The following information is an extract from "The History of South Staffordshire Waterworks Company" by J. Van Leerzem and B. Williams.
Providing a water supply to Dudley and beyond was high on John McClean's priority list as this portion of the district contained many prospective customers who had never enjoyed a piped supply. McClean suggested the desirability of housing a covered reservoir in the courtyard of Dudley Castle. Permission to lease the site was refused by the Earl of Dudley's agent stating that the project might seriously affect his Lordship's interests. On the horizon appeared the solution to McClean's storage problem, when Dudley Waterworks Company asked for a meeting of the two undertakings to discuss arrangements for the future of the supply of the Dudley area in April 1860. An inspection of the Dudley works was carried out by McClean and his findings were that both reservoirs at Shavers End and Parkes Hall plus the mains network were in good order. With the prospect of securing a ready made reservoir at the high point of Dudley, negotiations commenced for the purchase of the Dudley undertaking.
Dudley's water position during the previous seventy years makes depressing reading. Towards the end of the eighteenth century there was considerable concern, by the inhabitants of Dudley, about the inadequacy of a potable water supply. The inhabitants were dependant entirely on, private wells from 15 to 180 feet deep, some fitted with pumps, rain water cisterns, usually installed below ground fitted with pumps, ponds and a few public wells.
An organised scheme was demanded by the inhabitants, an attempt to remedy the situation began in 1791 with the passage through Parliament of the Town of Dudley Act, (31 Geo 111, C 79, S 25), under which the town was to be governed until 1852. The Act authorised Commissioners to levy a rate for providing improvements, namely, street widening, paving of footpaths, lighting and a water supply. The water supply was to be free for the use of inhabitants. The elected Town Commissioners, property owners in the main, were responsible for carrying out the Act. As principal ratepayers the finance for providing the improvements had to be funded by themselves. Little wonder that the majority of them did not apply themselves to their task. Forty six meetings of the Commissioners were convened in the three years. Up until 1794, twenty six meetings were adjourned for the want of a quorum and twenty meetings broke up in disharmony. Some steps were taken to try and improve the water supply position. In November 1791 a committee was appointed to set out several reservoirs upon the line of an intended watercourse, presumably a scheme, planned and designed by William Thomas Hateley, bringing water from Coopers Spring,
Roundshill, Rowley to Waddams Pool, Hall Street, Dudley. In January 1792 Hateley reported to the Commissioners that the watercourse was part completed and provision should be made to build the intended reservoir and basins. He was requested to prepare estimates which he duly provided. Estimates were prepared for the cost of conveying water by pipes into the town to supply a well near St. Thomas's Church and public wells near the Town Hall, at that time situated in the Market Place.
A reservoir or basin was constructed by James Wainwright, in a meadow owned by the Earl of Dudley, near the Freebodies, at Kates Hill, Dudley. The receptacle was made mainly of brick and wooden planks, provided at a cost of £185.
In June 1793 Thomas Howes, was requested to make a quantity of culvert bricks to lay a conduit from the reservoir to Waddams Pool. Four months later it was ordered and agreed that the dam of the reservoir be immediately made secure and put in a proper condition to hold water. The scheme was finally abandoned as ineffective in March 1800. Charles Roberts reported to the Commissioners that at the request of the Earl of Dudley he had surveyed the watercourse line, springs and reservoir intended for supplying the town with water and decided the plan was inoperative. He recommended the inhabitants to put down town pumps in proper situations under the direction of the Commissioners.
On April 18th 1808 the Commissioners ordered that the watering pool called Waddam's Pool be immediately filled in.
In 1810 it was ordered, that a well be sunk and pump put down for the use of the inhabitants of Priory Street. In the same year the dam at the Freebodies was cut through and the water let out immediately on the orders of the Commissioners.
On August 9th 1810, the Commissioners considered a plan for raising capital and forming a company for supplying the town with water from certain springs in the area. It was to be called the Dudley Waterworks Company and to be incorporated by Act of Parliament. Later it was resolved that the town cannot consent to the application being made to Parliament without being fully assured that the powers and privileges of the present Town of Dudley Act, for supplying the town with water, will not be infringed upon. On 26th. of May 1826 a requisition signed by numerous inhabitants of the town addressed to the Clerk of the Commissioners requested that some means should be adopted to secure a supply of water to Dudley.
