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Wednesday 13 January 2010

No business like snow business...

The freeze that has gripped Britain has dominated the media for the last four weeks and so can't be ignored by BWTAS. Our chairman Wil Harvey kindly sent in this winter scene from Southwold.

The practical problems of freezing are a concern to water tower engineers. Usually, such a large mass of water doesn't freeze entirely and the outlets are under the surface of any ice formed but on older towers with pumping engines underneath them, the designers would vent the smokestack or provide bleed pipes through the tank to utilise waste heat to prevent freezing, the Round House in Perth being an example. The main problem is the freezing of the pipework and this is why most towers that are supported on legged structures will have a central column enclosing the pipes and the stairway, as evident above.

Water tower volunteer killed by train

BWTAS expresses its sympathies to the friends and family of Mr Graves who although unknown to us was apparently a dedicated volunteer at Carlshalton Water Tower:

Croydon Guardian

Commuter killed after falling in front of train at Carshalton Beeches station

By Julia Kennard

A man killed in a freak accident may have been suffering from an epileptic fit when he collapsed on train tracks and was struck by a high-speed service. Philip Graves, 52, from Carshalton, died after being hit by the train on Sunday January 3 at 8.18pm at Carshalton Beeches station.
Mr Graves, who worked at Croydon Land Registry, had suffered from epilepsy according to his work colleagues and is believed to have been having from a fit when he was struck by the 8.09pm Sutton to Streatham Southern service.
A witness, who did not want to be named, was collecting train tickets from outside the station when he heard the impact of the collision.
He said: “A young lad came running up the side steps saying he thought someone had been hit by the train.
“I ran down and I guess naively, in the heat of the moment, expected to see someone injured, with a broken arm perhaps, or that just needed some help.
“The boy saw the next train was not due for 20 minutes, so he dialled 999, but the fast train came through within seconds.
“You couldn’t have much worse luck; to have a fit on a station and then fall onto the tracks, it was a tragic accident."
Neighbours of Mr Graves said he used to volunteer with the Royal British Legion and help raise funds for the upkeep of Carshalton Water Tower, a Grade II listed early 18th century garden building.
His father Stanley died last year; his mother Joan is in a nursing home and his sister is believed to live in Southampton.
Retired Jack and Jeanette Short, who lived next door to Mr Graves, said he would be missed.
Mr Short, 65, said: “He was involved in the poppy collection for the British Legion as his father also used to take an active interest - he was a former Red Cap with the Royal Military Police.
“His mother also used to be chairwoman of the local branch.”
Carshalton Water Tower secretary Julia Gertz said Mr Graves was a “valuable asset and quite a character” and would be “greatly missed.”
Terry McHale, line manager at Croydon Land Registry facilities department, said Mr Graves had worked for the Registry for about 25 years and was well-liked among his many colleagues.
He said: “He was one of the millions of people that don’t get noticed, but was a dilligent worker, who performed his duties quite religiously. He was an ordinary person, but one that just got on with it, did not make a fuss and did a thorough job.
“His death has been a big shock, particularly given the circumstances of his life.”
Police are not treating his death as suspicious.
A file is being prepared for the coroner.
Did you know Mr Graves? Leave a tribute by calling Julia Kennard on 0208 330 9541 or email

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Soup to nuts

A breaking news story:

The Lynn News reports that English Heritage (the quango with the most clout in these matters) has decided not to list the Campbell's soup tower (a water tower) that has dominated the skyline for fifty years in the town and is a object of local affection, as water towers often are. This paves the way for site developer Tesco to demolish it.

While BWTAS takes a neutral stance on preservation issues, it does take issue with the criteria used to determine "architectural merit" as all the studies of water towers we've seen published, including those by English Heritage, say knowledge of the subject is scant, which of course is our raison d'├¬tre. 

According to the paper's letters page, there's no shortage of support for the tower and even some serious proposals for alternative use, such as a climbing wall facility, which other water towers have been successfully converted to.

If you want to raise a stink, perhaps start with contacting the Lynn News news desk; or leave a comment on their Facebook site or here. Even better, write to your MP and ask them to ask the Secretary of State for Culture to reconsider.

Campbell's Tower will be demolished

Campbell's Tower - doomed
Campbell's Tower - doomed

Published Date: 06 January 2010
THE last ditch bid to save the landmark Campbell's Tower at Lynn has crumbled.
English Heritage and the Secretary of State for Culture have decided against granting listed status to the tower, leaving the site's new owners, Tesco, free to demolish it and change the town's skyline forever.

Lynn Civic Society admits it is disappointed by the ruling but has said that it wants to work with the supermarket giant to make sure the history of the soup factory and tower is catalogued and features in the new development.

The bid to save the 50-year-old tower was backed by conservationists and by Lynn readers who took part in an on-line poll. But this week English Heritage decided it is not important enough to save.

It said in a statement: "While we are sensitive that there is a lot of local affection for the former soup factory, and especially the water tower, our role is to objectively assess the claims made for listing.
We must do this in the context of its national significance and special historical and architectural interest.

"Unfortunately, this building does not merit adding to the list."

Elizabeth James, the Civic Society member who masterminded the listing application, said: "Yes, we are disappointed. We didn't know whether or not we would be successful but thought we should at least make the attempt.

"The warm response of the public to the publicity had made clear the affection in which the tower is held and which, indeed, is recognised by EH's own researchers.

"Its report is certainly not unsympathetic to the building and agrees that the tower is undoubtedly of local significance. But too many other elements militated against listing."

She said that Tesco's corporate affairs manager and planning adviser Nick Gellatly has agreed to display historical information about the tower in a new building and would like to hear from people who worked on the factory during its construction so that reminiscences can be compiled and kept.

He has asked to meet the Civic Society again early in the New Year.

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.