Latest Tweet

Monday 4 January 2010

Clifton water tower hunt

updated 6/7/10 (see bottom of page).

Over the last few days the wires at BWTAS have been humming. After coming across this 1994 online newspaper article (which had stripped out the relevant images) about a tower near Clifton in Somerset, some members have been trying to locate an image of it but it has been elusive. This is nothing new to water tower hunters but this time we thought we'd do a bit of crowd-sourcing and see if anyone can help us locate an image via this blog.

It's not this observatory, often misidentified as a water tower, near the Clifton bridge.

It's not this 1957 concrete water tower also in sight of the bridge on Stoke Road (via Geograph).

It's not the 1905 Knowle Water Tower in Jubilee Road in Bristol which is close to the Cadburys factory (via Clare Johnson).

It's very like to be this tower located on the corner of St. Mary's Road and Church Road in Leigh Wood but we'd really like a street level photo to properly match the description (via Bing).

Can anyone help us locate a better image and whatever became of the water tower's owner Mr. West in the end?

If you have an image of this tower, please send us a link via the comments page.

THE INDEPENDENT Thursday, 12 May 1994

HARRY WEST has always had an eye for nice old buildings that other people have finished with and want to pull down. Years ago, as director of the Greater London Arts Association, he showed local authorities how to convert banana warehouses into film studios.

In 1976, newly-retired as a recreational teacher, the wartime Hurricane fighter pilot saw a 47ft- tall castellated Victorian water tower for sale in Leigh Woods, Bristol.

The stone tower, with its commanding views, had been built in 1868, four years after Brunel's Clifton suspension bridge crossing the nearby Avon Gorge. Its owners, the Bristol Waterworks Company, had put it on the market with planning permission for demolition and replacement by a block of flats.

'I told them knocking it down would be a crime against humanity,' Mr West said.

The building was not listed, but even though Woodspring District Council tried to do so, there was little enthusiasm at the time for preserving industrial architecture and the Department of the Environment ruled that it was of local, not national, interest.

Mr West said: 'In fact it was one of the first towers of its kind in Britain. It was built to provide water for the Cadburys and Wills and their retainers, including two gigantic family Victorian houses for the Wills. So it's in this exclusive gentlemen's residential area and as water towers go, it's posh.'

Mr West sank his life savings into a five-room conversion job that respected the old tower's history. He removed 35 tons of stone by hand to create windows for living rooms, bathrooms and a big third-floor guest room.

'I tried to keep the concept of a tower so you walk through the front door and up the building with open-plan stairs,' he said.

'I retained all the industrial features like the 30ft pipe which delivered water to the people of Leigh Woods and is now a chimney for my wood-burning stove.'

The original 25ft-square water tank, built by Bristol Wagon Works in 1867 and weighing 300 tons when full, is still in place surrounded by a gallery.

Now aged 72, and with his eyesight failing, Mr West has decided the time has come to pass on his personal act of conservation to a younger generation.

After 22 years inside the tower's 4ft-thick walls, he has put the old tower on the market for offers in excess of £245,000.

Suffering from glaucoma and soon no longer able to drive, he wants to move to Bristol to be able to continue his latest career as a teacher of ballroom dancing.

'I've got to move on, to do new things as I've always done, to travel,' he said. 'But I'll miss the old tower. It's got my heart and soul in it now.'

6/7/10 update


Thanks to Wilco Krul of the Netherlands who was holidaying in England, we now have an image of the tower in Leigh Woods. Thank you Mr Krul. The 'crowd sourcing' experiment is declared a success.


Unknown said...

I've found a slightly better street level image on Google Maps:,-2.638301&spn=0,359.997941&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=51.452957,-2.638405&panoid=_nJRLz2RaxaDQ_R8mZ7SSg&cbp=12,357.54,,0,-16.52

Anonymous said...

The Tower is now owned by a Mr Collins. Unfortunately it suffered a water leak from a water pipe up in the gallery and was awfully flood damaged throughout.

We are now dealing with the process of restoring it and bringing it back to its former glory!

I would be happy to take a picture of it for you as I visit the site often.

Will post one today or tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

I have a photo of the tower taken today for you, but can someone let me have an email address and I will send it to you.



Nat Bocking said...

contact bwtas

Unknown said...

Dear all. I am Harry West's grandson and my family are the proud owners of the dossier of the reclamation work including many photos. Sadly he passed away in 2003. We were please to hear about your interest in the structure. If you would like to know more then we would be happy to allow access. Kind regards.

Nat Bocking said...

Dear Tom, could you contact the bwtas chairman through the contact page.