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Colchester Water Tower
Balkerne Gardens, Colchester, Essex
associated engineer
Charles Clegg
date  January 1882 - 27th September 1883
era  Victorian  |  category  Water Tower/Tank  |  reference  TL991252
ICE reference number  HEW 1688
An elaborate brick water tower with cast iron tank, built to supply Colchester with water from an artesian well. The tower is also known by the nickname 'Jumbo'. Now decommissioned, and a Grade II* listed building, it awaits redevelopment.
In 1851, amid increasing concern over public health and water supply, William Hawkins (b.1798) and railway engineer Peter Bruff (1812-1900) bought the Colchester Waterworks Company. A year later, Bruff drilled an artesian well on the site of the future water tower, next to an existing clay-lined reservoir (TL992251, on the site of the present Mercury Theatre).
In 1875, the Public Health Act was passed and the town council became responsible for water supply, buying the waterworks company from Hawkins and Bruff in 1880. By this time the artesian well did not provide enough water for Colchester's growing population, so councillor James Wicks proposed the then controversial solution of building a tower to supply water under gravity. Charles Clegg (c.1855-c.1904), the Borough Surveyor and Engineer, designed the structure.
The tower is 40.1m tall overall and contains 1.2 million red bricks. The brickwork rises to 27m above ground and has a base 17.5m square. Each face has a large arched opening faced with Corsehill stone, and small decorative arched crenellations around the top. A central brick shaft rises to the water storage tank above. It houses rising mains of 405mm and 305mm diameter, two outlet mains of 305mm diameter and a spiral access stairway to the roof, passing through the tank inside a cast iron tube.
The tank is made of cast iron plates. It is 17m square and 3.7m deep, with a capacity of 1,004,666 litres, and supported on a granite curb 150mm thick and 685mm wide that sits on the brickwork. Its roof is pyramid-shaped, topped by a lantern room known as 'Wicks Folly'.
The water tower took 20 months to construct and cost 11,138. It provided Colchester's main water supply for many years, and was later used as a balancing tank at times of high daily demand.
In 1888, interior cross bracing with 32mm diameter iron bars was installed to strengthen the tank. Exterior metal walkways with parapets were added around the bottom and top of the tank in 1894 and 1908 respectively. In 1948, the original roof tiles were replaced by tongue and groove boarding clad with copper sheet.
In 1974, ownership of Colchester Water Tower was transferred to Anglian Water. It was decommissioned in 1984, and sold to a developer in 1987. It has since been resold at least four times and all plans to convert it into housing have so far failed.
In January 2007, the roof was damaged in high winds and a section of the copper cladding on the west side was removed.
Contractor (tower): Henry Everett & Son
Contractor (tank) A.G. Mumford
Research: ECPK
bibliography
www.british-history.ac.uk
www.jumbo.uk.com
www.savejumbo.org.uk
reference sources   CEH E&C
Location

Colchester Water Tower