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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Welcome Mix 96 listeners

Wil Harvey, the chair of BWTAS, was on Buckinghamshire's Mix 96 today 28th October 2014. (To listen to an MP3 of the segment click here.)

Listeners wanting more information on the society and how to join, please look here.

To answer the presenter's questions as to what BWTAS gets up to and what people can expect by joining; BWTAS is whatever the members can make of it themselves. We have organised several art exhibitions, water tower visits, lectures, taken part in tv and radio programmes, and responded to hundreds of enquiries from water tower enthusiasts, owners, prospective owners, architects, historians and television researchers on practically every aspect of water tower history and culture.

Email enquiries to bwtas (at) will be directed to the most appropriate person.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Walton Head, Pannal, North Yorkshire (late 1940’s)

© Photograph Copyright Carol and Maj Nadry

This must be one of the last brick, public water supply towers built, as reinforced concrete was being extensively used for water towers at this time. The water tower was built by Harrogate Corporation Waterworks Department to serve the village of Kirkby Overblow. We don't have an exact build date, but know that Harrogate council purchased the land for the water tower in 1946. Some of the internal pipework has “STAVELEY 1949” in relief, and anecdotal evidence suggests the build date as being late 1940's. The brick tower supports a sectional cast iron tank of 37,500 gallons. The tower went out of service and fell into the shabby state above… Eventually Yorkshire Water, who became the owners of the tower, obtained planning permission for conversion to a dwelling, in 2010 and put the tower up for sale. The tower has been purchased by BWTAS members Carol and Maj Nadry who have restored and sympathetically transformed this tower into a good looking dwelling, retaining an industrial look.

© Photograph Copyright Carol and Maj Nadry

We are most grateful to be supplied with these photographs, as the tower is completely surrounded by trees. It is located at O.S. Grid Ref. SE 31393 50880. The tower's conversion should feature on Channel 4's "Restoration Man" at some time in the future.

Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there… The planning permission that Yorkshire Water obtained, showed the tank removed in the plans, although this was not a specific condition (they had assumed the tank was not saveable). By installing 20 tons of steel reinforcements and spending a lot of money, the tank was saved! They now find that they have to retrospectively apply for planning permission to retain the tank. Unfortunately their neighbours, 120 yards away on the other side of the trees, want the tank removed. Comments on this planning application can be made by the public here.

BWTAS acknowledges Nicholas De Taranto from Tiger Aspect, for some of the information in this post.


Update 17/10/2014: I am pleased to report that unconditional approval to retain the tank, has been granted.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Iconic Bracebridge Heath water tower to be demolished

from Lincolnshire Echo:

Landmark water tower to make way for £40 million Bracebridge Heath development

LANDMARK: The water tower at St John's in Bracebridge Heath.

A landmark water tower will be removed from a village near Lincoln as work on the first phase of a £40 million housing development nears completion.

The iconic 90-year-old tower is in the grounds of the derelict St John's Hospital site at Bracebridge Heath.

And it will disappear later this month as developers transform the former Victorian mental asylum into St John's Village.

Phase one of the 183 luxury homes and apartments, including 77 new-build family homes, in the spacious grounds of the 18-acre site will be completed in August.

And Bracebridge Heath Parish Council chairman John Kilcoyne said the demise of the tower was inevitable.

And it is set to be demolished over the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13.

"The parish council accepted that the water tower would not survive the development of the hospital buildings into apartments and houses," Mr Kilcoyne said.

"While we would have liked to keep the tower as a landmark, we realised it was not suitable for a residential development.

"It is also not original to the hospital design, being built in the 1920s, and is not in a good condition.

"The concrete would not last indefinitely, and it was felt better to take it down at this point.

"North Kesteven District Council accepted this when planning permission was granted."

Read the rest of the story

What the parish council and the developers haven't said is this tower is a fine example of early reinforced concrete water tower construction, demonstrating with its lightweight form the huge potential of this then new material and the confidence that civil engineers were beginning to have in it. Barton considers the Bracebridge tower "combines a remarkable slenderness with elegance of form..." p73 The Water Towers of Britain

When innovative materials and techniques become available, no civil engineer wants to 'push the envelope' too far but with Bracebridge, Barton asserts that water towers of the 1920's started to have a  "certain resonance with the spirit of the age and gave rise to a number of remarkably bold reinforced concrete structures... which it is doubtful would have been built at a later date".

Built circa 1924, the tower is 125 feet tall with footings remarkably only five feet deep.

