Carpenters Road Lock

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Carpenters Road Lock links the Waterworks River to the junction of the route of the old River Lea, which passes to the West of the Stadium and City Mill River which passes to the East.


Waterworks River used to be tidal, but since the construction of the Three Mills Lock and sluice in 2007, as part of the preparations for the 2012 Games, it has had a controlled depth, although it still varies depending upon rainfall and overflow from the Lea Navigation Canal. This means that due to height restrictions under some of the Park bridges, it is not always possible to run boats along the river.


The lock is unique in the UK by having two rising radial locks. See the link below for a useful animation about how rising radial locks work.


Rising radial lock design for Carpenters Road Lock


Park Champion David Lomath kindly forwarded the following text about Carpenters Road Lock from the Canal and River Trust:


Carpenters Road Lock has been restored by the Canal & River Trust as part of a joint Heritage Lottery, Inland Waterways Association & Canal & River Trust funded £1.8 million restoration project.


Built in 1934, its one of only four navigation locks in Great Britain known to have been built with rising radial gates, and the only one to have been equipped with two such gates. It was also the first to have been built in England.


The lock sits at the heart of the Bow Back Rivers in East London and had been out of service for about 40 years. The Trust’s aim was to replicate as far as possible the original design, while bringing the lock up to date by matching the architecture of the Park and by making the workings of the lock more visible to the public. The lock now preserves safe river levels and allows passage of boats between Waterworks River and City Mill River in what is now the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.


The Project objectives were:


  • Full restoration of the lock allowing navigation of the Bow Back Rivers
  • Meeting the Trust’s flood control obligations
  • Deliver new boating opportunities for accessing the restored Bow Back Rivers in the Park
  • Creating a new public space
  • Increasing understanding of the heritage of the area
  • Providing volunteer opportunities and increasing skills and knowledge of our volunteers
  • Celebrating the project with a festival – using this as an opportunity to engage with a broad range of the local community


This intrinsic heritage value has been retained using sound conservation philosophy: The lock gates and gantries have been fully restored using original designs with modern materials and contemporary architecture to bring the lock into the 21st century. The gate design replicates the original radial curvature, long arms and the unique timber buffers. Domed head bolts were used as a close match to the original rivets. Safety requirement has been carefully integrated including concealed access to the gantries for maintenance.


The counterweights are housed behind glass doors so visitors can see the mechanical workings. Modern nylon bushes and wearing strips replace traditional prosperous bronze pivot bearings to reduce future maintenance costs.


The gantry steelwork is made from ‘CorTen’ weathering steel that eliminates the need for painting, it is in keeping with existing industrial inspired structures of the Park such as the Energy Centre. The Project has returned a redundant relic back to a fully functioning heritage asset protected by the Trust's National Asset Management Plan.


The lock also serves as flood defence structure during extreme weather (a 1 in 100year event) to manage tidal influence from the River Thames and heavy rainfall events. It diverts water into the Bow Back Rivers around the London Stadium effectively using the adjacent canal system as an emergency flood relief channel to help protect homes and businesses from flooding. The original design of the lock in the 1930s was a response to flood risk, by restoring the lock we have restored its role in fluvial flood conveyance.


The project also aimed to restore and reveal this unique and relatively hidden stretch of waterway as a local and regional leisure destination. Culminating in the opening of the lock at the East London Waterways Festival in August 2017, the event was designed to showcase the Lock as a destination and promote the natural amphitheatre and surrounding Bow Back Rivers as potential sites for future cultural and water based activity.


The lock has national significance and has great potential to attract pleasure boats from the national canal and river network. A previously derelict section of the river has been rejuvenated and is now an attractive destination and an interesting route for walkers, cyclists and river users.


A digital platform, freely accessible via mobile phone, has been developed to meet the needs of a range of users, including an oral history-based audio trail, photographic archive material and detailed explanation of the history and heritage of the site and its redevelopment. The lock is now a significant attraction in the Park and can serve as portal for visitors to learn and reflect on the history of the waterways along with the industrial and social history of the surrounding area.


The project has established and supported volunteer groups and strengthened capacity through training, opportunities for co-operative endeavour and the establishment of the Friends of Bow Back Rivers Group and a volunteering network where future activities can be developed.


The project has successfully engaged young people with well-regarded field trips for schools and youth groups. An exciting experience and teaching materials have been developed to promote understanding of environmental and historical geography. A range of skills have been taught and developed (for example tour guiding, oral history recording, choral singing) with positive outcomes for emotional and physical wellbeing and enhancing social connections for participants.


The ‘Activity Plan’ survey of local people demonstrated that those interviewed were overwhelmingly positive about the benefits the Trust could bring to local communities around heritage and managing a visitor destination.


The Trust held a very successful East London Waterways Festival attracting thousands of visitors. It showcased a range of water-based leisure activities including canoeing, trip boats, dragon boating and canal cruising that were extremely popular and demonstrated future potential and firmly established the waterways as a significant local feature.


The local community has benefited from the lock restoration. An awareness of the heritage and value of the local waterways has been demonstrably raised through the Project. New opportunities to volunteer and participate in waterway activities have been created. Exciting new social spaces have been established including a lock-side amphitheatre and the Old Ford Lock volunteer hub and visitor centre that will host future activities and attract visitors from all over the world.


The lock is now a significant attraction in its own right, providing access to the water space of the Bow Back Rivers. The Project ensures that waterway heritage is in a better condition, made more widely accessible, experienced and understood by people and communities.