in July 2006, with cultivated fig tree
Locks 1
Status Open
Navigation authority Canal & River Trust
Date of act 1930
Date closed 1960s
Date restored 2009
Connects to Bow Back Rivers
The cranes mark the construction site of the Three Mills Lock.

The Prescott Channel was built in 1930–35 as part of a flood relief scheme for the River Lee Navigation in the East End of London, England, and was named after Sir William Prescott, the then chairman of the Lee Conservancy Board.[1] Rubble from the demolished Euston Arch was used in 1962 to improve the channel,[2][3] which forms part of the Bow Back Rivers.


Three Mills Lock is a lock in the channel to allow passage of freight for the London 2012 Olympics by a process of canalisation (with the result of stopping the tidal flow) on the channel and the River Lee northwards. It was constructed between March 2007[4][5] and June 2009.[6] The project was credited with offering additional benefits:-

"As well as helping barges carrying construction materials and recyclables between Stratford and the River Thames, the lock will also create new opportunities for leisure boats, water taxis, trip boats and floating restaurants."

A major benefit for British Waterways was the increased value of the land which it holds in areas no longer subject to flooding,[7] which it was expected would exceed the cost of the project.

The lock is 62 metres long, 8 metres wide and 2.4 metres deep, and can hold two 350 tonne barges (other locks on the Lower Lee limited barges to about 120 tonnes).[1] It was designed by Tony Gee and Partners and built by Volker Stevin.[8]

On 2 June 2008, work on the channel brought up a 2,200-pound (1 t) Hermann Second World War time bomb. Residents were evacuated, tube and rail services were disrupted, and flights from London City Airport were curtailed during the emergency. The 67-year-old, booby-trapped bomb was finally made safe, after five days, in a controlled explosion that threw 400 tonnes of sand into the air. Major Matt Davies, of the Army Bomb disposal unit said "If it had gone off in wartime there would have been large fragments up to a mile away which could have destroyed buildings and sewers". He added "This is the biggest unexploded bomb we have found in central London."[9]

In 2009, again as part of the project to build the lock, 29 stones from the Euston Arch were raised from the river bed and presented to the Euston Arch Trust. One stone had already been salvaged in 1994 by Dan Cruickshank, as part of a BBC Television programme called 'One Foot in the Past'.[3]

Criticisms of Canalisation[edit]

Three Mills Lock was delivered ten months behind the planned schedule, which severely limited its usefulness to the builders of the various Olympic Park venues. A further planned use was for the delivery of materials for the Crossrail project.[10] However the lock has in fact rarely been used by freight barges.

In August 2013, a long period of hot dry weather followed by heavy rain washed polluted road run-off water into the Lower Lea, causing deoxygenation of the water. The role of the canalisation of the Bow Back Rivers in and around the Olympic Park, with its consequences for tidal flow have been implicated in the considerable levels of fish kill which resulted from the incident.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Notes and News (April 2007) (Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society)
  2. ^ Euston Arch found at bottom of river, The Times (4 June 1994).
  3. ^ a b Where are the remains of the arch? (Euston Arch Trust) accessed 16 July 2008
  4. ^ East End rivers set for upgrade (BBC News)
  5. ^ "Waterways face new Olympian task". BBC News. 6 April 2008. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  6. ^ "Waterway revived as Olympic route", BBC News 5 June 2009
  7. ^ British Waterways (August 2006). "Prescott Channel Water Control Structure Project Explanatory Statement" (PDF). 
  8. ^ British Waterways press release: New lock provides sustainable legacy for London
  9. ^ "Hermann" the German bomb says farewell with a bang—after 67 years (East London Advertiser, 6 June 2008) accessed 9 June 2008
  10. ^ "Testing the Water" (Construction Manager, February 2010) accessed 11 August 2013.
  11. ^ "Fish killed in the River Lea. Pushed to their limits by environmental mismanagement" (Martin Slavin, Gamesmonitor, July 2013) accessed 11 August 2013.

Other sources[edit]

  • East London Record. No. 18 (1996)

External links[edit]

Geo Links for Prescott Channel[edit]