The 22ft 8in diameter tank holds 30,000 gallons and is supported on six slightly splayed legs spreading to a diameter of only 23 feet at the base.

According to English Heritage (who reference Barton) the tower was built by Charles Horobin of the Indented Bar and Concrete Engineering Company but it did not meet the criteria for listed status as the attendant laundry had been previously demolished.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Bishopthorpe, North Yorkshire (1863-1946)

Photographer: Mrs. Nicholson. (Bishopthorpe Community Archive)

The existence of Archbishop Thomson's water tower, has only recently come to the attention of the British Water Tower Appreciation Society. The fascinating storey of this water tower, built in 1863 and sadly demolished in 1946, is told on Bishopthorpe Local History Group's web site. The tower was located on Acaster Lane between Main Street and Ferry Lane, at what I can best estimate to be at O.S. Grid Ref. SE 59616 47597.


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Rye cistern, East Sussex (1735)

© Photograph Copyright David Harrison

Not a water tower, as the tank is not elevated – water is stored in the domed, oval brick storage tank, that extends 3 feet beneath ground level providing 20,000 gallons of storage. Above this, the upper portion has a gauge board indicating the water level and presumably contained a pump to extract water from a well and/or distribute the water. Located in the grounds of St Mary's church, in what was known as Pump Street, now Church Square, at O.S. Grid Ref. TQ 92176 20322, this now grade II* listed building was erected in 1735 as part of a scheme costing £600 to improve the town’s water supply. However, the cistern's proximity to the butcher's area caused some problems - in 1754, several calves feet were found in it! BWTAS would like to thank David Harrison for sending us the photograph, taken on 1st May 2009.


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

"Jumbo" goes up for sale again…

After purchasing Colchester's iconic, Grade II* listed, "Jumbo" water tower for a whopping £330,000, back in February 2006, Mr. Braithwaite seems to have concluded that there is no viable commercial use for the building. He is putting the tower up for auction on the 29th of May… As reported in the Colchester Gazette, no reserve has been put on the sale, and our friends at the Balkerne Tower Trust, believe they have a once in a lifetime opportunity, to acquire this icon for the people of Colchester - if they can raise sufficient funds. If you are interested in what they propose to do with the building, or wish to help them in their endeavour to purchase the water tower, please visit their web site:

Note: that the Balkerne Tower Trust is a distinct entity and not part of the British Water Tower Appreciation Society.

Update: Jumbo sold for a staggering £190,000 - out of reach of the Balkerne Tower Trust.


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Appleton, Norfolk (1877)

High Level BWTAS Meeting…

Back in December of last year, BWTAS committee member, Brian Light, was holidaying at the Appleton water tower that is now a holiday let. Unfortunately he could not open the tower up to the whole membership, but the committee took the opportunity of meeting up there. This is an impressive example of an ornate Victorian water tower built to impress. As well as exploring the fantastic tower (some images at the end) and taking in the view from the roof, where the 1951 Docking water tower can be seen in the distance at TF 76150 36646, inside we found a book of information on this tower. Charlotte Lennox Boyd had compiled the "Appleton Water Tower History Album" comprising her research regarding this tower and the people involved, along with photocopies from publications. One of the most comprehensive reviews of the water tower and its supply was in “Engineering” 31st January, 1879. The report is reproduced here:


  SOME time ago the water supply to the residence of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, at Sandringham, was found to be in a very unsatisfactory condition both as regards quantity and quality, In consequence of this, Mr. Rawlinson, C.E., C.B., received instructions to investigate the matter, and to advise as to remedial measures. It was found necessary to extend those preliminary inquiries beyond the question of water to those of the house drainage arrangements and the disposal of the sewage. In these investigations Mr. Rawlinson availed himself of the services of Messrs. Lawaon and Mansergh, of Westminster, and under Mr. Rawlinson's supervision, and with his approval Mr. Mansergh has designed and superintended the whole of the works as acting engineer. Careful surveys of the whole district were first made, and trial borings for water were put down in several places. In the end it was determined to obtain the water supply from a chalk spring situated at a distance of about 1½ mile from Sandringham Hall, This spring is the principal feeder of a small stream running through Den Beck Wood, and which at that point forms the boundary line betwixt the estate of His Royal Highness and the Earl of Leicester. The spring is thrown out by the clay underlying the chalk at about 92 ft. above ordnance datum, or about 22 ft. below the ground floor of the hall. Between the spring and the hall a ridge of high ground intervenes, rising to 175 ft. above ordnance, or to about 5 ft. above the highest part of the roof.

