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Tuesday, 10 September 2019

New Book: Jumbo — The Water Tower

BWTAS Committee member, Brian Light, has completed his book on Colchester's massive, iconic water tower, that he started writing, back in 2001.

The book, published by the Balkerne Tower Trust, tells the history of the Jumbo water tower, it also relates the story of Jumbo the elephant, describes the water tower era and a brief history of water supply. It is profusely illustrated with old drawings, documents and photographs.

Author — Brian Light with his new book.

Book Launch:

"Jumbo – the Water Tower"
Opening by Sir Bob Russell
Red Lion Books, Colchester
11th September at 6:30 pm

(Details: here)

The launch will be followed by a short talk by the author on the origins of the book and why it is important for everyone concerned with Colchester’s local history and its most prominent landmark. All profits from the sale of the book will go towards a future restoration of Jumbo which preserves its architectural character, allows public access and provides ample historic interpretation of the famous tower.

After this event, the book will be available in Colchester, at Red Lion books, Waterstones and the Visitor Information Centre, price £9·99. Copies will also be available at the joint BWTAS/BTT stand at the Essex Industrial Heritage Fair, in Chelmsford on the 5th October.

Information regarding the Balkern Tower Trust may be found here: www.savejumbo.org.uk

Ferrers

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Return to Tiptree

Another chance for BWTAS members to visit...


The tower before conversion… © Peter Loosley

Members last had the opportunity to visit this tower in Tiptree, back in August 2013: Lots to see at Tiptree… when conversion of this unique tower, was in it's infancy. Now the conversion is complete and owner Jim Underwood has kindly offered us a return visit. The size of group is limited and it is only open to BWTAS members. The visit is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on Sunday 8th September, 2019. If you would like to visit this tower and meet up with fellow water tower enthusiasts, places must be booked, by contacting bwtas@hotmail.co.uk

Following the visit, it is proposed that we adjourn to the Wilkin & Sons Ltd. Tea Room, just over a mile away, to catch up and chat water towers etc. There is also a splendid museum and visitor centre there…

Tiptree water tower is located on the B1023, Kelvedon Road, just to the north of Tiptree, at TL 88643 17147. For those with a Sat-Nav, the post code is: CO5 0LX. Driving directions may be obtained from Google here. Parking may be found on the industrial area by the tower, as you head out of Tiptree, take the road just past the tower on the same side.

Note: The visit is entirely at your own risk. The owner or BWTAS cannot be held responsible for any accidents.

Ferrers

Note to members:

You should have received an e-mail notification of this visit. If you have not, it's either in your Spam, or we do not hold a current e-mail address for you. If the latter, please e-mail us at bwtas@hotmail.co.uk regardless of whether you intend to come on this visit, so we can update our list and keep you informed.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019


BWTAS Update…

While this blog has been rather quiet of late, there has been a lot of activity going on in the background…  We held our committee meeting in Wenhaston, back in January, to plan the year ahead and following that, a second follow up meeting took place in Halesworth to review progress and further flesh out our programme and advance other projects. This has resulted in rather more work than originally envisaged!

One of the projects being undertaken…

A BWTAS weekend excursion is planned around 'water' — the proposal is to include a walk along the Cromford canal and a visit to the Victorian Papplewick Pumping Station. While in the area, the plan is to take in nearby water towers — not just the public supply towers, but including those at public attractions such as Rufford Abbey or Shipley Hall…   40 potential locations have been investigated! All this has taken rather longer than anticipated and now, may possibly be held over for next year.

A day out for members was also proposed and we are planning to go to Tiptree water tower next month. We last visited in August 2013: Lots to see at Tiptree… when conversion of this 1933, brick water tower (one of the last to be built) had only just commenced. Conversion is now complete and we have been invited back. Members will be getting an e-mail shortly and details will also be posted here too.

The BWTAS display boards were showing their age, so new light weight boards have been designed and produced. Additionally, since the supply of Nat's water tower leaflet has been exhausted, a new A3, BWTAS leaflet has now been designed and printed. The display boards and leaflets had their first public outing on 8th June, at the East of England Regional Industrial Archaeology Conference:

Not only did we bring BWTAS to people's attention, we also bolstered the society's funds by selling copies of Dr. Barry Barton's “Water Towers of Britain”. BWTAS's next public event is at the Essex Industrial Heritage Fair in Chelmsford, on the 5th October. It would be nice to see you there.

