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History of the Huddersfield Water Supplies
By T. W. Woodhead



Many small communities within the present Borough, but outside the Waterworks Commissioners area of supply, formed Companies and raised subscriptions for the construction of wells and cisterns to secure a supply of water to meet their local needs. On many of these wells throughout the district may still be seen as tablets affixed, "Erected by Subscription." Here are a few examples in illustration of what was common about a century ago, and some of these Waterworks Companies, as we shall see, are still in existence and collect their "Water Rents." Well waters are deemed especially good for making tea.

In the "Centenary Souvenir" of the Newsome Church School (1837-1937) the Vicar, the Rev. Edward Clarke, referring to "The Fountain" in Towngate (See Figure 21 below) says, "In early days many wells had been sunk, but they did not yield a satisfactory supply in dry weather. In 1844 a public effort supported by a voluntary rate, was made to bring water from Castle Hill side to ‘The Fountain,’ also known as ‘Newsome Water Works.’ In dry times, hundreds of pitchers would be waiting to be filled, and ‘The Fountain’ still to be seen with its inscription, in Towngate, was open from 6-0a.m. to 10-0p.m., except on Sundays when it was open for two hours only, from 7-0a.m. to 9-0a.m. The cost, which amounted to 30/-per house, was shared equally by landlord and tenant. It was thirty years later before the village was supplied with Corporation water." "The Fountain Inn" nearby still perpetuates the name.

"The Fountain," Towngate, Newsome
Figure 21. "The Fountain," Towngate, Newsome "Erected by Subscription 1844"

At the bottom of Bluebell Hill, Taylor Hill, are two wells known to the residents are the "Hard Well" and the "Soft Well" respectively. Over the "Hard Well" or "Enclosed Well" (See Figure 22 below) is a tablet bearing the following inscription:-

By subscription
A.D. 1851
NOTICE, any person or
Persons damaging
These water works
Or wasting the water
Will be prosecuted
As the law directs.

"Hard Well," Taylor Hill Waterworks. "Erected by Subscription, 1851"
Figure 22. "Hard Well," Taylor Hill Waterworks. "Erected by Subscription, 1851"

The "Soft Well" is a stone trough in the wall, beyond the "Hard Well" to the extreme left, and is protected by a hinged door and latch.

"Hard Well" After Removal of Wall for Road-widening
Figure 23. "Hard Well" After Removal of Wall for Road-widening

When these wells were first made I have been able to discover but a Committee managing these water works still functions and possesses minute books of its proceedings, the earliest bearing the date 1851 and records meetings to the year 1906. A second minute book dates from the year 1907 to the present time. The first record states that "in consequence of several nuisances connected with the water works at Taylor Hill it was thought advisable to call a meeting." This was held on Monday, September 23rd, 1851, "to take into consideration the best and most efficient steps for the better maintenance and cleanliness of the aforesaid works." A Committee was appointed, also collectors, treasurer and secretary.

At a meeting held July 20th, 1855, resolutions were adopted including the following:-

"That the Annual Meeting will be held on the last Friday in July at 7-0 o’clock.
"That the key turner have 15/- per year for locking up, keeping clean and respectable.
"That if a man build a house and occupy the same connected with the Taylor Hill water works to pay 3/6. but a person Build a house or more than one house to let, such person shall pay 2/6 per house in addition to a shilling from the incoming tenant. That the collection be made in June each year."

Here are a few extracts from the minutes of subsequent meetings:-
1868. "That John Haigh be stopt for fetching water from the wells until he has paid his money for his new buildings.

That John Kay be employed to stop John Haigh and all persons not entitled to the water at the rate of 4d. per hour."

1877. "The householders who have Corporation water pay one penny and those who have not three pence."

1886 "That B. Vickerman and sons be allowed to convey the overflow from both wells into a reserve. That they pay an annual subscription of 10/6."
1901. "That we charge the sum of Twopence for the privilege of taking water away from the wells to non-contributers."

This waterworks Committee still functions (1938) and rents are collected to maintain the wells.

On December 18th, 1935, building plans for two semi-detached dwelling houses in Bluebell Hill were brought before the County Borough Council. The proposal was opposed by the Taylor Hill Waterworks Committee as it would interfere with the wells and the "ancient water rights" of the inhabitants. The houses, however, were built and set back to the line of the road widening scheme. The boundary wall was removed, leaving the well projecting into the road.

This company constructed a small reservoir at Coldhill from which water was delivered to seven or eight cisterns and pumps in the village, some of which still remain ; a wooden pump supplying the Robin Hood Cottages was recently replaced by an iron pump ; a supply also fed a drinking trough on the main Huddersfield Road. There were cisterns to supply groups of houses at the Freehold, another at Warwick Bridge, a third at stony lane, and a fourth in and near Parkgate.

