Medieval Hackney was almost entirely rural with much land owned by Sir Thomas Mead. Agriculture and related trades were the main forms of employment. Arable crops were grown, such as beans, wheat, oats and barley. This created a need for milling of the grain, and there were several mills in Hackney. Temple Mills were water mills belonging to the Knights Templar, used mainly for grinding corn from their extensive lands in Homerton and the Marshes. The mills straddled the River Lea and so were partly in Hackney and partly in Leyton.
During the 17th century and 18th century, the former Templar mills were used for a variety of industrial purposes. These included grinding rapeseed for oil, processing leather, making brass kettles, twisting yarn, and manufacturing sheet lead. Gunpowder production at the mills led to a tragedy on the night before Easter 1690, when Peter Pain (a Huguenot refugee from Dieppe) was blown up together with two of the mills, three stone houses, and a vast quantity of gunpowder manufactured by him for the government. His family, and a French minister, also died in the blast.
Temple Mills was also the site of Chobham Farm, a meat cold storage warehouse. A strike and picket of the site in July 1972 led to the arrest and imprisonment of five trade unionists known as the Pentonville Five. The dispute spread nationally becoming a cause célèbre for the trade union movement and created a political crisis.
Temple Mills wagon works was opened in 1896 by the Great Eastern Railway on a 23-acre site to the east of the Stratford to Lea Bridge line with an entrance off Temple Mills Lane. Before then, wagons had been constructed and maintained on the original Stratford Works site located between the Great Eastern Main Line and the Stratford to Lea Bridge line. The constrained nature of that site saw the move to Temple Mills (which might have also possibly been influenced by the proximity of the marshalling yards).
In 1921 the works employed 800 men, producing 10 new wagons and repairing 500 wagons every week. The works also produced steel frames for carriages which were sent to Stratford Works for completion. The 1921 guide to the works (which covered Stratford works as well) gave details of the following shops on the site:
- Wagon Erecting Shop
- Smiths shop
- Fitting and Machine shop
- Wheel and Steel Frame shops
- Straightening shop
- Saw Mills
- An Erith Timber Dryer (most wagons were made of wood at this time so this was used to prepare the timber).
In February 1919 the works area flooded.
In 1923 the wagon works was taken over by the London and North Eastern Railway.
In 1948 British Railways took over the operation of the works. Around this time (exact date unknown) the New Wagon Repair Shop was built on the western edge of the site. This consisted of 8 roads and access was by a wagon traverser (there were two older ones dating from Great Eastern days on the site as well).
In the 1960s the works was responsible for the design of early freightliner and cartic (car carrying) wagons. This was also a time when a lot of older wagons were being scrapped and Temple Mills undertook this work. At this time the works employed around 400 people.
In 1970 the works became part of British Rail Engineering Limited. At this time there was also a workshop known as the New Road Van Shop that dealt with repairs to road vans, containers and barrows etc. This was located just south of the works site. During the 1970s some re-modelling was carried out to enable the works to cope with longer wagons such as Freightliner (container) flats.
The works was closed in 1983. It is reported that some 33,000 wagons were built jointly by Stratford Works and at Temple Mills.
Temple Mills TMD
The residual diesel repair shop closed in 1991. A small Traction Maintenance Depot was opened for EWS after the closure of Stratford TMD for a period, but that was closed in 2007 as changes to the freight market meant this was no longer financially viable. The depot code was TD. The site, now called Orient Way Carriage Sidings, is a stabling location for Electric Multiple Units.
Temple Mills is the site of the £402 million replacement maintenance depot for all Eurostar sets in the UK. Located near Stratford International and on the edge of the Olympic Park, it replaced the North Pole depot over the course of late 2007, with operations to coincide with the opening of the new international terminal at St Pancras.
Temple Mills depot is designed to house eight train-roads. The overall dimensions of the 8-road shed are just under 450m long by 64m wide, with a floor to ceiling height of approximately 12m. High level walkways in the trusses provide access to the shed services and facilities.
2009 saw the opening of Stratford International station on High Speed 1, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and in 2012 the location of the main Olympic Park, which contained a significant number of venues used in the 2012 Summer Olympics, including the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre, and London Velopark.
Stratford has been a focus of regeneration for some years and as of 2006 the seventy three hectare brownfield railway lands to the north of the town centre and station are to be redeveloped in a multibillion-pound scheme called Stratford City, centred on Temple Mills. This will form a new purpose-built community of 5,000 homes, offices, retail spaces, schools, public spaces, municipal and other facilities. It is hoped that this will become a major metropolitan centre for East London. Part of Stratford City will serve as the Olympic Village
- A local history project accessed: 20 October 2006
- Mills Victoria County History, Essex, 6 (1973), pp. 197-205.
- Robin D. Gwynn Huguenot Heritage: The History and Contribution of the Huguenots in Britain pp. 94 (Sussex Academic Press, 2001) ISBN 1-902210-34-4
- Flooded tracks in 1919 (image) accessed: 20 October 2006
- Memoranda connected with the locomotive and carriage works at Stratford and the wagon works at Temple Mills June 1921 GREAT EASTERN RAILWAY reproduced by the Great Eastern Society and Passmore Edwards Museum 1991 ISBN 1 85622 2225
- 4A36-A5A6-000000036603%7D&viewby=images accessed 19/07/12
- Banyard, Keith (October 2009). "Memories of Temple Mills Works". Great Eastern Railway Society Journal. 10 14 (140): 140.3–140.23. ISSN 0143-0866.
- http://www.scienceandsociety.co.uk/results.asp?image=10443369&screenwidth=1349 accesssed 19/07/12
- hString=hats&source=Search&viewby=images Accessed 19/07/12
- http://www.superstock.com/stock-photos-images/1895-35899 accessed 19/07/12
- http://www.newhamstory.com/node/1609 accessed 19/07/12
- Channel Tunnel (transport projects in London) accessed: 20 October 2006
- Arups: Temple Mills train depot accessed: 20 October 2006