Disappointed that a festive Yuletide model water tower had sold out, prompted the thought that perhaps we should produce our own model water tower… After much deliberation, the Victorian "Jumbo" water tower in Colchester was chosen as the most suited to be made into a card model, that could be distributed in kit form. Much work was undertaken by Mark Beesley to produce the Mk. I kit, that was then built by the committee members to prove it's feasibility — the results can be seen in the first image, above. As if that wasn't enough, BWTAS committee member, Brian Light has been writing a book on the history of this tower and is due to be launched next month.

Ferrers

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

A Visit to Delft…

© Photograph Copyright Wil Harvey

When BWTAS Chairman Wil Harvey was visiting the Netherlands, he of course kept his eye open for any interesting water towers. The above tower was spotted in Delft and convieniently it had a plaque on it, informing us that this Watertoren was built in 1895 and contained 600,000 litres (132,000 gallons). It gave the architect as M.A.C. Hartman.

Further investigation located this tower in the center of Delft at 52.01677,4.35112 and it's up for sale for € 675,000! The tower was converted in 2008 to provide a multifunctional, hospitality and conference space of approximately 300 m2 (3,230 sq ft) that may be hired: http://dewatertoren.eu/

The tower 29 m (95 ft.) high and 11 m (36 ft.) in diameter, was commissioned by the municipal water supply company and built by Delft contractor G.B. Luken. One of the most interesting aspects of this tower, is that it contained an Intze 2 type tank, with a double-curved bottom, formed from curved, riveted steel plates.

Diagram of an Intze 2 tank from Wikipedia
By Uwe Barghaan, SVG version by Zirguezi - Own work, CC BY 3.0, Link

The tank in the Delft tower has a cylindrical shaft in the middle, so that the round penthouse on the tower roof may be accessed by a twisting steel staircase. The load-bearing masonry tower incorporates iron beams and also has some decorative wrought-iron work. The roof is of concrete reinforced by iron I-beams.

In 1908 the tower was given a concrete intermediate floor. A pump house, in the same style as the water tower, was added in 1918–1919 along with an underground reservoir of around 2,000 m3 (440,000 gals.).

While researching this tower, I delved into our archives and found this image of a nearby water tower:

Rijndijk water tower © Copyright Peter Loosely

The above photograph was one from the collection of photographs kindly donated to BWTAS by Peter Loosely (A Water Tower Windfall!!).

This later water tower, stands on the Rijswijk border with Delft, in the hamlet of Het Haantje at 52.02446,4.34603. This tower was constructed in 1911 for the municipality of Hof van Delft (abolished in 1920) for the supply of water to Hof van Delft and part of Rijswijk. The tower was designed by architect N. Biezeveld and is constructed in reinforced concrete. The tower is approximately 29·3 meters (96 feet) high and contains a 200 m3 (44,000 gal.) tank. Beneath the tank we can see the cylindrical shaft in an openwork, tapered support structure. What is not shown in the photograph, is that beneath this, is a square substructure that measures approximately 7·5 by 7·5 m (24½ × 24½ ft.) with a height of 5·5 m (16½ ft.).

The tower is no longer in service and the municipality of Rijswijk granted a permit to convert it into a residential home, in October 2008. The owner elected to only convert the lower substructure, preserving much of the water tower, including pipework. Conversion and renovation started in August 2009.

And finally, yet another water tower in the vicinity:

Image from Google Maps Street View, August 2014

This small iron ‘water tower’ in Rijswijk is located at 52.0405,4.29256. This iron box on legs, originally stood at a greenhouse horticulture company, to provide water to the crops in the greenhouses. Now it is retained as a monument.

Ferrers

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Saturday, January 19th 2019 @ 10:30 a.m.


BWTAS Planning Meeting !


The BWTAS committee are meeting in January to plan the year ahead and members are most welcome to join us. We will be meeting at the Wenhaston Village Hall Café, that is on the corner of Hall Road & Narrow Way, Wenhaston, IP19 9EQ. Post meeting, we plan to adjourn to the Star Inn (⅓rd mile down the road) for lunch. This is where the society was formed in May 2006. It would be really nice to see members, or if you haven't yet joined, come along and sign up — it's only £5 for life membership and perhaps pick up a mug or book and save P&P. If you cannot make it in person, but have any ideas that you would like us to explore, then please e-mail us at bwtas@hotmail.co.uk. Unfortunately, due to security, it is almost impossible to visit a working water tower.