Messrs. Bourne and Sons, Solicitors for the Commissioners, issued a notice on November 11th 1826 applying to Parliament for an amended Town Act giving more definite powers to provide Dudley with its organised water supply.
Some ratepayers were concerned about the cost of the amenity, expecting enormous increases in their rate demands. One ratepayer issued a public notice, condemning in strong terms, the expense involved and the unnecessary powers to supply an area of 15,000 inhabitants stating "Water will never be brought to this town except at great expense", £17,000 was the estimated cost.
William Richardson was instructed to ascertain if the town could be supplied under the old Act, and also the condition of the abandoned works. He found that the springs had become so lost and diverted to be of no use at all.
A new plan designed by a Mr. Rofe, a Birmingham Civil Engineer, was not carried into effect. His account for £91. 15s. 0d. was considered to be exhorbitant. The Commissioners offered £50 which was not acceptable to Rofe who finally settled at £75.
Some activity was shown by the Commissioners in the following six years for they ordered that -
1. A reservoir was to be completed, later enlarged and a pump put in at Pitt's hole by a John Raybould.
2. A well near the Vicarage be deepened and a tunnel driven from it to increase the "come" of water.
3. John Raybould's tender of £38 be accepted to construct a cistern to receive rain water from the roof of St. Thomas's Church to provide soft water for use of the inhabitants.
4. Iron pumps be put down in Watson's well.
Thirty spirited citizens met and decided to enhance the towns amenities, by promoting a public meeting calling for action on the water supply problem. As a result of the meeting the Government of the day was petitioned for a private enactment, empowering the Dudley Waterworks Company to be formed. The Act was given the Royal Assent on the 16th of June 1834, under which the capital sum required was not more than £20,000 in shares of £50 each. Amongst the forty subscribers to the works were; James Bourne, Jane Cook, John Jesson, Charles Molyneaux, Job Pitt, Edward Terry and John Twamley.
Water for the undertaking was to be obtained from springs and watercourses at Ruiton, Gornal, High Ercall, Woodsetton, Coseley, Wrens Nest Hill, Parkes Hall and a spring called Penny Well. The Company's first General Meeting was held at the Dudley Arms Hotel, High Street, on 15th of July 1834. William Richardson was installed as Engineer. He also held the post of Engineer to Dudley Gas Works built in 1821.
In February 1835 the directors advertised for tenders for excavating and embanking two uncovered reservoirs, one at Parkes Hall the other at Shavers End, Dudley. A borehole and heading was constructed at Ashfield by Samuel Edwards, the shaft was thirty yards deep and the horizontal headings collected the springs. The pumping station at Parkes Hall was equipped with two 18 inch pumps which operated twelve hours per day. Water ran down to the adjoining reservoir where there were two pumps. In addition there was another engine driving a six inch pump, backed up by an eight inch pump, in a well without headings. The surface land drainage water was directed into the reservoir. Parkes Hall Station was constructed and steam engines and pumps installed, to deliver the water, through cast iron mains, laid in Eve Lane and then along Burton Road to Shavers End Reservoir. Water was then gravitated on to the district.
Other plant was installed at, Hurst Hill where water was taken from the limestone hollows and water was also pumped from mines near Deepfields, Coseley, owned by Messrs. Bagnalls Ltd.
In Dudley in 1848 there were complaints from the poorer classes both of the cost and the quality of the water. Many were not supplied at all as the Company's mains covered only a small part of the town. The cost of water was sixteen shillings per year for the smallest house plus two pounds to lay on a supply. In consequence many purchased water at a halfpenny a pail, plus another halfpenny for carriage from the Castle Springs. Salop Street was an area supplied by Dudley Water Company's mains, but the inhabitants preferred to walk the four hundred yards to the spring, stating this water was preferable to the undrinkable mains supply.
