of the Huddersfield Water Supplies
By T. W. Woodhead
CHAPTER III - PUBLIC WELLS, CISTERNS AND WATERING PLACES.
PRIVATE SUPPLIES AND LOCAL WATER COMPANIES.
LOCAL WATERWORKS COMPANIES
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.
NEWSOME WATER WORKS
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.
Figure 21. "The Fountain,"
Towngate, Newsome "Erected by Subscription 1844"
TAYLOR HILL WATERWORKS
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:-
NOTICE, any person or
These water works
Or wasting the water
Will be prosecuted
As the law directs.
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.
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
Here are a few extracts from the minutes of subsequent
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.
BERRY BROW WATER SUPPLY COMPANY
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
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
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.
UPPER AND LOWER PARKS WATERWORKS COMPANY
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.
Update on - UPPER AND LOWER PARKS WATERWORKS
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.
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.
to this the embankment at the mouth of the drift started
leaking and no longer holds back water.
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.
overflow from the waterworks continues to flow through
the nature reserve and has been dammed to form a pond.
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.
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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