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Extracts from City of Liverpool Water Works - Annual Report of the Engineer

History of The Water Supply to Liverpool*

In the early 1700s the only sources of water supply in Liverpool were wells scooped out of the local New Red Sandstone. In some of the outlying areas, windmills were used to pump water out of wells. The main supply in the centre of the town was Fall Well, situated at the south end of St. George's Hall "about the size of a gentleman's bath, surrounded with benches for the poor as well as the servants of the rich to wash linen on. And on the heath they dried them, which was planted with gorse cut for the sole purpose. And the water was carried into the Town on women's shoulders in tin cans hanging on each side" Eventually, carts were employed for carrying the water and by the end of the century there were 60 water carts. Each cart could deliver 10 loads per day and in total, 100.000 gallons per day were delivered. In the poorer districts there were constant brawls around the water barrels and the intermittent character of the supply led to much uncleanliness and disease.

1709 The first Act of Parliament relating to the water supply of Liverpool was passed, being the 8th year of Queen Anne's reign. It granted Sir Cleave Moore, Bart the liberty to bring fresh water into the town from springs in Bootle, but nothing happened for a century.

1786 A further Act allowed the town to contract with any owners of lands to supply water on a commercial basis for which the council raised 95,324. Pipes were laid to whoever could afford to buy the water from the council.

1799 Lord Derby obtained a private Act to supply water "The Bootle Water Company" and it was reported in 1802 that he was able to supply 200 gallons/minute from his 2000 springs to the whole town and shipping.

1822 Another private Act allowed the Liverpool and Harrington Water Company to supply the town. Thus there were 2 rival companies vying for business laying pipes side by side in the same streets. They subsequently agreed territories of operation.

1843 Nevertheless, supplies were inadequate. The water was only turned on in the mains 2 to 3 times in a week and then for only 2 or 3 hours. The mains were small and in the event of a fire it took hours for water to get there. In 1842, the value of property destroyed by fire, chiefly in cotton warehouses, was 517,927. " In the poorer neighbourhoods there is usually a cock in each court, and the inhabitants carry it and store it in jugs or wooden vessels from day to day; but compared with the dense population, the supply is totally inadequate, as the companies cannot allow it to run a sufficient length of time; and many of the inhabitants of the poor have never had their boarded floors properly scoured since the houses were erected. Many of the poor beg water, many steal it; and if the companies were to prosecute all such cases, I apprehend that a magistrate would not find time for much other employment." A further Act of Parliament allowed greater powers was passed to allow the supply of salt water, and investigate alternative supplies of fresh water.

1846 After a long agitation for better water supplies, three engineers were engaged by the Town council to investigate and report on the various options available to them.

1847 One of the engineers proposed the Rivington Pike Scheme, for impounding the upper water of the Rivers Douglas and Roddlesworth and this was adopted by the Council and became an Act of Parliament (10 and 11Vic., c.261). " the Act provided for compensation water ; to the Brinscall Mill Print Works, from the goit in Brinscall village;--"

1852 Digging of Rivington reservoirs commence and was completed in 1857 when the first water was delivered.

1860 Increased demand made it necessary to increase the capacity of water stored and a new reservoir was constructed at Roddlesworth. "---two groups of reservoirs; The Upper or Withnell Group , consisting of Upper and Lower Roddlesworth and Rakebrook Reservoirs; and the Lower or Rivington Group, consisting of the Anglezarke and Upper and Lower Rivington reservoirs. These two groups are connected by a goit or canal 3 miles long and 21 feet wide." There are altogether 8 reservoirs and, when full, contain 4,105,000,000 gallons.

*Extracted from Liverpool Water Works, Annual Report of the Engineer-1900 "History and Descriptive" Liverpool Central Library

Year 1905-Covering of the Goit, Withnell to Brinscall (p66)

The water impounded in the three upper Rivington Reservoirs at Withnell is conveyed in the lower system of Reservoirs beginning at Anglezark through an open channel or goit 3 miles long. It has an average width of 20 feet at the bottom, and varies in depth, from the top of the sloping sides, from 6 feet to 25 feet.