By 1850 the Company supplied about one quarter of the houses in the town. The supply was intermittent, generally every other day, remaining on from half an hour to two or three hours, and during the summer months very insufficient in quantity. The quality of water supplied was objectionable, very hard and at times and having a milky appearance. Henry Medlock F.C.S. took and analysed water samples at Dudley. In his report he stated that, " Not only are the waters of Dudley Waterworks totally unfit for washing and for steam boilers, but also for making tea and culinary operations generally." The solid matter in 100 gallons of water from the premises of Mr.C.G. Brown in Bilston, would destroy fourteen and a half lbs. of soap before a particle became available as a detergent.
The shortage of supply during 1851 caused the streets to remain unwatered for days and great distress existed in the town.
Many of the inhabitants were obliged to steal supplies, use canal water, which was in a most impure state, or beg water from enginemen at works where engines were working. Most of the townspeople were kept in the most filthy conditions, as many as forty people waiting at one well to draw water. Faced with many difficulties, the hilly nature of the district made the system of mains intricate, the supply of surface water fell off and much water was lost by mining operations. Seven public wells were repaired and fitted with pumps. It was stated that there was always ample water in the "green rock", (basalt) and some of the wells were in that rock. John Robinson McClean, following his appointment as Consulting Engineer to the undertaking, projected his scheme to bring water from Lichfield to Parkes Hall Reservoir. His scheme was considered too costly. The Financial position of the company was insecure having contracted debts of between £4,000 to £5,000 by 1851, its future, always at risk, was soon to disappear.
The Report to the General Board of Health on a preliminary inquiry into the sewage, drainage, water supply and the sanitary conditions of Dudley was carried out by William Lee from the 12th to the 20th of July 1851. It was stated that comparatively few houses were supplied because Dudley Waterworks refused to supply tenanted houses. This exception was only waived when landlords were willing to be responsible for paying the water rates, in most cases rents were increased by more than the amount needed to cover the water rate, providing the landlord with additional income.
Deprivation experienced by the poor in not being able to afford a piped water supply resulted in many being forced to use cellar drainage water. Cawney Hill district housed many of Dudleys poorest inhabitants and it was possible to obtain supplies from Watsons Well but this source became exhausted in consequence of certain alterations carried out by Lord Ward. An effort was then made by the inhabitants to sink their own communal well but having sunk a borehole deeper than expected no water was found William Lee also reported that several wells in the district lost their water supply as a direct result of mining operations and many had suffered following the construction of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway Tunnel, when a great bulk of the water disappeared.
Pump maker John Baugh gave evidence on the wells in use in the district which varied in depth from five yards to sixty. There were few places where water could not be obtained at any depth. An average depth well of thirty yards would cost from £1 to £1- 5s-0d per yard to construct. Cost of the cast iron pump was fourteen pounds and a wooden one thirty pounds for that depth. A pump of that kind, if the water was sufficient, would provide a supply to ten houses and would cost five shillings per annum for repairs. A windless rope and bucket would cost from two pounds to two pounds ten shillings. There are a great number of soft water cisterns which are generally below ground level, constructed of bricks and mortar. An average size receptacle of nine feet square cost nine to ten pounds, many were provided with pumps at a cost of two pounds, ten shillings. These cisterns would serve four houses. Water tubs of all sizes were available which when set up on bricks with proper cover and tap complete cost two pounds, painting and repairs to these receptacles used by the middle classes would account for one shilling and sixpence a year. The poor paid three to five shillings for a small cask which would be gone in two years without ever having been repaired or painted, unless the soft water containers were covered, the water soon became very foul. A wooden pail cost four shillings, iron pails two shillings, the more respectable preferred wooden pails. Powder casks were in use as pails, some used earthen pans called "jowls", these containers were soon broken.
He concluded his evidence by saying "I have known people have to go half a mile, and be happy to get a little water at that distance. I have known them have to go even a mile for water, and I have known when they could get water off their next door neighbour. Some use very little water, sadly too little, it is fetched by girls, who carry it on their heads. I should say that a penny a week would be little enough even for shoe leather, for fetching and carrying the water for a poor mans family, that distance. I know that there are very many poor people in Dudley that are very badly off for water, that they are put to very great straits, and are in a very filthy condition".
William Lee in the minutes of his inspection of the water mains to Bilston and Parkes Hall stated that; "Examined the main pipe, it is now above ground at Sedgley. It is broken, leaking and collared above the surface of the ground, which has sunk from time to time, ten feet or more and the pipes have had to be continually altered and raised. In another place the pipes have been raised, just now, about three feet above the road and have eleven collars, showing fractures in less than fifty yards length, this is the Bilston main.