Wil Harvey
Chairman

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Footit Peek, Guernsey (1890s)

© Photograph Copyright Dr Carmen Wheatley

Located at N 49.479359° W 2.528773°, in the top corner of the St Clair vinery1 meadows, on Delancey Hill. This is the only decorated Victorian water tower in Guernsey! Built by Gervase Footit Peek, founder of the Guernsey Press (builder of most of the 19th century vineries in the North part of the island) it is believed that the water tower was built in the 1890s.

The tower was intended to supply the vinery, but it may well also have been used for various households nearby. However, there are an abundance of private wells in the area, as there once were in the nearby Park.

The tower is in a field adjoining Dr Wheatley’s garden — once the home of Footit Peek — and part of the property. With guidance from Guernsey architectural historian, John McCormack, an expert in Channel Islands walls and houses, Dr Wheatley has had the south and east sides restored. The obscuring lime render on the East side has been chiselled away to reveal alternating bands of Cobo Bay pink granite and grey Guernsey granite. The cast iron tank was sandblasted clean and painted in various shades of historic Farrow and Ball off white paints.

© Photograph Copyright Dr Carmen Wheatley

The water source for this tower is not directly beneath it, but from a water reservoir far down the steep hill, below an escarpment, at a place called Waters Rocque, which is at a considerable distance from the vinery. Thus the Tower and area must contain a veritable underground marvel of Victorian hydraulic engineering!!

The Delancey Conservation Committee would like to have this unique water tower registered by Guernsey planners, as a local industrial architectural Monument — there is nothing else like this on Guernsey in this genre. The St Clair Vinery is a Conservation Area — it is an ecological, green and productive space.


1. The term vinery has been used to describe Guernsey's many acres of glasshouses, since the growing industry began in the latter half of the 19th century with production of grapes, melons, figs, peaches and other exotic fruit for the Victorian dinner table.

Information kindly supplied by:

Dr Carmen Wheatley
Delancey Conservation Committee

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Dunkeswell, Devon (1989)

© Photograph Copyright Brian Light

The above photograph was sent to me by fellow BWTAS committee member, Brian Light, while on holiday. Brian thought this was a rather unusual water tower, looking more like a grain silo, however the sinage clearly indicated that it was a water tower. This water tower is indeed unusual, as like many, it has two tanks, but unusually in this instance, they are located one above the other, in a 'double decker' arrangement. Normally a tower will contain two tanks at the same level, that usually work in tandem. This enables one to be drained down for cleaning, while still maintaining supply from the other, during less demanding periods. This 120,000 gallon tower, built in 1989 stands at O.S. Grid Ref. ST 13440 05850.

Two other towers in Britain were also known to share this oddity, of having 'double decker' tanks:— The 510,000 gallon Priesthill tower in Glasgow, built in 1950, it had a 450,000 gallon tank, 22 feet above ground level and a second 60,000 gallon tank supported on a 3 × 4 array of columns on top of the lower tank, giving it an elevation of 52 feet above ground. The tower was demolished in the late 1990s — it stood at O.S. Grid Ref. NS 52962 60313. The other tower, was Ormskirk's Victoria Tower, built in 1897, by the Rural District of Lathom and Burscough. The square plan tower built of sandstone supports a lower tank of 80,000 gallons, approximately 62 feet high with, a top water level of 242 feet above ordnance datum. This is surmounted by a smaller tank on a square sandstone tower of 17,000 gallons, approximately 99 feet high with a top water level of 283 feet above ordnance datum. The tower became redundant when the new tower at Scarth Hill was built. Due to the rapid deterioration of the structure, the tower was demolished in the early 1980s — it stood at O.S. Grid Ref. SD 42379 08612.

The practice of having multiple tanks stacked vertically, is much more common in other European countries — such as the Sternschanzen tower in Hamburg, Germany, featured previously in this blog.