In the Huddersfield Waterworks and Improvement Act of 1876 reference is made to the transfer of this undertaking.

"And whereas by an indenture dated the first day of April one thousand eight hundred and seventy-five, the undertaking, lands, and property of the Berry Brow Water Supply Company (Limited) who were supplying water within the borough, were transferred to the Corporation, and it is expedient that as soon as the debts and liabilities (if any) of that Company have been paid and satisfied, and their assets distributed, and their affairs wound up, the said Company be dissolved." The services of Mr. Matthew Bradley, its one and only secretary, were retained by the Corporation.

Records of this company were unfortunately destroyed a few years ago. When taken over by the Corporation, the reservoir at Coldhill was used for a time as a service reservoir, but later discontinue and the trough on the main road was removed. There is still a well in the lane above the site of the reservoir.

A further illustration of an effort to improve the water supply is found at Upper and Lower Park, Berry Brow. The draw wells from which water was obtained by bucket and rope, did not yield a reliable supply and on September 18th, 1854, a Company was formed to improve the supply. An agreement was drawn up stating that "We the undersigned, do hereby agree and promise to pay as under-mentioned in weekly payments until all the expenses of the Waterworks be paid with interest on any monies which may be borrowed to carry out and complete the various works." A set of rules was drawn up including water rates based on the Poor Law Assessment.

The scheme appears to have been delayed and it was not until 1868 that it materialized.

The Company consisted of five members, John Heaton, Robert Shaw, Edwin Ainley, Oldfield Alfred Stocks and James Fearnley ; later two more members were added. Money was borrowed to carry out the work, the Company agreeing to repay by weekly instalments as stated above, until the work was complete. "It was agreed that they should commence by making an opening on the south-east side of a field in the possession of Robert Shaw called High Croft extended into a field south called Well Close to the east by driving a mine till it was considered they had obtained an ample supply for all necessary purposes." A drift sixty yards long as made and supply found. An embankment was made at the mouth of the drift and water from this small reservoir was piped to the farmsteads and cottages and still serves their needs. Documents relating to these Waterworks are in the possession of Mr. J. W. Heaton, Upper Park Farm, Secretary-Treasurer of the Company, who kindly allowed me to see them.


Mr J W Heaton, mentioned above, retired and my father Mr Benjamin Walter (Sonny) Coates took on Upper Park Farm tenancy in (from memory) 1952.
Consequently the documents for the waterworks passed into my father's hands as we were by then the only user of the water supply for providing drinking water to livestock.
Over the years due to deterioration of the supply and increase in herd sizes the volume and reliability of the supply diminished and was eventually replaced by a mains supply.
Subsequent to this the embankment at the mouth of the drift started leaking and no longer holds back water.
We relinquished the tenancy to Upper Park Farm in 1999 and the land it is currently in the hands of Kirklees MC who have created a woodland and nature reserve on part of the land.
The overflow from the waterworks continues to flow through the nature reserve and has been dammed to form a pond.
The water from this source is of excellent flavour and quality and I have never tasted any tap or bottled water that can compare.

I hope that you find this of interest.

Philip Coates

The late Mr. B. Langrick of Armitage Bridge contributed an article to the Huddersfield Examiner on July 13th, 1929, on "Former Local Water Supplies" at Berry Brow and Armitage Bridge. He mentions three noted wells, Ned Well named after a farmer in Birch Road, Penny Well in Coal Pit Lane now Newsome Road South, where coal was worked from a day hole, and Parson’s Well near the Vicarage. Waters from many streams were piped into cisterns at convenient places for distribution both in Berry Brow and Armitage Bridge, for some of which small subscriptions were collected for their upkeep. The houses from the Armitage Bridge School to the Well were supplied from two cisterns and pumps ; one was at the end of Top Row, and the other at the bottom of "Pig Tail Lane." These cisterns were supplied by an unceasing flow from Nab Hob Spring which is situated in a wood on the Armitage Bridge House Estate. This spring for more than a century has provided a constant and valuable supply to the Armitage Bridge Mills.

When the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company sought powers to construct the railway from Lockwood to Meltham the riparian owners and residents secured clauses in the Bill ensuring that the construction and maintenance of the line must not interfere with the natural flow into the Dene Stream in order that the two cisterns at Armitage Bridge fed by this stream, and the reservoir of the "Old Tolson Dyehouse" may be continuously supplied.

It was from such sources that water for domestic use was obtained, and as we shall see, is still a common source of supply. To purify such supplies consumers often resorted to domestic filters of which many forms were in use. We have, however, to keep in mind that many residents in rural areas have a strong prejudice in favour of spring and well water, and consider it superior and safer than town supplies, which they regard as an "unnatural manufactured water."

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