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Thursday 19 February 2009

Southwold Water Tower Appeal

BWTAS has been approached for assistance with information on Southwold's water tower history.

Gillian Bendall is a writer who works for the accomodation agencies Norfolk Cottages and
Suffolk Secrets putting information on their websites.

She has been asked to come up with the copy for an information board to be erected on the site of the 1886 water tower on Southwold Common. This listed tower is a rare survivor of a wind-pumped water tower which once had sails above the tank driving pumps in the base of the tower above the well source. Accommodation for the resident engineer was on the two other floors.

Suffolk Secrets now has an office inside this historic tower and has just completed extensive renovation works and it wants to tell members of the public about the history of this wonderful building.

The idea of information boards on water towers is something BWTAS has proposed to water companies and it applauds Suffolk Secrets for spending the time and money to do this. We're always pleased to oblige people looking for information (except those who expect we can do their work for them unpaid).

Gillian believes a local man died in an accident at tower in 1899 but doesn't know what happened. BWTAS heard a story it was the unfortunate engineer caught by his tailcoat in the pumping mechanism. From the sequence of available photographs, it appears the sails were removed around the 1930's (which may have been following a great storm) and is sure there is more to be said about the construction of the tower but very little information is available.

BWTAS stalwart Ferrers Young dug in his files for us:

The wind pump was replaced with a diesel unit when the sails blew off in a storm, possibly in 1934, when the force of a storm destroyed the head of the pier. The tower was decommissioned in 1937 when the new tower was built.The tower became the lifeboat museum in 1987 when the town council purchased the tower for £100, however the council served a dangerous buildings notice on the tower in 1990 because the tank was in poor condition. In 1991 the tower became listed as being of special architectural interest. Adnams restored the tank in 1992 after taking a lease on the premises, but found the water supply unsuitable, then in 2005 Suffolk Secrets took a lease on the tower and restored the ground and first floors. Located on York Road at O.S. Grid Ref TM 50203 76256, Capacity 40,000 gallons.

Local brewer Adnams were concerned during the water privatisation era for the affordability of their water supply. Unfortunately the well supplying the tower turned out to be brackish so they abandoned plans to use it for their beer but not before spending a fortune on remedial works to preserve the tank on the long neglected tower.

If anyone can help Suffolk Secrets with information about Southwold's wind-pumped water tower, please contact Gillian by email or telephone 07786 837019 or email
g.bendall_AT_ (replace the _AT_ with @)

The 1936 concrete tower next to it isn't totally unremarkable either but perhaps it's for its owner to consider telling its story. Both landmarks feature prominently in the 1988 Peter Greenaway film 'Drowning by Numbers'.

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