The Coppermill at Walthamstow Wetlands

The CopperMill at Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Wetlands Marine House

Marine Engine House

Constructed in 1894, the Marine Engine House is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture. The building will be restored as a visitor centre, café, exhibition space, viewing terrace and educational space. Find out more.

The Coppermill building, although modified over the centuries, is a notable feature of Walthamstow Wetlands today.

The earliest reference to a mill at Walthamstow comes from 1066 where records of Walthamstow Toni Manor mention a mill existing there.

The Domesday Book, dated 1086, provides another reference to the mill where it is quoted as saying that Walthamstow ‘always had a mill’ although the exact position and form of the building is unknown.

The mill at Walthamstow is mentioned several times throughout historical records. It has been noted that in the 14th century, the mill was powered by the stream that diverted from the River Lea for use in grinding corn.

In 1611, four mills are mentioned in association with the Manor of Walthamstow. The mill-stream is thus likely to have powered more than one wheel on the same site.

In 1659 the mill was separated from the Manor of Walthamstow when the then Lord of the Manor, Charles Maynard conveyed it to John Samyne of Bromley near Bow.

From that time until 1703, the mill was known to have been used as a paper mill with the adjacent stream being referred to as Paper-mill River.

However, in 1699, the adjacent marshes are noted to have been referred to as Powder Mill Marsh which questions the use of the mill and suggests that it may have been used in the production of gunpowder for the English Civil War between 1642 and 1651.

A number of gunpowder mills operated in the Lower Lea Valley during the Civil War, which suggests that Walthamstow Mill may have been used as such during this time.

The use of the mill from the 18th century onwards becomes clearer. Accounts from 1703, 1710, 1712 and 1718 record the mill being used as a leather mill with Pierre Montier, a skin-dresser, first referred to as ‘the Miller’ in 1703 to be followed in turn by Peter Lefevre in 1711 and Daniel Lefevre in 1713.

Sometime between 1723 and the 1740s, the mill was given over to the production of linseed oil under the direction of a Mr Kemp.

The mill was noted as an ‘oyl mill’ until 1806 when it was rebuilt and put up for sale. As far as the Coppermill was concerned, the oil production business continued until 1806 when the mill was put up for sale.

Welsh-based British Copper Company purchased the mill in 1808 for rolling out copper ingots into sheets. Copper was brought to the mill from Swansea by barge via the River Lea and Coppermill Stream.

From 1809 to 1814, the company issued 1d and ½d copper tokens, which were probably struck at the mill, as the buildings included a mint.

These were accepted as legal tender at a time when the genuine articles were in short supply due to the Napoleonic wars.

The business was sold in 1824 to Henry Bath & Co. and in 1832 to Williams, Foster & Co., but the name British Copper Co. was retained.

The mill, which employed 30 hands in 1848, ceased rolling copper in 1857; the machinery was dismantled and taken back to Swansea.

In 1859 the old mill and the rights to the waters were bought by the East London Waterworks Company, who converted it into a pumping station.

The Mill was acquired for £4,000 after negotiating down from the original asking price of £13,000.

Later in 1864, an Italianate tower with an open arcade to the upper storey was added to the west side of the building by the ELWC.

The Coppermill building is Grade II Listed. The mill has undergone a number of alterations over the centuries, including the addition of its Italianate tower in 1864.

It currently serves as an operational hub (used partly for storage and partly as a centre for Health and Safety and confined space training). The tower is empty.

The building is generally ‘L’ shaped on plan and is almost entirely single-storey, although twin rows of windows give the impression of two.

At the north-west corner is the tall Italianate tower, which formerly housed the Engine House. The building is constructed in brickwork with a yellow stock brick laid Flemish bond in a light-coloured, gritty, lime mortar; major features are in Portland stone.

The sole exception to the use of face brickwork is at the centre of the west elevation where the Italianate tower has a rendered finish which is lined out to imitate ashlar work.

The building has a mixture of natural slate and concrete pantile roofs. Windows are painted softwood over painted cills, possibly oak, and doors generally are vertically boarded.

Overall the building appears to be in reasonable condition, although some maintenance work is required.