The Old Waterworks

  • 16 Jan 2012
  • Historical Studies
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At the top of Pitchcroft stood the old, ivy clad tower of the 18th century waterworks. It was really an elevated water tank on the top of the tower, to which water from the Severn was pumped by a waterwheel, and from the top, it then flowed by gravitation to the central reservoir in the Trinity. The water-wheel and pumps of the older waterworks on the Little Severn were re-erected here in 1795. It supplied water until 1858, but the tower remained until the 1950's.

The City Waterworks in Waterworks Road was designed in 1858 by Thomas Hawkesley, the greatest authority of his day on public water supply. It was driven by a 50 h.p. steam-powered beam engine, and almost immediately anotheridentical engine was installed. The water was pumped up 160 feet into a reservoir on Rainbow Hill, but was completely unfiltered. In 1884, the Medical Officer for the City advocated filtration of the river water, but there was strong opposition to this extra expense, and it was not until 1894 that this was done, with an immediate and dramatic drop in the cases of typhoid, though the river itself was , if anything less pure.

At the same time it became known that at times the reservoir had been completely empty, and the town had been kept going only by pumps. Another reservoir was constructed on Elbury Hill, but the steam pumps were unequal to the task, and additional electric pumps were installed, which at that time when electric power was in it's infancy, was a bold step. In 1902 an up-todate steam plant was installed. In the 1880's gardens were laid out around the tanks in the waterworks, with flower beds, and these were accessible to everyone. They were kept in admirable order and was the earliest of Worcester's public parks.