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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. 

1 comment:

Pie Master said...

Excellent radio! The link to the program on iPlayer is here: The water tower item starts 25 minutes into the programme.

The picturesque Arbroath water tower, mentioned in a "tweet" to the program, was built in 1885 on Keptie Hill, in the style of a medieval fortress. The tower built at a cost of about £8,000, opened in July 1886 and held 200,000 gallons of water in three tanks, some 21,000 gallons less than the earlier Jumbo was designed to hold, in it's single tank. Due to increasing demands for water, the Arbroath tower was made obsolete in 1908, when an alternative, more abundant supple was completed.