Latest Tweet

Monday, 28 January 2013

Mackintosh Harebell Tower

BWTAS correspondent David Blackburn writes in:

 Q. What do Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a harebell and the Glasgow Herald have in common ?

 A. (naturally) - a water tower

I came across this hidden gem on a brief visit to Glasgow earlier in the week. On the trail of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, I visited the Mackintosh Centre in a building called the Lighthouse. Hidden down a passageway off bustling Buchanan Street, totally surrounded by tall buildings and a multi storey car park , the building once was the factory where  the 'Glasgow Herald' was produced .  It has a water tower rising 3 storeys above the 4 storey factory, part of the original CRM design. It's possible to climb up the tower via a magnificent internal helical staircase and go out on to a small viewing gallery.

Its very difficult to photograph and short of a helicopter , its only feasible to do so via a viewing gallery in a separate part of the building (thankfully accessible by lift!). But pics have to be taken through glass and don't give the best view of the tower. In particular, the view of the cupola does not show off  Mackintosh's harebell design properly.

A hidden , and interesting, tower with lots to discover in the rest of the building too.

We hope David didn't have to 'cough up' very much to see the harebell... (sorry)

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Water towers in broadcasting

A few minutes after the feature on BWTAS on BBC Radio 4 'Saturday Live - Jumbo Edition', surely a moment of broadcasting history, our chairman had a phone call from a Bob Painter (87) who lives near Ludlow.  He was pleased to hear of our attempts to keep the water tower bit of history alive, and said when he worked for the BBC he was on the first live broadcast by the Queen at Sandringham in about 1957. The image was beamed in relay from transmitters on the top of water towers: he mentioned Friday Bridge, Barden Hill, Sutton Coldfield and on to London.  In case anyone wants to get in touch with Bob about his participation in broadcast history contact BWTAS.

The BBC World Service have a nice history programme Witness that looks at an event from a different angle interviewing the unusual eyewitness. They ought to talk to Bob.

H M The Queen has a page about her Christmas broadcasts. 

There are reminiscences of historic outside broadcasts at the website of the Alexandra Palace Television Society. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Saturday Live - Jumbo Edition

Proffered by the committee of BWTAS after a request from the BBC, I was interviewed by Chris Wilson, Producer of BBC Radio 4's programme Saturday Live outside Jumbo in Colchester. This item is scheduled to air on 26th January 2013.

The show's format is "extraordinary stories and remarkable people"  and is presented by Sian Williams and The Reverend Richard Coles.

I don't profess to be the latter but there are many extraordinary stories about water towers and Jumbo's story arc is perhaps typical of them all. An engineering marvel, an object of immense civic pride and a symbol of mankind's triumph over nature; it and the people behind it are forgotten and a safe reliable water supply is taken for granted by the public yet within a lifetime ago things were very different.

Babylon in D W Griffith's 1916 'Intolerance'
On the misty November day I met the BBC, Jumbo was looking more dilapidated than when I last saw it. The years of neglect and the forces of wind and water have not been kind and there were obvious signs of forced entry as we walked around its massive feet. It seemed to us like walking around a massive elephantine sculpture in Babylon or amongst the columns of the Acropolis. We were told by Brian Light of the Balkerne Tower Trust that the owner has now been told to remove the wooden hoarding around the base which has been hiding all kinds of sins being carried on behind it and which also blocked what had been planned to be open space, so it would probably be replaced with wire fencing.

I hope that will make the area a bit more attractive, as it once was, although the future of Jumbo is still very uncertain. It has turned out to be a white elephant for the developer who bought it. Though there are people with well prepared plans that could put it to good use for the benefit of Colchester, and have been trying to do so for years, that non-profit body can't raise what the developer paid for it in the heat of the bidding.

© Balkerne Tower Trust
The programme has now aired. You can listen again and catch the item at the 25 minute mark.

In the intro and outro, the reverend mentioned the water tower in his parish at Finedon near Peterborough as a companion to his church. I must agree it is rather a fine 'un. 

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Settling In

A brand new follow-up episode of the Settle water tower restoration is to be shown on Thursday 31st January 2013 - 9pm to 10pm on Channel 4 'Restoration Man' 

The programme shows the project 'one year on' and reveals a fascinating new historical discovery.