  Although this is the most elevated point in the neighbourhood, still it is not sufficiently high to give adequate pressure for fire extinguishing purposes. A tower 60 ft. high has, therefore, been erected, upon which is placed a tank to be used as a service reservoir, and from this tank supply mains have been laid down to and around the hall. The yield of tho spring varies from about 15,000 to 150,000 gallons per 24 hours. The water is clear and sparkling, and has a total hardness of about 17 deg. on Clarke's scale, but is softened to about 6 deg. prior to being pumped into the tank. The relative positions of the spring, the pumping station, and the hall, are shown on the general plan (Fig. 4) in our two-page engraving. In order to preserve the water from contamination of any description and to prevent waste, the spring has been closed in a bricked chamber covered with a landing, and provided with an overflow and notch plate for measuring the quantity, and in the landing there is a locked manhole. From this chamber a line of 9-in. glazed stoneware pipes conveys the water to a small screening chamber at the pumping station. This line of pipes is 750 yards long, and has a fall of 1 in 800, and its water-lightness is insured by the use of Stanford's patent joints. In the screening chamber there is a fixed overflow by means of which any surplus water may be turned into the stream, or the whole diverted past the softening tanks into the underground reservoir.

  In ordinary working a certain quantity is delivered in the oval chamber in the first building seen to tho right in the general plan of tho pumping station, see Fig. 6. It is there converted into lime-water, the mixture with the lime being assisted by a pair of revolving agitators driven by a three-cylinder Ramsbottom hydraulic engine, worked by a small branch from the rising main. The cylinders are about 8 in. long and 1½ in. in diameter. The lime-water is then delivered into two softening tanks in the second building, each holding 3000 gallons, and this quantity is turned into them to to mixed with the lime-water. After allowing a proper time for the reaction and the settlement of the precipitate, the water is drawn off by means of self-acting syphons into the underground reservoir, which contains 18,000 gallons, and is then ready to be pumped into the tank on the tower.

  The pumping apparatus is shown in elevation, plan, and section at Figs. 1, 2, and 3 of our two-page engraving. It consists of a set of three-throw single-acting ram pumps driven by a horizontal condensing engine supplied with steam from a Cornish boiler. The boiler is 4 ft. in diameter and 12 ft. long, and has a 26 in. flue fitted with three Galloway tubes. Tho plates of the shell are of best Staffordshire iron ⅜ in. thick, with the edges planed. The end plates are ½ in. thick in one piece, the back end flanged, and the front turned true on edge and secured to the shell with external angle iron. Both end plates were bored for the flue. The longitudinal seams are double-riveted, and the flue is formed at the.front end with two flanged rings of Lowmoor iron and the back of best best Staffordshire ⅜ in. thick. All the rivets are of Lowmoor, and the manhole frame and dome are of wrought iron. The boiler has the usual fittings and a No. 4 Giffard's injector, with a valve to admit a supply.of water from the rising main. The cylinder of the engine is 9 in. in diameter, steam jacketed, and fitted with double covers, lubricators, etc., and is covered with felt under mahogany lagging; the stroke of the piston is 18 in. Variable expansion apparatus on Meyer’s principle has been adopted and is adjusted to cut off the steam at from one-tenth to three-tenths of the stroke. The crosshead connecting-rod; piston-rod, crank-pin, crankshaft, eccentric-rods, and valve spindles are all of steel. The flywheel is 7 ft. in diameter, weighs two tons, and is turned and polished. A governor of ordinary construction acts upon an equilibrium throttle-valve, and is set to a maximum speed of sixty revolutions per minute. A polished balanced disc crank is keyed on the crankshaft; and the eccentrics are of cast-iron with gun-metal, rings. The condensing apparatus is fixed behind the cylinder on the same bedplate, and the air-pump has gun-metal ram worked by the piston-rod.

  The pumps are placed in a room in the engine-house, and consist of a set of three brass rams 7 in. diameter and 19 in. stroke with brass valves and seatings. Upon the rising main is an air vessel fitted with glass gauge to indicate the quantity of air contained in it, the supply of kept up by a small-air pump worked from the main primp shaft. The pump driving gear consists of a polished Lowmoor three-throw crankshaft carried in five pedestals with gun-metal steps supported upon a strong framing, part cast with the engine bedplate and part bolted to it. A spur mortise wheel 6 ft. in diameter is keyed on the pump shaft and driven by an iron pinion on the crankshaft. The pump connecting rods are of forged iron and the guide bars of steel firmly secured to the pumps and also to the framing which carries the shaft over them. At the ordinary working speed of ten strokes a minute the pumps will lift 75 gallons in that time. Betwixt the engine-house and the other building is a cooling pond for the condensing water.

