River Lee

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This article is not about the River Lee that flows through Cork, in the Republic of Ireland; see River Lee (Ireland).
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Bow Creek (tidal) meets the Limehouse Cut (canal) with a view of London's Docklands

The River Lee or River Lea (both spellings are in general use) is a river in England. It originates at Luton in the chalk beds of the northeast Chiltern Hills and flows generally east and then south to London where it meets the River Thames - the last section being known as Bow Creek.

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A boat race on the River Lea

The spelling Lea is predominant west (upstream) of Hertford, but both spellings are used from Hertford to the River Thames; the Lee Navigation was established by Acts of Parliament and should be so spelt.

The river rises just west of Luton, and flows through (or by) Luton, Harpenden, Welwyn Garden City, Hertford, Ware, Hoddesdon, Cheshunt, Edmonton, Tottenham, Upper Clapton, Hackney Wick, Stratford, Bromley-by-Bow, Canning Town and finally Leamouth where it meets the River Thames (as Bow Creek).

For much of its distance the river runs within or as a boundary to the Lee Valley Park. Between Tottenham and Hackney the Lee feeds Tottenham Marshes, Walthamstow Marshes and Hackney Marshes (the latter now drained). South of Hackney Wick the river's course is split, running almost completely in man made channels (the Bow Back Rivers) flowing through an area that was once a thriving industrial zone.

Inside Greater London, the Lee passes a series of reservoirs: King George's Reservoir at Brimsdown, William Girling Reservoir at Edmonton and the Banbury Reservoir at Tottenham. At Tottenham Hale there is a connected set of reservoirs; Lockwood Reservoir, High Maynard Reservoir, Low Maynard Reservoir, Walthamstow Reservoirs and Warwick Reservoirs. It also passes the Three Mills.

Once an important commercial waterway, certain sections were canalised as part of the River Lee Navigation. Another artificial channel, the New River was constructed to take clean water to London from the Lee and its catchment areas and bypass the polluting industries that had developed in its downstream reaches.

In 1571, there were riots after the extension of the River was promoted in a private bill presented to the House of Commons.

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