Middleton, Sir Hugh

, a public-spirited man, and a great benefactor to the city of London, by bringing in thither the New River, was a native of Denbigh in North Wales, and a citizen tind goldsmith of London. This city not being sufficiently supplied with water, three acts of parliament were obtained for that purpose; one in queen Elizabeth’s, and two in king James the First’s reign; granting the citizens of London full power to bring a river from any part of Middlesex and Hertfordshire. The project, after much calculation, w r as laid aside as impracticable, till sir Hugh Middleton undertook it: in consideration of which, the city conferred on him and his heirs, April 1, 1606, the full right and power of the act of parliament; granted unto them in that behalf. Having therefore taken an exact survey of all springs and rivers in Middlesex and Hertfordshire, he made choice of two springs, one in the parish of Am well near Hertford, the other near Ware, both about twenty miles from London; and, having united their streams, conveyed them to the city with very great labour and expence. The work was begun Feb. 20, 1608, and carried on through various soils, some oozy and muddy, others extremely hard and rocky. Many bridges in the mean time were built over his New River; and many drains were made to carry off land-springs and commonsewers, sometimes over and sometimes under it. Besides these necessary difficulties, he had, as may easily be imagined, many others to struggle with; as the malice and | derision of the vulgar and envious, the many hindrances and complaints of persons through whose grounds the channel was to be cut, &c. When he had brought the water into the neighbourhood of Enfield, almost his whole fortune was spent upon which he applied to the lord mayor and commonalty of London but they refusing to interest themselves in the affair, he applied next to king James. The king, willing to encourage that noble work, did, by indenture under the great seal, dated May 2, 1612, between him and Mr. Middleton, covenant to pay half the expence of the whole work, past and to come; and thus the design was happily effected, and the water brought into the cistern at Islington on Michaelmas-day, 1613. Like all other projectors, sir Hugh greatly impaired his fortune by this stupendous work: for though king James had borne so great a part of the expence, and did afterwards, in 1619, grant his letters-patent to sir Hugh Middleton, and others, incorporating them by the name of “The Governors and Company of ttfe New River, brought from Chadwell and Am well to London” impowering them to choose a governor, deputy-governor, and treasurer, to grant leases, &c. yet the profit it brought in at first was very inconsiderable. There was no dividend made among the proprietors till the year 1633, when III. 195. Id. was divided upon ea^h share. The second dividend amounted only to 3l. 4s. 2d. and instead of a third dividend, a call being expected, king Charles I. who was in possession of the royal moiety aforesaid, re-conveyed it again to sir Hugh, by a deed under the great seal, Nov. 18, 1636; in consideration of sir Hugh’s securing to his majesty and his successors a fee-farm rent of 500l. per annum, out of the profits of the company, clear of all reprises. Sir Hugh charged that sum upon the holders of the king’s shares. He was at last under the necessity of engaging in the business of a surveyor, or what is now denominated a civil engineer, and in that capacity rendered essential services to his country, by various schemes of mining, draining, &c. In 1622 he was created a baronet, and he died in the year 1631; since which, the value of the shares in this New River, as it is still called, advanced so much as to create large fortunes to thje heirs of the original holders. A hundred pounds share, some years since, sold as high as fifteen thousand pounds. Of late, however, there have been several acts of parliament passed in favour of other projects, which | have reduced the value of the New River shares full one half. It is the fashion now to decry the company as extravagant in their charges for supplies of water; but it should be remembered, that the shares of this corporation, like those of other commercial companies, are perpetually changing their masters; and it is probable that the majority of share-holders, when their value was even at the highest, had paid their full price, so as to gain only a maderate interest upon their purchase money. 1


Biog. Brit. Gent. Mao. See Index, and vol. LXXIX. p. 795. For a more particular account of th ris and progress of the New River, sue Lysons’s Environs, vol. III. and IV.