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Most people are surprised to discover that Tottenham had its own small thriving sailing club back in the fifties, sixties and early seventies. It wasn't based on the Lordship 'rec'. Paddle boat lake as some past 'humorists' have said - but on the River Lea at Tottenham Marshes !

It all started in 1957 when a group of predominantly North London based friends who enjoyed 'mucking about in small boats' decided to form a sailing club. A ‘slight’ stumbling block to their plans was in deciding exactly 'where'!! Apart from the Lea Valley's [untouchable] reservoirs there were no reasonable sized expanses of water available to them in this part of North London, so thoughts turned to rivers.

Many of the clubs founder members such as Roger Fillery, Rowland Joslin and Ron Parsons have now sadly sailed on and this means that much of the finer detail of those very early days is now lost. It is known however that they decided to base themselves on the Lea - their local canal - at Stonebridge Lock. Naming themselves 'The Lea Valley Sailing Club', a shed was 'acquired' on the Walthamstow side between river and reservoir banking just below the lock to use as a club house

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The River Lea, [I prefer that spelling] was a convenient choice. It ran across Tottenham Marshes, was quite local to most of the group and had ready access along Marsh Lane from the Northumberland Park railway station level crossing. It was also an easy cycle ride along the tow path from Ferry Lane and Tottenham Lock for any new members coming from the Walthamstow area.




As an aside, the Lea and 'the marshes' here-a-bouts were not really an unusual choice in-so-far as recreational pursuits of many kinds went. From the 1860's to the late 1930's a great many local people had used its tennis courts, football and cricket pitches or walked, fished and hired rowing boats from Paige's Boats, then situated just above the lock.

[Paige's, later Hewitt's Boats carried on the business until the '70's. On its site today is the Stonebridge Lock Waterside Centre where canoes and cycles can be hired.
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Locals looking for recreation also had 'The Tottenham Marshes Swimming Pool' that was situated just below the lock and filled from the river. It had opened in 1905 and was finally demolished in 1939, two years after the Lordship Lane Lido opened. Many of these activities continued after World War 2, whilst gravel extraction and household waste dumping also took place there between 1947 and 1960.

Within its first year however the new club received some bombshell news. The latest of the many rolling Lea 'improvement' schemes that had taken place in past decades was shortly starting at Tottenham Lock to be followed by Stonebridge. It was certainly major engineering works as it included enlarging the existing lock and excavating a second chamber at each with full electric operation, plus new modern houses for the lock keepers.

Access to the clubs stretch of bank that the club used would soon disappear but fortunately, a member with good local contacts obtained for them use of 'the old Paint Factory' at Edmonton. A recently closed paint manufacturer, these small riverside premises were situated upstream of the Edmonton Angel Road Viaduct. The clubs new next door neighbours - as an occasional 'aromatic' presence proved - were the settling beds and tanks of the Deephams, [Edmonton] Sewage Works!!

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The building’s owners, also looking on the clubs occupancy there as a good security measure, generously offered it for free for a couple of years and the club moved there in 1958.This was never more than a temporary measure however and by 1960 their 'welcome' was coming to an end.



                                         EDMONTON 1959



Fortunately it appears that the same member[s] also discovered that the now disused 'The old Refreshment Hut’ on Marsh Lane was empty and available. Tottenham council who owned the building were willing to rent it to club and they moved back down river during the Spring/early summer of 1960. I joined at this point, having up to then had a weekend job at the boatyard above the lock.

Membership continued to grow steadily at Marsh Lane and soon a larger boat storage compound than the club house surroundings could offer, was needed. This led by 1962 to another triangular piece of land some forty or fifty yards away along the club house 'side path' being leased and wire fence enclosed.


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The London Borough of Haringey, my new employers and the clubs new landlord, was formed on the 1 April 1965 as a result of the London Government Act, and very soon, things started to change. The new council now required that building and fire insurance be taken out and there was also talk of a rent increase and changes to the clubs lease

As the months passed by, by all accounts the relationship between the club and council appeared to become rather strained. As one past ex committee member from then told me in 2011: "After the change over in 1965, it appeared that as far as Haringey was concerned, we were outstaying our ‘welcome’ there as well"!!

                           PICTURED LEFT: L.V.S.C WEEKEND REGATTA

                           RIVER LEA - TOTTENHAM 1969

Due in part to these 'difficulties', sometime during 1966 the club decided to move again. This time it was to a large steel 'dumb' barge that the club purchased with help of a grant from the, [as was] 'National Playing Fields Association'. A bank side mooring was obtained approximately half a mile upstream from the boatyard on 'Wild Marsh East and the task of turning a rusty lighter into a comfortable club house commenced.

The club continued to flourish and the barge conversion continued. During 1971 however, news broke that the Lee Valley Regional Park, [who took over Tottenham marshes ownership in November 1972] was opening up the King George V Reservoir for water-sports the following year and that a sailing club would be established there.

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The news meant that not only did new membership enquiries quickly stop - but a new club and its huge expanse of sailing water also proved irresistible to most Lea Valley members once it opened in 1972.Sadly, restrictive canal sailing rapidly lost its appeal and as far as most recollections go, the Lea Valley Sailing club simply faded away as the months passed by.

I was long gone from the club by that time but I understand that it was eventually wound up - believed either in late 1973 or early 1974 - by its last two members; a husband and wife team who were both committee members.


They had the unenviable task of dealing with Haringey over this matter, but the council ended up taking over the barge club house 'as was'!

They had the [admirable] intention of turning it into their own canoeing centre but this idea was sunk before launch by funding and other issues.

It was all over!!

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Article writen by Ray Warren ( Now resident in Perth, Western Australia)

December 2012


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