In another place the pipes are now five or six feet deep below the surface, broken from the same cause and five men were raising them at the time of my inspection".
By 1853 six of the seven public wells remaining in the town, tapped springs at a depth of thirty feet, this was surface supply and very uncertain in quality during the summer, the seventh well was a cistern fitted with a hand pump which was fed with water from the roof of a parish church.
The limits of the Dudley Waterworks Act were the Borough, the Castle, the parish of Sedgley and Tipton and the township of Bilston. The company were bound under certain conditions, set forth in the Act, to supply water to all
who demanded it on prepayment of one years rent.
In Dudley 1,800 houses were supplied and in Bilston and Sedgley 1,200, the charges ranged from eight shillings and eight pence per house to three pounds per house per annum. With a lack of a constant supply, so few customers and little capital to improve matters, the demise and a take over of the Dudley Waterworks Company was inevitable.
At the half yearly meeting held in September 1860, there was some concern by the shareholders about several matters; the dividend, compared with Birmingham Waterworks Company, salaries, engineering expenses, parliamentary and law expenses and working expenses.
With regards to the revenue account and the balance applicable for dividends, at two per cent, £1,389 to be divided by the shareholders, it was much less than the directors had anticipated. The Chairman remarked that a shareholder in the Birmingham Company had informed him that in that company they were sixteen years before they declared a dividend and then it was only two per cent. He certainly anticipated that hereafter their dividend would be as good as the Birmingham Water Works Company. On the salaries issue the chairman observed that on the formation of any public
company, great difficulties were bound to be encountered and the services of practical and experienced men were needed. These men could only be obtained by offering adequate remuneration. The amount queried was £24 a week for superintending men laying down pipes.
In answer to the question relative to payments to the engineer, it was stated he was paid a commission of five per cent on the amounts of the contract in addition to parliamentary expenses.
Mr. Wainwright the solicitor of the Company, then, in answer to questions from the various shareholders, proceeded to offer explanation upon the item of parliamentary and law expenses. He was sorry he said, to have heard it stated that the Company had been formed for the special benefit of the engineer and lawyer and he hoped to be able to convince them that the remark was quite an unfounded one. In the first place they had been to Parliament twice, in 1853 and 1857, and on both occasions they had met with the most strenuous opposition in both Houses, involving very heavy expenses. The money which had been paid to him had barely sufficient to cover his actual disbursements. He had received by far the greatest part of his costs in shares. In respect of charges, which most professional men would expect to be paid at the time, nothing whatever had been paid since the commencement of the Company to the present time. He had taken shares in respect of the charges and he was now to receive for the first time a two per cent dividend in respect of those shares representing those charges.
A statement was then read of the numbers of, meters, service pipes and houses supplied in the various districts to date; Walsall 1,108, Wednesbury 1,950, Darlaston 1,933, Tipton 644, West Bromwich 50, a total of 5,685.
Following on from this meeting an extraordinary meeting was called for authorising the affixing of the common seal of the Company to the deed or deeds connected with the purchase of the Dudley Waterworks Company. The Chairman on introducing this business, referred to the clause in their Act, empowering them to treat with the Dudley Company. He had been furnished with an estimate by Mr McClean of what it would cost to take water to Dudley in opposition to the Dudley Company and the probable cost of arranging with them the purchase of the works. They had met the Dudley Company, who had shown them their, books, accounts and works, delving fully into their account of their income up to the present time. At first some difficulties arose in consequence of a portion of land or property being questionable title. This was Shavers End land and reservoir which had only a copyhold title, which had never been enfranchised. This dispute was on going between Dudley and the Lord of the Manor, the Earl of Dudley.
