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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Atticus Flinch

The converted Water Tower in the Millfields Hospital development in Plymouth is for sale in the region of £400K. As the editor and a founder member, I am really honoured that this blog and BWTAS members were mentioned by "Atticus" himself, Roland White, in the Sunday Times profile of the property, even though it tried too hard to make BWTAS the butt of a tired joke; riffing that potential owners might be visited by hordes of water tower "anoraks".

Erstwhile hosts know that our members don't show up uninvited and actually tend to be the corduroy sort of academics, artists, photographers and civil engineers (if I recall the most active members) and that we really don't mind being depicted as "nerds" because, truth be told, that has served to publicise the society. I suppose we'd better stock up on more merchandise for those Sunday Times readers now.

We'd be honoured to be invited in by the owners of the Millfields tower for a picnic as  Mr White suggested. Though members are generally more curious about anything in original condition, some members are architects interested in the challenges of tower conversion. We have copious evidence that any sort of accessible tower attracts visitors so it's true a hazard of tower ownership can be public attention, though that is exactly what is valued by some owners. An added benefit of purchasing this tower should have been mentioned by the Sunday Times; that all owners of water towers get complimentary membership of BWTAS.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Membership Map

We've been playing with the nifty tool and if anyone's interested, this is what we get when we drop the BWTAS membership list into the website with a couple of clicks. We have 22 addresses it didn't understand and I didn't include those in Cornwall, USA and Canada and Germany on the crop of the map.

Yes, you can drop in other geo data so you could map all the water towers you know of.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Ahh, that's Bass! Relief as development permission granted for Sleaford Maltings

BWTAS member David Blackburn reports:

Planning permission was granted yesterday for a major redevelopment that should secure the future intact of the former Bass Maltings site at Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

This massive 13 acre listed Grade 2* complex comprises many brick buildings rising up six storeys There is a fine water tower almost hidden within. Last used as a poultry factory, but derelict for many years, it's over 50 years since it last produced malt for the brewing industry. There have been several failed restoration and redevelopment schemes and the site has decayed badly but it now looks as though the complex has a future. A new scheme by developer Gladedale proposes shops, office space and 220 houses and apartments . Hopefully there will be a restored - and accessible - water tower as a centrepiece.

According to the BBCNorth Kesteven District Council said it hoped the project would create 500 jobs and bring millions in investment.English Heritage had classified the Maltings as the largest at risk building in England. 

The organisation worked with the developer to protect as much of the original structure as possible. Simon Cocks from developer Gladedale Estates said: "We are not altering the external elevations at all. "There will be some internal demolitions but that is mostly taking down the fire damaged sections." The council's Economic Development Manager, Alan Gray, emphasised the importance of the project. "The Maltings scheme is an integral part of the wider Sleaford South East Regeneration project which has schemes which, when taken together, represent the biggest and most economically-significant commercial investments Sleaford has seen since the opening of the Navigation more than 200 years ago."

It is expected work will get under way in the autumn.
A commendable amount of detail of the proposals and history is at the developer's website which says:

The former Bass Maltings were completed in 1907 and were in use for their original purpose until 1959. Ten years later, the first fire occurred and then the Site was purchased by G W Padley for chicken rearing and vegetable
processing and freezing. There was a serious fire in 1976 and, in 1982,
Padley’s applied for consent to demolish all of the buildings. Their application
was refused and their subsequent appeal was rejected and the listing of the
buildings was upgraded to II*. In the 1990s, poultry farming ceased due to
health and safety reasons. There was a third fire in 1999 and in 2006 the
Site was purchased by Gladedale, the current developers.

The fact that so much of the buildings stand intact is testimony to the high
standard of the original build. The total fire-damaged area amounts to
approximately 25% of the total built space. The extent of damage is uneven
across the Site and five of the nine blocks remain undamaged by fire. Most of
the buildings have been altered to some extent, whether through fire
damage or physical change relating to later uses. The Site has been subject
to some vandalism and the upper parts of the buildings suffer from pigeon
Apart from the fire-damaged areas, the buildings are generally in good condition. The brickwork is mostly sound as are the floors, except in the kilns where they are missing. Roof structures are generally intact were away from the fire-damaged areas. Some fixed machinery remains in situ but almost all moveable machinery has been removed. Blocks 1 and 2 retain the most complete collection of surviving machinery and equipment.

