Background and History of Water Supply To Manchester
Records state that in 1506 Manchester was supplied with water
from a spring which was conveyed in a pipe or wooden conduit to
the market place.
By 1776 demand for the water was such that supply from springs
was inadequate and, due to inadequate repairs, the conduit collapsed.
Wells were then drilled into the local hard red sandstone but
the water was hard and impure. A pumping engine was then introduced
which drew water from the River Medlock into small reservoirs
at Holt Town, Beswick, from where water was distributed across
the town by wooden and stone pipes.
In 1823 larger reservoirs were built at Gorton and later water
was also drawn from the Manchester and Stockport Canal but the
supply was still inadequate. In
1844 the Commission of Inquiry into the Health of Large Towns
brought attention to the need for clean water supply
In 1846 the Manchester Corporation appointed John Frederick Bateman
to advise on improving the town's water supply. His vast plan
took water from the Longdendale Valley in the West Pennines, impounding
water into seven reservoirs along the River Etherow and conveying
water along aqueducts to Manchester and Salford. At the time it
was the biggest water supply project ever undertaken in Europe.
Although the first water was supplied in 1851 work continued for
the next thirty years.
In 1874 Bateman advised that, given the increased demand, the
Longdendale reservoirs would be adequate for only seven more years.
At first he recommended Ullswater as a potential supply but eventually
the next dam was constructed at Thirlmere in Cumbria between 1890-94.
The dam was designed by George Henry Hill who had been in partnership
with Bateman and was constructed by Morrison and Mason of Glasgow.
It carried water 100 miles along an aqueduct to Manchester.
As demand increased further Manchester was authorised to acquire
water from Haweswater and adjacent catchments. Although permission
had been granted in 1919 it was not until 1934-41 that the work
was carried out due to the financial restraints of the economic
depression at that time. Then came the war and it was not until
1955 that the project was completed. The dam at Haweswater is
a rare British example of a hollow buttress concrete dam, designed
by George Eric Taylor. Between 1955 and 1967 work was carried
out to divert water from the adjacent catchments of Heltondale,
Swindale and Wet Sleddale into Haweswater. Since 1971 water has
also been pumped from Ullswater along the aqueduct from Heltondale.