I want more….

Obviously school numbers had been boosted by ‘navvies’ children but why had these workers returned? In November 1852 Leeds Water Works became a council owned company with private investors receiving the princely sum of £227,417.94 Following the take over, a new 40” diameter cast iron main was laid to replace the open conduit from Blackmoor Tunnel to Weetwood and in 1866 the Seven Arches Aqueduct became redundant due to its limited capacity. A constantly rising population, higher standards of personal hygiene, the introduction of flush toilets and the increased demands of industry placed a huge strain on supplies. The Leeds Water Works Act of 1867 gave the authority permission to exploit supplies in the Washburn Valley and expand facilities at Eccup, which was to act as a storage reservoir, however, there was a limit to the amount of money that could be borrowed.95 The planned expansion of the reservoir had to wait for additional finance which was authorised by the Leeds Improvement Act of 1877. Construction of Eccup Reservoir as we know it today began almost immediately but on completion on 15 March 1885 it quickly became apparent that there was substantial leakage.96 The bank had been settled badly and so the navvies had to return once more. Over the next twelve months workmen placed ten feet of clay in the puddle wall, however, the Council eventually decided to totally reconstruct the embankment. This was a painfully slow process and had to be done in sections with brickwork pillars strengthening the structure. The average depth of the excavation below the embankment road reached as much as 180 feet! 97

But where did the navvies live and where had they come from? The 1891 Census gives a fascinating insight into these questions.98   It records that Alwoodley Old Hall had been subdivided and was being used as a lodging house for some of the workers:

4. Old Hall

Alfred Dickenson  Head 32 General Labourer Yorkshire Leeds
Sarah Dickenson Wife 30   Norfolk    Briston 
Henry Darby  Visitor 23 Stationary Engine Driver Norfolk    Briston
George Poynton  Visitor 50  General Labourer  Yorkshire Benton
Robert Dodgson  Visitor 45  Stationary Engine Driver Arthington
John Reed  Visitor 47 General Labourer  Filey
William Payne    Boarder 21 General Labourer Middlesex New Barnet
Harry Lightfoot Boarder 29 General Labourer Yorkshire Leeds
Robert Jarvis   Boarder 30  General Labourer Hull
Robert Archer  Boarder 50 General Labourer Norfolk    Litcham
George Morris  Boarder 57  General Labourer Salop Pontesbury

5. Old Hall

John Smith Head 36 Excavating Miner Lancashire Liverpool
Sarah Smith Wife 38   Lancashire Liverpool
John H. Barnett Boarder 24 Excavating Miner Lancashire Manchester
Henry Meggs  Boarder 49  Excavating Miner Cheshire Birkenhead
Thomas R. Reed  Boarder 46 Excavating Miner Lincolnshire Lincoln
William Holmes   Boarder 38 Excavating Miner Lincolnshire Lincoln
Robert Holmes   Boarder 56 Stationary Engine Driver Yorkshire Halifax
Phil Foster  Boarder 53 Stationary Engine Driver Nottingham Notts
Joseph Moore  Boarder 23 Excavating Miner  Essex Graze
Andrew Male    Visitor   Cheshire Birkenhead
Alwoodley Old HallTwenty-one people from all over the country were crammed into the Old Hall. It must have been a nightmare when they all returned home filthy after a day’s work!

The reservoir was finally completed in1897 to the design of Edward Filliter but the skilful engineer responsible for the critical reconstruction work was Thomas Hewson.99 By the end of the nineteenth century Leeds was supplied with 16 million gallons of water a day of which two thirds was for household consumption. Thanks to Victorian engineering most of this water flowed unaided through the pipes beneath the surface of Alwoodley to the ever-thirsty city beyond.




94. Leeds Corporation Waterworks Undertaking 1852 –1952 Centenary Brochure, (Leeds, 1952) p.21; A.Beal, The Leaning Towers of Adel: Stabilising the Seven Arches Aqueduct, Structural Engineer 2001.
95. Leeds Corporation Waterworks Undertaking 1852 –1952 Centenary Brochure, (Leeds, 1952) pp.26-28.
96. Leeds Corporation Waterworks Undertaking 1852 –1952 Centenary Brochure, (Leeds, 1952) p.29.
97. Leeds Corporation Waterworks Undertaking 1852 –1952 Centenary Brochure, (Leeds, 1952) p.29.
98. 1891 Census 3525 En.11.
99. Leeds Corporation Waterworks Undertaking 1852 –1952 Centenary Brochure, (Leeds, 1952) p.29.

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