Paint the water tower? Don't be Daffs...

Lifted with apologies from Wales Online.

The old water tower at Cardiff Central station could become the ultimate canvas for an acclaimed Barry-born artist Dan Llywelyn Hall (twitter @danllywelynhall).

The former Sunday Times Young Artist of the Year has submitted plans to transform the Grade II-listed structure into a colourful mural. He says the epic work – titled The Full Stop – will be a celebration of pivotal moments in Welsh history.

The 30-year-old has been in talks with Arriva Trains Wales, which leases the station from Network Rail, and this week submitted a planning application 10/02208/DCI to Cardiff council.

Mr Hall told the South Wales Echo he was excited by the prospect of the artwork welcoming thousands of rail passengers into the capital each day. “For most my life I have seen the water tower as a prominent structure in our capital,” he said. “Any time I would arrive into Cardiff it almost denotes the start of the city – like a garrison. It stands on the edge of the river and is the first building I notice every time I arrive into Cardiff and usually the last thing I observe when I leave. It struck me that this beautiful listed building needed rejuvenation and could be transformed into a positive confident statement about our capital.”

It is thought the abandoned tower is about 80 years old and was used to replenish the water supplies of steam locomotive engines.

Different moments in history would be painted in the divided panels and the circular turret will amalgamate to form a celebration of the land.

A spokesman for Arriva said: “We have had notice of his intentions to revamp the water tower, but we have seen no designs and he was advised to seek further advice from Cardiff council.”

A council spokeswoman said its Development Control had this week started a consultation on the proposal. If approved, monuments body Cadw, which has the right to call in applications on listed buildings, will then have the final say.

Mr Hall hopes to start painting in the early summer and expects it will take up to two months to complete.

Talks have begun with arts organisations and individual donors about sponsoring the project. Mr Hall, who recently had an exhibition at Cardiff’s National Museum of Wales and painted portraits of World War I veterans Harry Patch and Henry Allingham, said the work would be a gift to Cardiff.

“It’s for the people who come into Cardiff each day. I want it to promote our city and our country,” he said. “There is nothing that is symbolic or celebratory of our city and I hope it will give people a lift when they arrive in Wales.”

When BWTAS visited the tower in 2010, it wasn't exactly attractive or exciting. A previous mural of daffodils, Wales' national flower had weathered and faded.

Comments from the public show the strength of feeling water towers evoke:

"It is ridiculous to have this as a Grade 2 listed building. The thing should have been pulled down. It is an eyesore, whether painted or not."

(These) structures should be preserved for history - history needs to take account of the mundane as well as the extraordinary.

This is a marvelous opportunity to revive a very important structure in the heritage of our country. It will be most welcome to all the communters and passers by. My old man worked on the railway and always maintained the water tower was one of the finest examples in europe. Cardiff has more to it than simply erecting flats at every corner. We need to maintain our heritage and keep our artists in support.

It's about time something was done with the tower its had faded daffs on it for years now, I'm looking forward to seeing this when it done, I think it will look fab.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

War over Warrington

Lifted from several stories in the Warrington Guardian with apologies:

The future of the historic 1906 Garnett’s Water Tower is likely to be decided tomorrow, Thursday, 14th April 2011.

Developers PTS Property have submitted a plan to Warrington Borough Council to demolish the  attractive Italianate crenellated tower and surrounding buildings and replace it with a temporary car park.

But objectors say the building is crucial to the heritage of the town centre.

Councillors will discuss the plans at a meeting of the development control committee in the Town Hall on Thursday. The meeting starts at 6.30pm

Preservation campaigners will learn then if their last-ditch bid to stop the demolition of the town centre landmark is successful.

Garnett’s Cabinet Works is between Cairo Street and Barbauld Street. Inscriptions on the tower say the company was founded in 1824 but the tower and factory was built in 1906.  According to Geograph: the factory's founder Robert Garnett was born in 1830 in Penketh, Warrington. He was a generous local benefactor to many churches and charities and even laid the foundation stone at Penketh methodist church.

The water tower connected to the building would be pulled down as part of plans for the derelict site. The developers say that redevelopment would not be economically viable due to the poor conditions of the building and others on the site and it is a hazardous in its present condition.

Now English Heritage has put its weight behind campaigners fighting to save it. It has called for the withdrawal of the plan for the tower, which is listed locally under the Bridge Street Conservation area.

