|The Duke of Northumberland's River (Isleworth Section)||Hounslow|
The Duke of Northumberland's River is an artificial waterway, originally cut in the late 1530s to bring water to power a mill at Isleworth owned by the Bridgettine Convent at Syon. After the convent was dissolved, the land went to Lord Protector Somerset in 1547. The estate later passed to the Duke of Northumberland who used the watercourse to supply ornamental ponds in his gardens. The Isleworth or eastern section diverts water from the Crane River as it runs through today's Kneller Gardens, eventually reaching the Thames at Isleworth, where the mill was situated. A public footpath runs along much of its route and passes a number of interesting sites that illustrate Isleworth's rich history. The western section of the Duke of Northumberland's River diverted water from the Colne River at Harmondsworth in Hillingdon to the Crane, running for part of its course alongside the Longford River, another artificial waterway constructed in the C17th. The Duke of Northumberland's River was purchased from the Duke in 1931 and today its maintenance rests with a number of agencies.
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Duke of Northumberland's River at the point where it parts from the River Crane in Kneller Gardens, May 2017. Photograph Sally Williams
Click photo to enlarge.
The Duke of Northumberland's River crosses borough boundaries, running through Hillingdon, Richmond and Hounslow. It was constructed in the late 1530s to bring water from the River Colne in Hillingdon to a flour mill in Isleworth owned by the Bridgettine Convent at Syon. For part of its route the Duke's River joins the River Crane through Hounslow and Richmond, before diverting again from the Crane in Kneller Gardens (q.v.) in Whitton from whence it runs in a north-easterly direction, with a public footpath alongside the waterway. This forms the eastern or Isleworth Section of the Duke's River, the route passing by two rugby stadia, The Stoop and Twickenham Stadium, before it runs through the West Middlesex Sewage Treatment Works at Mogden Lane, which opened in 1936 and replaced 28 smaller treatment plants that had ceased to cope with the rapidly expanding population. When the Mogden Works were constructed in the 1930s the site was excavated and, although the water level of the Duke's River was unchanged, its original course was somewhat altered and it was channelled through a concrete canal, with a tree-lined public footpath provided alongside. On leaving the Treatment Works, the Duke's River proceeds through Isleworth, through the 1930s Woodlands housing estate, along Riverside Walk where the footpath runs along the west bank between Worton Road and St John's Road. It then runs past the old Isleworth Brewery, later a bottling plant, then through Silverhall Park (q.v.) and beside Mill Platt, before reaching the Thames at Mill Basin, the site of the original mill that it was constructed to power. There was a mill here until 1934. From Mill Basin, water was then channelled to the Syon Park estate, controlled by sluices.
The River was purchased from the Duke of Northumberland in 1931 and its maintenance passed to Middlesex County Council but up until then it was the responsibility of the Northumberland Estate. It is now owned by the National Rivers Authority, with its banks the responsibility of a number of agencies.
The other section of the Duke of Northumberland's River is to the west where water was diverted from the Colne River at Harmondsworth in Hillingdon to take it the Crane River. For part of its western course, it runs alongside the Longford River, another artificial watercourse, which was constructed in the 1630s on the orders of Charles I in order to supply the ornamental waters at Hampton Court Palace (q.v.) and later Bushy Park (q.v.). In 1944, both of these waterways were diverted south when Heathrow Airport was built and again more recently when Terminal 5 was constructed. Skirting the perimeter of the airport the Duke of Northumberland's River flows east to the Crane in Donkey Wood (q.v.).
David Pape, 'Nature Conservation in Hounslow' Ecology Handbook 15, London Ecology Unit, 1990; 'Isleworth: a guide and some of its history', Isleworth Community Council, 1991; Paul Talling, London's Lost Rivers, www.londonslostrivers.com; Isleworth