  The rising main is 4 in. in diameter and 600 yards in length from the pumping station to the tank on the tower, and the net lift from the bottom of the underground reservoir, or pump well, is 175 ft. The rising main is made good to the bottom of the tank so that he pressure is always available for working the hydraulic engine at the agitators. The tank is of cast iron octagonal in plan, 24 ft. across and 12 ft. deep, and will hold 32,000 gallons. It stands upon jack arches supported by two main and six cross girders of cast iron fixed on the top of the tower. The bottom consists of 49 plates, the central plate being octagonal and carrying a l2 in. hollow pipe or column which serves partly to. support the roof and acts as a smoke flue for the cottage below. The remaining 48 plates of the bottom are cast from four patterns. The plates of the outside ring are turned up 12 in. to form the lowest course of the sides. Above this there are five courses or tiers of plates, breaking joint, and consisting of 120 plates cast from six patterns. The top tier has an internal flange 9 in. broad, supporting the outer ends of the roof bearers. All the plates, with the exception of the one in the centre of the bottom, are ¾ in. thick ; the edges are planed and the joints are formed by internal flanges caulked with rust cement.

  On each of the eight sides of the tank there are two internal vertical cast T stiffeners fitting accurately betwixt the bottom and the underside of the top flange, having lugs cast upon them for attachment to all the plate flanges. Upon these stiffeners are also formed bosses through which, the four sets of tie-rods pass from side to side of the tank. These tie-rods are secured in the following manner: On the inside the tank plate a boss is formed the depth of the joint flanges and supported by four radial brackets. This boss has a conical hole truly bored in it 2 in. in diameter outside and 1¼ in. inside. The end of the tie-rod is turned accurately to fit this hole. Just on the inside of the stiffener boss the tie bolt is threaded and a nut and washer are screwed home against the boss. The tie-rods are in two lengths, each half being passed through from the outside of the tank and then the two are secured and tightened up by means of right and left-hand couplings.

  The roof is of timber covered with lead, and is provided with lights, ventilators, and manholes. It is protected by a neat cast iron railing, and may be used as a look-out, affording as it does a magnificent view of the surrounding country. The roof and the two floors below the tank are accessible from the outside by means of a circular cast-iron staircase fixed in an octagonal turret. The two floors at the foot of tho tower are intended to be used as a dwelling house, and have an independent, entrance and staircase. The tower, of which we give a perspective view on the previous page, is built principally of brick, the angle quoins in the battered base being of red Mansfield stone filled in with the Carr rock of the district.

  The supply main from the tank to the hall is 6 in. in diameter, and 1870 yards in length. This main feeds two 4 in. branches, which encircle the house, and upon which are placed twelve hydrants. The stables, gardens, equerries’ lodge, and Sandringham Cottage, are supplied by means of 3 in. branches. The working of the hydrants has been tested in the presence of Captain Shaw to his entire satisfaction, and the residence of His Royal Highness may now be considered as well protected in case of fire, so far as an ample provision of water under pressure can protect it. The new supply is all that can be de-aired for general, sanitary, and domestic requirements.

  During construction the works were superintended for the engineers by Mr. Edmund Beck, Jun., and Mr. Samuel Groves acted as clerk of works on the tower. The pumping machinery and tank have been made and erected by Messrs. Pratchitt, of Carlisle. Messrs. Cochrane, Grove, and Co., of Middlesbrough, have supplied the iron pipes ; and Messrs Doulton the stoneware pipes. Altogether the works form a very interesting and satisfactory example of modem private water supply on a large scale, and they are highly creditable to all concerned in their design and execution.

“Engineering” 31st January, 1879.

Click here to display image collection        

The tower and the water supply system, served the Sandringham estate well, until they were connected to the mains and became redundant in 1973. The tower stood empty for three years before the Landmark Trust acquired a lease on the building and restored the decaying tower. The old outbuildings were demolished, to leave the Tower free-standing in its clearing in the woods. The tower then became available to hire for holidays, details may be found here - well worth a look, as it has some good photography, more history and details of the restoration too. The Appleton water tower is located at TF 70514 27803.