Anna Boxer, historic buildings inspector for English Heritage, told Warrington Borough Council in its submission: “Once a heritage asset is lost it cannot be replaced and the loss has a cultural, environmental, economic and social impact. “Any loss within the conservation area should have a clear and convincing justification.”

The letter goes on to observe there is no indication of what is planned for the redevelopment of the site long-term. Mrs Boxer added: “The applicant is correct in saying that replacement of a demolished building with a similar one should not make part of the justification.

“An empty site is however not an enhancement of the conservation area, and especially not when the proposal is the loss of a principal building which would be categorised as substantial harm that potentially threatens the very basis of the designation.”

One of the residents hoping to halt the plans to demolish the water tower is Lymm resident Susan Gabathuler, aged 74. She said: “I’m very upset to think they might be doing that. It’s the history of Warrington and it needs to be preserved. They have a duty to keep these places open if it’s in a conservation area.”

John Rowlinson, managing director of PTS Property, said: “Victoria Works are constantly being broken into, despite efforts by ourselves and the police. Due to safety reasons, the poor state of the building and the fact the refurbishment is not economically viable and after consultation with the police, fire service, town wardens and the planning department, we feel we have no other option but to demolish the building... Hopefully, in time, it will help spark a regeneration of this area.”

Other residents have spoken out against the plans that will also see the council offices and the Cairo Street Sunday School room, based by Cairo Street, being demolished too.

Gill Hoff, of Bridgewater Avenue, Latchford, is one of those who is opposing the plans. The 31-year-old said: “They are very important historically and Garnett’s Water Tower is a very important part of the skyline. “This is the cultural quarter, this is supposed to be a very beautiful historic place.”

The owners of the site had taken on the Victoria Works and building in 2005 and added the Cairo Street Sunday School and council offices to its stable in 2007.

After gaining planning permission for the redevelopment of the site into retail, leisure and office space since 2006 the developers PTS have been unable to find any companies interested in taking on the property.

And since taking over they have spent in excess of £50,000 on maintenance and security for the sites, which have been plagued by a lead thief, drug addicts using it as a den and a free running group called Wolf Pack using the site.

Has anyone pointed out that's just what the area needs; a materials recycling scheme, a drug treatment centre and a gymnasium could be the key to area regeneration? 
And any reader of this site will see that other developers have tried to preserve water towers on their site because there's no better landmark or billboard for a place than its water tower. Ed.

images: Warrington Guardian, Geograph

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Potsdam Wasserturm Bistro

The water tower at the main railway station of Potsdam, Germany is all that remains of what was Germany's largest reichsbahnausbesserungswerk (railroad repair workshops) or just abbreviated as R.A.W.

It was built in 1838 with the construction of the railway line between Berlin and Potsdam. The R.A.W. was the first German railway repair shop and over the years developed into one of the largest companies in Potsdam with the founding of the German Reich in 1871.

Potsdam 1930
After WWII, the repair workshops closed and were abandoned to decay. The construction of the new central train station began in 1997 when the old roundhouse was demolished but the old water tower, as well as some historical operating warehouses were protected and rebuilt. In 2007 redevelopment of the former RAW site started in earnest. The remaining buildings were renovated along with the historic train station and the water tower was converted into a café and bistro.

Wasserturm Cafe Bistro

Friedrich-Engels-Str. 99
14473 Potsdam
Tel.: (0331) 2011

Thanks to BWTAS member David Blackburn for sending this in. Though German WT seem to be all the rage on the blog at the moment, it's just because they can be like buses too.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Waddya Schwante?

John Ahouse, who frequently corresponds with BWTAS about items in the USA mentioned a small but attractive water tower he had seen in Schwante, Germany.

Image source 
Schwante is a small town about 15 km north of Berlin. It possesses a "palace" (more of a country house), a Dutch-type windmill, a church and this water tower among its modest sights.  Schwante's brief fame came about when human rights protesters gathered there in October 1989 to found an independent political party, the SDP.  As this was clearly illegal under the monolithic Communist regime, they were taking their chances. Their endeavour survived the fall of the Berlin Wall in November, however, and became the East German version of the SPD in the big political shakeout occurring over the next nine months.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl's CDU, the party in power in West Germany, drubbed all the left-leaning parties and splinter parties in the first free all-German elections that next year by promising prosperity for all. Thus the SDP was short-lived though the traditional all-German SPD is the #2 party in the Bundestag. Having played a role in the nascent freedom and human rights movement in the GDR is a good thing, nevertheless, to be famous for.

