Water in Warwickshire

Water in Warwickshire

This is very much a provisional document that seeks to introduce the topic of ‘Water’ as applied to industrial heritage. We hope that its publication will promote interest in, and encourage contributions on, water sites throughout Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull.

 It goes without saying that provision of water – both quantity and quality – is an essential ingredient of human activity. It has provided an ever-present challenge throughout history, so its story pre-dates the industrial era. However, it is the period of industrialization, and the associated urban growth, that really placed pressure on the nation’s water supplies, and the twin responsibilities of providing a safe public water supply and an effective means of sewage treatment and disposal presented a challenge to those responsible. It also provided the opportunity for the utilisation of the new technologies of the industrial age.

In approaching this topic, one quickly realized that it pervaded many strands of economic activity, and it almost feels too large a topic to embrace. Undaunted, we thought that a useful starting point would be the development of a suitable framework for analysis, with the possibility of picking particular features for study/recording. With a framework established, members (and others) might be tempted to make a contribution on one particular aspect of the water industry. Some have, of course, already done this, and John Brace leads the field (see below). Others have expertise and information developed over the years that deserves a wider audience, for example, of Princes Drive Pumping Station, whilst Derek Billings has contributed to the Leamington History Group’s website with his article on Campion Terrace Waterworks. Water-related themes have featured regularly in WIAS’s monthly meetings, for example Jeff Burgess’s 2014 talk on Water in Leamington. Others may know references to articles that would be well placed in a ‘Further Reading’ section.


Supply of water

  • Springs and wells
  • Rivers and streams

Storage of water

  • Dams and Reservoirs e.g.
    • (demolished) Coundon (covered) reservoirs, Coventry
    • (demolished) Tuttle Hill (covered) reservoir, Nuneaton
    • Shustoke reservoir, Coleshill
    • Draycote water
  • Water towers e.g.
    • Bedworth
    • Burton Green
    • Tile Hill
  • Water stored for agricultural purposes esp. irrigation

Movement of water

  • Pumps
    • Village pumps
    • Pumps powered by steam, oil, electricity e.g.
      • Whitley, Coventry
      • Whitacre, Shustoke
      • (demolished) Pumping Station, Princes Drive, Leamington Spa
    • Distribution
      • Pipelines both in urban communities and rural areas

Water Companies

  • Private water companies
  • Public water companies

Uses of water: domestic

  • Drinking; spa waters; bottled waters
    • the spa waters of Leamington
  • Household – cooking, washing, flushing
  • Water for heating

(Uses of water: agriculture, industry and commerce  – Covered elsewhere)

Uses of water: canals and artificial waterways

  • Supply of water to canals: reservoirs and pumping stations e.g.
    • Seeswood Pool
    • Wormleighton Reservoir
    • Earlswood Lakes and engine house
    • Olton Mere
    • Napton reservoirs
    • Water pumping Napton-Marston Doles

Treatment and disposal of water

  • Treatment before use
  • Treatment after use
  • Disposal of waste and foul water

Water as a problem

  • Flood control and drainage
    • Flood defences
    • Control of water levels in mines and quarries
    • Drainage of fields for agricultural purposes

Water in the landscape

  • Built and managed water landscapes, and the associated civil engineering e.g.
    • Compton Verney lake and bridges
    • Stoneleigh Abbey lake, bridge and pumphouse
    • Farnborough Hall pools
    • Packington Park pools
  • Managed water meadows
  • Flooding/filling of former industrial sites for recreational purposes – sailing, fishing, nature reserves. Often multi-purpose – water storage and recreation facilities
    • Kingsbury Water Park (former gravel pits), part of Tame Valley Wetlands
    • Brandon Marsh nature Reserve (former gravel pits)
    • Alvecote Pools (formed by mining subsidence)
    • Ryton Pools (former gravel pits)
    • Draycote Water (storage and recreation – sailing, fishing, bird-watching)
    • Willes Meadow reservoir (storage and recreation – sailing)

(Water as a source of power – Covered elsewhere

  • Water wheels
  • Water turbines
  • Hydro-electric power)

Some Warwickshire Water examples – click on a photo to enlarge

Water in Warwickshire: further reading

Barty-King, Hugh Water - The Book 1992 A valuable introductory textCover price £28; available on Amazon for £3.20
Billings, DerekLeamington History Group Campion Terrace Waterworks www.leamingtonhistory.co.uk
Brace, JohnA series of articles written by John Brace on water-related themesAvailable on WIAS website
Seven Springs – Water Supplies to Warwickshire VillagesAvailable on WIAS website
The Fountains of Long ComptonAvailable on WIAS website
The Warwick Water HousesAvailable on WIAS website
The Warwick Improvement Works –
Warwick’s Water Supply & Drainage 1848 to 1877
Available on WIAS website
History Underfoot in Leamington SpaAvailable on WIAS website
History Underfoot in Stratford upon AvonAvailable on WIAS website
Coombe Abbey Country Park, CoventryAvailable on WIAS website
The Lost Water of Astley Castle MoatAvailable on WIAS website
Bright, David and Brace, JohnTalk on ‘Water in Warwick’ in November 2010Report in WIAS Newsletter 40; January 2011
Burgess, JeffTalk on ‘Leamington’s Water Supply’ in December 2014Report in WIAS Newsletter 54; March 2015
Talk on ‘Leamington’s Water Supply’ in December 2014 Video on WIAS website
Coventry Society Buildings at Risk - Whitley Pumping Stationwww.coventrysociety.org.uk
Cragg, RogerWater Towers in Warwickshire. Comprehensive list of known water towers.Available on WIAS website
Craig, MarkWater supply in Royal Leamington Spa 1875-1992Severn Trent Water 1993
Historic EnglandGrade II* Listing for Waterworks at Whitacre: Pumping Station,
Filter House, Water Well and Superintendent's Office
Jennings, Allan
Leamington History Group
The Springs, Wells and Baths of Royal Leamington Spawww.leamingtonhistory.co.uk
Rushton, Margaret
Leamington History Group
Alderman Henry Bright JP, 1817 -1904 - An important figure in the development of clean water and sanitation for Leamington Spawww.leamingtonhistory.co.uk
Wass, StephenA Way With Water — Water Resources and the Life of an 18th-Century Park (Farnborough) In Industrial Archaeology Review no. 38 2016 Volume 1
A Way With Water — Water Resources and the Life of an 18th-Century Park (Farnborough) Report on talk to WIAS by Stephen Wass in Newsletter No. 64 September 2018
Warwickshire Industrial Archaeology SocietyVarious entries on the ‘Database by Industry’ section under ‘WaterAvailable on WIAS website