Walking into the kitchen and glancing at the TV playing to itself, I barely heard the words “Victorian underground reservoir to be demolished” uttered on the local news. My interest piqued, I began a frantic search for the remote control to increase the volume to learn more. As usual, the remote was just that, ‘remote’. By the time I’d located it and upped the volume, the report had moved onto the weather. “Wet and mild” it proclaimed. ‘Bugger nuts’, I muttered and then remembered, we live in the information age. Everything is just a click away!
After several clicks and 10 minutes later I’d found the location of the mystery reservoir and plans were made for a visit. We set off on a wet and mild (at least the weather forecast was right) monday afternoon and duly arrived in Clayton Le Woods just outside of Leyland in Lancashire.
The ground that the reservoir lies beneath has been purchased from United Utilities by Kingswood Homes and is earmarked for a housing development. The building work seems to have been put on a hiatus for 2 weeks so the public can visit this rare piece of subterranean Victorian engineering one last time before it’s demolished and filled in.
Several attempts over the years have been made to have the site listed but all have failed, which I find kind of sad as this is the only underground reservoir left in the area that boasts the victorians love of vaulted arches and multiple brick faced arched roofs. The later ones are all constructed using reinforced concrete and metal. A similar structure in Sydney was saved from demolition and had the roof removed with the revealed space made into gardens.
The entrance to the reservoir is by means of a small opening that has been made in the north wall and a scaffold walkway.
Once inside, the scaffold continues with steps leading down into the gloom and onto the floor. The interior is temporarily lit by single bulbs festooned over and through the arches. The grandeur of the design is typically Victorian with graceful arches and sweeping curved roofs, all constructed to the highest standard but made never to be seen, until now.
Because of the low light and my budget camera most of the pictures I took are not of a high standard but do show the detail of the construction and give a feel of the space of the structure.
Work was started on the reservoir in 1883 and was built to serve the town of Leyland with a clean water supply. Designed to hold approx 300,000 gallons, the water was pumped up from a circular well 25m below the Pump House (now offices) and then pumped into the reservoir ready to be drawn by gravity to the town below.
By the 1930’s the demand for water was outstripping supply so in the 1940’s a new reservoir was built using reinforced concrete opposite the original one. The old reservoir was still kept filled and was used as a back-up facility for over 40 years after the completion of the new one. It was finally decommissioned in the 1980’s.
I really recommend trying to see this before it’s gone forever. The site is open 7 days a week from 10 a.m until 4 p.m and finally closes on Sunday 3rd November.
The house builders Kingswood have been very gracious in letting the public see this piece of history one last time and have even produced a very informative booklet, free for every visitor to the site.
This is the address of the site.
Back Lane / Fiddler’s Lane,
If you fancy a visit, hurry!