Local information (in German)

Germany doesn't Metz about with water towers...

The French city of Metz (pronounced 'Mess') is described in several English travel articles as an overlooked destination which rewards the visitor with an extraordinary richness of architecture and culture. Competing for attention alongside the Saint-Etienne Cathedral and a branch - quite literally with its wooden roof - of the new Pompidou Centre is the Metz Water Tower, one of the symbols of the many periods when Germany and France fought for possession of the city over the last 2000 years.

France For Visitors says: The town's origins go back at least to Roman times, when, as now, it stood astride major trade routes. On the death of Charlemagne it became the capital of Lothar's portion of his empire, managing to maintain its prosperity in spite of the dynastic wars that followed. By the Middle Ages it had sufficient wealth and strength to proclaim itself an independent republic, which it remained until its absorption into France in 1552.

A frontier town caught between warring influences, Metz has endured more than its share of historical hand-changing. In 1870, when Napoléon III's defeated armies were forced to surrender to Kaiser Wilhelm I, it was ceded to Germany. It recovered its liberty at the end of World War I in 1918, only to be re-annexed by Hitler in 1940 before being liberated again by Allied troops in 1944.

Metz is not at all the dour place you might expect from its northern geography and industrial background – indeed it deserves its self-styled title of "Ville jardin" or Garden City, with impeccable flower-beds, the warm hues of mustard-yellow stone buildings and the waters of the Moselle all making for an appealing cityscape. The university founded here in the 1970s is at least partly responsible for its liveliness.

Wikipedia adds: The German Imperial District, or New City (French: Ville Nouvelle), was built during the first annexation of Metz by Otto von Bismarck into the German Empire. In order to germanify the city, Emperor Wilhelm II decided the creation of a new district shaped by a distinctive blend of Germanic architecture, including Renaissance, neo-Romanesque or neo-Classical, mixed with elements of art nouveau, art deco, Alsatian and mock-Bavarian styles. Moreover, the Jaumont stone, commonly used everywhere else in the city, was replaced with stones used in the Rhineland, like pink and grey sandstone, granite and basalt. The district features noteworthy buildings including the water tower, the impressive railway station, the Central Post-Office, the Mondon square (former Imperial square), and the large Foch avenue (former Kaiser Wihelm Ring). The district was renovated during the 2000s and now displays street furnitures designed by Philippe Starck and Norman Foster.

photo information
ID Number 100677
Description Metz Station - Water Tower
Photographer Jacques Mossot

Friday, 8 April 2011

Horton Water Tower (Epsom): demolition applied for

London and Quadrant Housing Association, which owns the 12-storey Horton Water Tower, in Cavendish Walk, Epsom, have apparently applied to demolish the controversial building and replace it with plants and trees.

Nearby residents are divided, many favour demolition because it is an "eyesore" although other argue it should remain untouched because of its history and character. It should be pointed out that this water tower existed long before a housing development was built around it. Eventual demolition was never part of any application to develop the site and some had questioned the wisdom of this.

BWTAS receives many requests for assistance or a view on such matters to bolster both sides of the argument. Although our members are usually saddened by the demise of any water tower, generally BWTAS does not collectively issue opinions on specific planning or preservation matters such as application for listing, conversion or demolition because the views of our members are quite diverse. Some in BWTAS might find the demolition objectionable, some might not and accept it as a pragmatic solution. What we can do, however, is to raise awareness of the issues and encourage debate.

Reading this blog will prove that water towers have a rich history and cultural value and that many potential forms of reuse exist besides conversion into accommodation; from climbing walls to camera obscura. Water towers are a magnet for economic development and (as their detractors argue) for both social and anti-social activity.

Objections to the demolition must be made to Epsom and Ewell Council, before 14th April 2011.

10/01277/COU Full Planning Permission

Location: Horton Water Tower Cavendish Walk Epsom Surrey

Proposal: Demolition of the Horton Water Tower and change of use of the

site from water tower (Sui Generis) to landscape amenity space

(Sui Generis) (Description amended 30.03.2011).

