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Friday 1 May 2009

Simon's Town mystery tanks

David Erickson lives in Simon’s Town, the former British Naval Port on the Cape Peninsula in South Africa.

He has written to BWTAS looking for information about some local water tanks (we'll overlook that these aren't actually water towers as they are quite relevant, Ed.):
"There is a huge amount of fascinating infrastructure here, much of it dating back to Victorian times and earlier. As a Committee Member of the Simon’s Town Historical Society I have a number of research projects on the go. One of these concerns two octagonal water tanks, which may be early versions of the Braithwaite design. However, these are not pressed steel; they are cast iron panels with no internal stiffening. The panels are held together by square headed bolts and nuts, with what appears to be hand cut threads, so I suspect that these tanks are quite old. The tanks lie on former Royal Naval properties where there is a history of Royal Engineers’ construction works. For this reason it is believed that they are undoubtedly British in origin, probably made to a standard design and shipped out in sections for assembly on site. There are only four of these tanks in existence in South Africa.

One of the tanks was, I believe, built to supply water to an officer’s barracks that was constructed in about 1815 (the tank could of course have been a much later addition).

The cast iron tank dimensions are 3.87 metres overall external width x 2.12 metres overall height. The operating water capacity has been calculated to be 24 tonnes (approximately 5,400 U.K. gallons).

The tank side construction consists of a total of 16 identical rectangular cast iron panels, each 158 centimetres long x 103.5 centimetres high. These panels have integral flanges on all four sides, the vertical flanges being angled such that an octagon is formed when the panels are bolted together. The side panels are arranged two high and sit on a cast iron base which is in turn supported on eight brickwork piers. The cast iron base is comprised of eight flanged cast iron panels which taper from 158 centimetres at the outer edge to 53 centimetres, and one octagonal flanged panel measuring 129 centimetres across extremities; this is located at the centre of the tank base. All flanges are 15 millimetres thick x 91.2 millimetres web. The tank has an open top which has a light corrugated iron roof mounted above on a timber frame. The panels are bolted together with ⅝” bolts 70 mm long, with square bolt heads 1¼” across flats.

Despite very careful inspection, we have been unable to find any trace of the manufacturer – all of the panels are completely plain with no foundry marks or other identification."

David is appealing to BWTAS if anyone has come come across anything like this? He would be most interested in any historical data. If you can help him in any way, please contact

David Erickson
6 Flagship Way
Simon's Town

Republic of South Africa

Tel./Fax: +27-21-786-3384

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