Ferrers

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

History Repeating Itself…

© Photograph Copyright Peter Loosely

The above picture has the note: "Water tower construction — Nigeria (tower collapsed when filled with water)". Another picture here and here.

I came across this photograph, that I think was probably taken in the 1980s, when scanning some of the vast collection of photographs donated to BWTAS by Peter Loosely (A Water Tower Windfall!!). This reminded me of a similar collapse that happened here in the UK, back in the 1900s in Witney, Oxfordshire:

Copy of 1904 Postcard sent in by BWTAS member Keith Taylor

The tower was built by Witney council, at it's water works in 1903, at a cost of £6,000. A few months after the tower was operational, the cast iron panels burst. The postcard has on the reverse, a poem that appeared in the Witney Gazette, February 27th 1904:

"The Bursting of the tank"
Water tower,
Tank on top,
Filled with water,
Went off pop.

Sudden strain,
Sides bent,
Consequently
Big rent.

Losing water,
Quite a crock,
To the Council,
Quite a shock.

Great sensation,
Council run,
And people too,
To see the fun (?)

Poor little Lamb,
With names below,
So proudly raised,
Dishonoured so.

"It's not our fault,"
Perhaps they'll say,
But who will have
To pay, pay, pay?

Following the collapse, a new tank was installed but that suffered a similar fate in 1905:

Copy of 1905 Postcard sent in by BWTAS member Keith Taylor

This second postcard has on the back, a hand written comment: "Gone again. Looks a wreck doesn't it". The post mark is 22nd July 1905.

When the tower was built, it was reported that it required over 90,000 bricks and it's capacity was 80,000 gallons. It is interesting to note that the capacity is cited in "Return as to Water Undertakings in England and Wales." Return to an Order of The House of Commons, 24 November 1910, as only 60,0000 gallons — presumably, it was decided to be less ambitious and a smaller capacity tank was installed, with subsequent reduced lateral pressures to cope with. The tower was supplied from a deep well and pumping station at Apley Barn. The water tower was never able to supply enough water for the growing needs of the town, it served until it became redundant with the opening of the Worsham waterworks, which we believe was in 1937. The tower was then demolished around 1938. It stood on what was then known as Union Hill, at O.S. Grid Ref. SP 34471 10231.

Ferrers

Monday, 9 October 2017

Essex Update…

Brian Light, Wil Harvey and Ferrers Young man the BWTAS & BTT stand at Basildon

The big news is, at last, there seems to be a bright future for Colchester's "Jumbo" water tower. Brian Light of the Balkerne Tower Trust was able to update folk at the Essex Industrial Heritage Fair, with the latest news: The Colchester and North East Essex Building Preservation Trust have reached an agreement with the owner of Jumbo, on a way forward to preserve the tower, as reported in the Colchester Gazette.

Meanwhile the British Water Tower Appreciation Society was able to provide some information on other water towers. But the information flow was not all one way — we were alerted to a large estate water tower, that until now had escaped our radar: Theobalds House, off the A10. This now needs to be researched… Additionally, we learnt that the now demolished, reinforced concrete water tower at Ripper's Joinary (seen here at the top of the photo, in 1929) not only supplied the works, but about 100 workers cottages — so now has to be recorded under "Public Water Supply" as well as "industrial". We also learnt of the tower that pre-dated the concrete one.

The information flowing both ways…

All in all, an informative and enjoyable day,
Ferrers

Sunday, 1 October 2017

B.W.T.A.S. in Basildon… Saturday 7th October, 2017

The British Water Tower Appreciation Society will have a presence at the Essex Industrial Heritage Fair just South of Basildon, this coming Saturday. BWTAS has teamed up with the local Balkerne Tower Trust in order to have a stand at this event, hosted by the Essex Industrial Archaeology Group. Entry and parking are both Free!!! The Wat Tyler Country Park also offers: 125 acres of stunning parkland, a comfortable café offering a wide range of refreshments and amenities for a great family day out…

BWTAS will have copies of the definitive book on UK water towers: “Water Towers of Britain”, by Society President, Dr. Barry Barton, for sale at a heavily discounted price (synopsis). Also for sale will be the new BWTAS mugs. I'll be there along with fellow committee member Brian Light and our Chairman Wil Harvey, to try to answer any water tower questions that you have…

We hope to see you there,
Ferrers