Contact Officer: Mr John Robinson

Type: Q20 - Other, Change of use

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Anger at homes covered by water tower demolition dust

The demolition of the Brightlingsea water tower has angered its neighbours, not because of the loss of what could have been converted into a useful amenity but because the dust created by the demolition contractor - who is apparently not using any dust suppression methods such as water hoses or shielding - is raining down on their homes, cars and gardens.

Concrete dust contains high concentrations of silica which can irritate the lungs and if exposure is great enough it can cause silicosis.

Wikipedia says out that the concrete dust released after earthquakes (and ins other disasters such as in the 9/11 attacks) has shown to have detrimental health effects and should be considered hazardous.

From the Daily Gazette

RESIDENTS say their homes and street are being covered with concrete dust from the demolition of a water tower.

They claim the powder has covered everything from plants to their cars and they have to keep the windows shut because the problem is so bad.

The disused water tower, in Church Road, Brightlingsea, is being pulled down in preparation for a new residential development.

Demolition work has been under way for a couple of weeks and is expected to last another month.

Householders told the Gazette something needed to be done to stop the residue affecting them.

Muriel Jefford, 80, who lives next to the site, said: “I’ve had to park my car in the car port and keep it covered up because there has been so much dust.

“The whole road is covered in concrete and obviously we’re breathing it in whenever we go outside.

“The problem is not the building that will take place there, it’s the way the demolition is being done, with no shielding.”

Neighbour Elizabeth Scott, 79, lives opposite the water tower with her husband Ian, also 79, and said: “The dust is horrendous.

“We have to keep our windows closed, but it’s still getting indoors.

“I’m worried about the health and safety aspect too.

“There are hundreds of children walking past every day on their way to the Colne Community School nearby and there’s no protection for them.”

Elvanite Recycling, based at Hythe, Colchester, is carrying out the demolition.

General manager William Bailey did not want to comment.

Tendring Council said it had received one complaint about dust from the water tower site, on March 21.

Nigel Brown, the council’s communications manager, said: “One of the officers in environmental services went out to speak to the contractor, which had already stopped work as it recognised it did not have the correct dust suppression equipment.”

He said the council was not aware dust was still an issue, but would send an officer back, to speak to the company and try to resolve any problems.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Park Road, Aldeburgh, Suffolk: Planning applications update

Built for a speculative land development that never happened and not as many presume for the Aldeburgh Hospital, Priors Hill Water Tower in Park Road has been disused since the 1980's. Northumbrian Water sold the tower at auction in 2007 for £407,000.

It's a great example, probably the finest locally, of an estate tower. Few 'public' water towers of this era anywhere else can match it for the quality of detailing and its aesthetic appeal.

Now in the possession of a Hertfordshire pharmacist, two planning applications have been made recently for conversion of the Grade II listed structure into a pair of flats. Naturally neighbours that were unconcerned about an uninhabited structure overlooking their property are now anxious about privacy and light pollution from the apetures cut into the facade and the additional cupola spoiling their vistas and so are mustering support for objections which have to be made by April 8th, 2011.

Further details see the original BWTAS blog post.

Bye Bye Brightlingsea

Word has come to BWTAS that the water tower at Brightlingsea, Essex is being demolished to make way for a housing development.

Brightlingsea is better known for Bateman's Tower a folly built in 1883.

Demolition image from Flickr

We don't know when the water tower was built but the plans  in the Essex Record Office say it was designed by Broderick & Partners, civil engineers.

Minutes from Brightlingsea Town Council:


The following applications had been received by Tendring District Council:

10/00743/FUL Roundwood Restorations, Brightlingsea Water Tower, Church Road, Brightlingsea – Demolition of the existing Water Tower and machinery replaced with development of 11 houses on the old Water Tower site, Church Road, Brightlingsea

Brightlingsea Town Council consider this application to be a great improvement on the previous applications and have no objection to this one but would like the District Council to take into consideration the following observations (that include representations of local residents):-

• The non hazardous removal of the Water Tower.
• There could be serious traffic problems due to car parking in Church Road.
• The sight of dwellings at three stories is too tall.
• The hedgeline should be lengthened along Lodge Road to the south western corner to improve landscaping and screening.
• The hedgeline along Church Road in front of the dwelling facing the road would improve the street scene, landscaping and improve the problem of overlooking.
• The nearby residents would like prior notification as to when this development is likely to start please.