Mr. Wainwright read the agreement which had been drawn up under the 46th section of the Act of 1853 which enabled the two water companies to agree the conditions set forth, The South Staffordshire Waterworks Company agree to purchase the Dudley Waterworks Company including all the property and plant of that company and their rights and privileges under their Acts of Parliament except the lands at Parkes Hall, Ashfield, Bilston and the managers house at Parkes Hall. A lengthy document set forth the following to be paid in consideration of the conditions named; The Dudley Company to receive £4,300 in cash and five hundred shares of ten pounds each in the South Staffordshire Company, each share to be entitled to be treated as fully paid up and to be entitled to participate in dividends from the 30th of June 1860. The plant, property and rents of the Dudley Company to become the property of the South Staffs. Company at once, the rents to be the property of the latter company from June 1860.
The water rates received by the Dudley Company in 1859 were £2,870. 15s. against this were £400 working expenses. The Secretary remarked that it was only proposed to keep the Dudley staff on till Christmas and then a collector and engineer would be the only staff required.
The Chairman explained they would be able to give the people of Dudley a twenty four hour supply of water whereas at present they only received a twelve hour supply. After further discussion a motion was proposed, seconded and carried unanimously that the agreement, produced and read be received and adopted and the Seal of the Company affixed.
The Take-Over was not completed until May 1862. According to the annual reports and accounts, the purchase price shown was £21,404. Discharged partly by shares and partly by cash payment.
Ground for the works at Shavers End, was provided by The Earl of Dudley. On completion the uncovered receptacle, rectangular in plan, measured two hundred and seventy feet by one hundred and ninety six feet. Covering an area of two acres, seven poles, the reservoir had a capacity of three million gallons at top water level. Whilst excavations were being carried out in Parkes Hall Road, Dudley, on 29th of October 1964, a short piece of main which originally supplied the reservoir from Ashfield was exposed. It bore the date 1835 which had been stamped on the collar of the pipe, a practice the manufacturers were compelled to carry out. Still in use at that time, the main was described as being in remarkably good condition considering its age. It was made of cold blast iron, a metal which was flint hard and difficult to cut or drill.
In October 1863, the Dudley Waterworks Company paid the purchase money with an arrear of over twenty years interest to his Lordship and the Trustees of the late Earl's will for the Parkes Hall and Shavers End Reservoirs.
Thirteen years on from the opening of the works much of the Company's apparatus was in need of an overhaul, being subject to continuous working, with little chance of augmenting any maintenance programme. Both the Boroughs of Smethwick and Dudley summoned the Company through the courts, for insufficient and unwholesome water supplies pursuant to contract. The Company was prevented by a number of unavoidable accidents to maintain a supply. Dudley's water supply was less than intermittent, breakdown of engines at Sandfields and a leakage at Walsall Reservoir were responsible.
The following are a few of the particulars from the logbook kept at Sandfield Pumping Station;
The leak was discovered in the reservoir at Walsall on June 10th and a large part of the water contained in it was run off to waste, this amounted to twelve million gallons.
Later it was confirmed that a tree stump left in the original work had rotted, but this bad workmanship was denied by J. Boys the contractor. For two days the Company's principal mains were used in running off water and in consequence supplies to all districts suffered. Pumping was resumed on June 13th and between that date and June 30th. several other breakdowns were logged including repairs to clacks, changing buckets etc. One of the banks of Shavers End Reservoir slipped on June 25th and it became necessary to effect repairs. The supply to Dudley was given by continuous pumping from Coneygre Reservoir but this at its best was only a partial intermittent supply. The course of the water through the mains and the pressure in them, arising from the action of the Company's engines, always being liable to interference from prejudicial persons living in the higher parts of the town, by the draining of water from the mains at lower levels purposely. All these problems resulted in non supply in Dudley and Smethwick and the local authorities sought to recover damages from the Company. During this difficult time temporary supplies were afforded from Birmingham Waterworks.
William Vawdry reported to the Company's Board of Directors in August 1870. "The want of a better supply to the higher districts has been seriously felt during the past three months, the continued dry weather and consequent great demand has quite emptied the small stock of water we had in the Conygre and Dudley Reservoirs. Under the present system it is impossible to supply the higher districts. The deficiency of water has been attributed to the leak at Walsall, it is my duty to inform you this was not the cause, it was no doubt the means of bringing it about a day or two sooner. The Dudley Reservoir was almost empty a week before the mishap at Walsall Reservoir, and we had no water in Conygree Reservoir, indeed the only means of supply to Tipton, West Bromwich, Smethwick, Oldbury, Coseley, Gornal, Dudley, Netherton, Cradley and Brierley Hill was a twelve inch main from Wednesbury to Tipton". Vawdry's recommendations to improve the situation included, the use of the old Dudley Waterworks plant at Parkes Hall from where there was laid a nine inch main to the Dudley reservoir or the more satisfactory scheme to erect works at a point between Walsall and Wednesbury. The latter scheme was soon to be adopted.