Along one portion of this goit, between Withnell and Brinscall, there has been considerable growth of population since the original works were constructed, and many houses have been built close to the side of the channel.

The desirability of covering this portion of the goit so as to prevent pollution of the water was considered by the committee in 1897, and reports on the subject were submitted in November, 1898, and May, 1899.

The consideration of the, matter was for various reasons postponed until Sepetember, 1904, when another report was presented with amended plans.

Finally on the 11th of November, 1904, the committee decided to advertise for tenders, and in March following, they accepted the tender of Mr George Bell, amounting to 8,371 16s. 6d. for a concrete culvert 1,078 yards in length. Alternative designs had been submitted for :-

(1) A culvert constructed of concrete with blue brick facing and brick arch.

(2) A culvert built entirely of concrete

The committee decided to adopt design No. 2.

There was considerable delay in arranging the terms of the contract, and it was not signed till the 20th June. Further delay occurred on the part of the Contractor in making his preparations, and the work was not actually commenced until 14th August.

This delay was particularly unfortunate because the summer last year was very favourable for carrying out the concreting operations, the flow of water through the goit being unusually low, and there being no floods to deal with.

The total length of the invert and side walls completed during the year was 128 lineal yards, and of completed archway, 106 yards.

Year 1906-Covering of the Goit at Brinscall (p58)

Work on this contract was commenced in August, 1905, but the rains that were experienced during the autumn of that year prevented any substantial progress being made.

At the start of 1906 the length of completed culvert was 128 lineal yards, being only 11% of the whole. Up to the end of April the weather continued to be unfavourable; in addition to the time lost by snow and rain and consequent floods, it was impossible on several occasions to do any concreting owing to the frost. From May up to November better progress was made, the culvert being completed up to No. 3 Bridge by the latter month.

The nature of the operations is shown by the following photographs :-

No. 1 Shows the discharge end of the Culvert during construction.

No. 2 Shows the discharge end of the Culvert as completed

No. 3 Shows the method of constructing the Culvert in lengths. In this view can be seen the temporary timber dam holding back the water in the Goit, together with the timber chutes on each side to carry water past the length under treatment. The excavation has been completed and the timber forms for the invert are being fixed. Behind can be seen the laying of the concrete invert and also the end of the shuttering for the side walls.

No. 4 This view gives the downstream end of the same length as shown in No. 3. The completed side walls with shuttering still in position can be seen. Also the chutes on either side discharging the Compensation Water into the length already completed, through the gaps left in the side wall

No. 5 Shows the construction of the concrete arch following up the side walls as soon as these are sufficiently set to carry the weight of the arch.

No. 6 A near view of the method of forming the concrete arch.

No.7 Birds eye view from the high level bridge, showing the works during the time of flood. It will be noticed that the Culvert is nearly full of water, work still proceeding in the distance on the concrete arch.

The length of the Culvert completed within the year was 517 lineal yards, making a total of 60% of the whole.

A considerable amount of extra work has been necessary to obtain a good foundation for certain lengths of the Culvert. In several places a poor clay interspersed with seams of peat, has been encountered. The weak material has been removed and replaced with rubble and broken stone. The extra excavation thus occasioned amounted to 1,245 cubic yards.

The average number of men employed was 36 per day, whilst the time lost through frost, rain and floods was 96 days.

J Parry

Municipal Offices


May, 1907

1907 to 10th March 1908 Several reports gave details of construction progress, held up by severe frost in Jan 1908 with the final report in March when they were engaged in the final length of which 130ft remain to be completed. Therefore it is assumed that this phase of the covering of the Goit was completed within a few months after that date.

20th Sept 1910 Withnell Urban District Council adopted a plan for Brinscall Sewage Scheme in which it would be necessary to cover the Goit that flows alongside it. (the sewage works were located where the horses now graze on Lodge bank).

24th Jan 1911 Liverpool Water Works agreed to pay 250 towards the cost of covering that section. But on 30th May " The length to be covered as a precaution against pollution from the sewage works, and in response of which a grant has been provided by "Brinscall" District Council, is 150 yds but is only part of a scheme is carried out of the 326 yds portion which was completed 3 years ago will cost 3808".

This is the story so far, more research will be done to complete this history.

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