The Black Path By David Boote
The Black Path is a route across Leyton and Walthamstow Marshes from a ferry crossing of the River Lea to St James Street. It can be seen below left on a map drawn by Thomas Milne in 1800, here highlighted by blue arrows beside, not over, the representation of the path with dots. Note how the path for a time follows the boundary between Leyton and Walthamstow, indicated by Milne with groups of three dots. The map below right shows the current streets and pathways, the route closest to the Black Path here highlighted by brown arrows beside it.
The direction of the Black Path is the same as that of the ‘Porter’s Way’ from the Lea ferry crossing through Hackney and London Fields to Shoreditch.
Little is known about the Black Path. Why was it relatively straight in direction ? Why that direction ? How did it get its name ? It is actually straighter now than it used to be. The deviation along the parish boundary disappeared when the railway line was built in 1840 from Stratford to Cambridge through the Lea Valley. The Black Path took its direct course to the ferry crossing only through the marshes nearest the river which were unfenced common grazing for part of the year, and its route through the enclosed fields of meadowland reflects some of the boundaries. Those driving animals or carrying goods may have wished to avoid paying tolls on the turnpike Lea Bridge Road and Lea Bridge itself, breaking the law by crossing at the Horse and Groom pub.