Poor supply conditions existed in 1872/73, and at times the reservoirs were virtually empty. Fourteen stoppages of engines were logged for repairs, taking two hours for packing stuffing boxes, to twenty seven hours for replacing a plunger pin, other items included changing buckets and defective clacks. The courts were fairly lenient with the Company which escaped by paying court costs.
Dudley Waterworks Company finally settled their differences with Lord Dudley in April 1867 but difficulties still existed regarding the works at Parkes Hall.
Reverter Rights Clauses remained vested in the Trustees of the late Earl of Dudley and the Trustees had no rights to grant a release. This stated that if the Company's works should be abandoned or given up by them or after completion of the works, should for the space of five years cease to be used for the purposes of the Act, the land belonging to the Company should in either of the cases revert to the persons from whom it was originally purchased. Lord Ward was asked by the Dudley Company to consent to the Trustees waving any claim they may have under the reverter clause. The late Earl died in 1835, leaving a son, a minor at eighteen years old, as head of the family. By his fathers will, he did not come into the possession of the vast estates bequeathed to him until 1842, when he attained the age of 25 years. Later he was honoured when upon the advice of Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria revived in his favour the old family titles and he was created Earl of Dudley and Viscount Ednam.
Difficulties were eventually overcome by the Company under their parliamentary powers, taking the works as purchased and agreeing to sell the property as surplus lands for the benefit of the Dudley Company, who in turn would reimburse the late Earl's estate. Parkes Hall Reservoir at Woodsetton, an inheritance from the Dudley Waterworks Company, disused for many years, was eventually sold in 1877 to the Earl of Dudley, after three years of negotiations. Dating back to 1835 / 1836, the open embankment type reservoir, was built with bricks laid in concrete, and covered an area of five acres. A massive Gornal stone wall enclosed the site, bounded by the lands of the Earl of Dudley and Thomas Turley, and by the road leading from Upper Gornal to Woodsetton and Coseley. The reservoir was filled by springs and surface floods of the surrounding land basins, flowing into and out of it by means of well constructed feeders, filtering tanks and sluices, supplemented by water pumped and discharged at Ashfield Pumping Station gravitating a short distance to Parkes Hall.
The auction sale of the reservoir and pumping station took place at the Dudley Arms Hotel, High Street, Dudley on 24th May 1875.
These works never figured in McClean's plans for use by South Staffordshire Waterworks Company but were a feature of his own scheme designed in 1851.
The last water supplied on to the district from Parkes Hall was in 1872 when drought conditions were in existence in the district. Uwards of 675,000 gallons per day were pumped on to the area during the emergency. Henry Wainwright suggested that the Company should purchase the reservoir for themselves, as the mineral rights were included in the sale and the site was in closer proximity to Shavers End than Coneygre Reservoir, which was always in danger of mining subsidence. William Vawdry overruled the suggestion.
The engines from Ashfield were purchased by Birmingham Canal Navigation for £700. One engine was installed at Titford Locks, Oldbury and was finally scrapped in 1935. The other engines were kept as spares, until they were sold as scrap to help the Second World War effort.
Acquiring the South Staffordshire Railway proved to be a strategic business move in the formation of the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company and the Cannock Chase Colliery Company. McClean conceived the idea of bringing water from Lichfield to Dudley as the result of attending railway business in Dudley where he refused to drink the water which was supplied by Dudley Waterworks Company, describing the water as disagreeable in taste, smell and colour. In 1851 he became Consultant Engineer to the Dudley Company and designed the scheme to bring water from west of Lichfield to Parkes Hall Reservoir at Woodsetton, Coseley. At this time the scheme failed to gain support through lack of finance.
The idea eventually flourished, the main running alongside the railway line from the City to the town a distance of sixteen and a half miles.
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