Barf night

Chris Pattison has been at it again. You’ll remember Chris has been the driving force behind much of the South Staffordshire Waterworks material in the local online community at the moment – myself, Ian Pell, Dave More and Kate Cardigan from Lichfield Lore have all benefited from Chris’s generosity of time and spirit.

Yesterday, Chris posted the following image of a lost pumping station in Lichfield, on the Walsall Road, in the ‘You’re Probably form Lichfield if…’ Facebook group. I was so interested in it I asked permission to post it here. Chris generously agreed.


A fascinating, church-like pumping station was in use up until 1930 near the Walsall Road south of Lichfield. Image kindly supplied by Chris Pattison by courtesy of South Staffordshire Water Archives.

The pumping station and adjacent public baths stood where today, Christchurch Lane meets the Walsall Road, just on the bend northwest of Bowling Green Island.

Chris had this to say about the building:

Here’s a 1931 photo of the Lichfield Conduit Lands Pumping Station which stood next to the baths at the city end of Walsall Road. Behind is the terrace of houses (still there) which are on the northern side of Walsall Road just before the junction with Christchurch Lane. Interestingly one of these houses (number 48 I think) was a shop. The pumping station was abandoned in 1930 when the well was found to be polluted. But I’m not sure when it was demolished.

Chris has asked me to point out that this was a Lichfield Conduit Lands facility, not South Staffordshire Water. My vague conjecture is that it looks so beautifully like a church because the CLT were ecclesiastically based (I believe), and because church architects knew about tall buildings and construction to cost.

I may, of course, be utterly wrong about both those assertions, feel free to correct me. own the hatch…

Unable to bring anything else to this party, I trolled the mapping record.

1884 Friary 1-2500

1884 1:2,500 map of south west Lichfied, showing the pumping station bottom left. There’s an interesting reference here to ‘Militia Barracks’ over by the railway, to the right. I note also the Cattle Market – about where Beacon Park is today – is unusually a long way from the railway station. Click for a larger version.

1902 Friary 1-2500

1902 1:2,500 map of south west Lichfied, showing the pumping station bottom left. 18 years later, the pumping station is still extant, obviously. But the Militia Barracks is now ‘old’ and an Archery Ground has appeared. Lots on here if one looks closely – the better of the two maps. Click for a larger version.

Thanks to Chris for shining a light on something most of us (me included), knew nothing about previously. This just shows the power of researching and discussing history in the online community. My thanks, as ever, are extended to all involved, but particularly Chris.

As ever, comments, heckling or corrections? Comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

This entry was posted in Bad Science, Churches, Environment, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Barf night

  1. Pedro says:

    (Municipal and County Engineers April 1910)

    The water supply of Lichfield is a Charity managed by a board of Trustees appointed under a scheme formulated by the Charity commissioners. The sources of supply in use are: surface springs situated at Aldershaw; Wells in Walsall Road, Lichfield; pumping station, Walsall Road, Lichfield; service reservoir, Beacon Street, Litchfield.

    Capacity 350,937 gallons. The length of distributing mains is 18 miles….

  2. david oakley says:

    The Walsall Road pumping station was experiencing other difficulties before the ‘bacillus coli’ outbreak, according to The History of the Lichfield Conduit Lands Trust, 1546-1946 by Percy Laithwaite M.Sc.,
    “……….Complaints from consumers on the higher levels of shortage of water, due to lack of pressure, became more insistent; the old engines were not equal to the task of increasing it. The Trustees called in Mr. F.J. Dixon. Engineer-in Chief of the South Staffordshire Waterworks Co., who advised a complete new plant. While this was actually being installed. a new and quite unexpected complication arose, the appearance in some parts of the water system of ‘bacillus coli’
    Work on the new plant was suspended, the baths were closed, and citizens had to boil all their drinking water. To adapt the existing waterworks to meet this contingency would have entailed an additional expenditure of at least £20,000, a chlorination plant under the supervision of a staff of chemists would have been necessary, and the new electric pumps would have had to operate 24 hours a day, to give the increased pressure required.
    The Trustees decided that the best way out of this crisis was to take a bulk supply from the South Staffs Waterworks Co., which could be done simply by opening a valve into the nine-inch main already laid in St. John Street, the Company agreeing to take over the new electric pumping plant, thus relieving the Trustees of a considerable expense.
    This decision was not arrived at without very considerable opposition. The ‘die-hards’ of the city, determined as always to retain all its ancient vestiges, considered that to surrender their rights
    in the now six centuries old Conduit Heads, would be too great a concession to progress. It required all the pressure and persuasion of the Ministry of Health and the more progressive members of the community to end the deadlock in the only effective way.
    So, at 10 a.m.on the 10th of November, 1930, the engines and boilers at the Walsall Road
    waterworks ceased to function, and, a little later, the Aldershaw main was diverted into one of the Company’s headings. The city was now assured of a most ample supply of water of the highest purity, and the lament of those who, for a short time, sjghed for the more ‘tasty ingredients’ of the old system, gradually died away.

  3. Clive says:

    Nice one.

  4. Pedro says:

    John McClean not such a good guy!

    From the History of South Staffs Water…

    Proposed alteration to plans (Water) and Lichfield’s opposition.

    Funding the works was proving an embarrassment. John McClean in an effort to cut costs redesigned the scheme, submitting a letter and tracings of his new proposals to Lichfield Corporation in June 1855… a meeting of the Lichfield Council, acting as Commissioners under the Local Acts, was held in the Guildhall. The Mayor opened the business of the meeting by reading the following letter from John McClean…Considerable alarm was shown by Members of the Council when the proposals were considered, fearing that all the wells of the City would become drained with the construction of a tunnel…

    • morturn says:

      In all fairness to McClean, he did agree to bring in an independent engineer at the expense of the South Staffs Water Company and be bound to his findings and recommendations.

      It did result in the waterworks being sited at Sandfields, as opposed to near the railway station and the Hanch Tunnel being lined with masonry where it passed under the town, so as to prevent the loss of water from the wells.

      This is a section of the start of the lined tunnel;

    • Pedro says:

      Oh what a tangled web

      John McClean persuaded five of his fellow directors of the South Staffs Railway, including Richard Greene of Palmer and Greene Bank, to form South Staffs Water Works.

      Bankers for the Conduit Land Trust are Palmer and Greene.

      A Trustee for the Conduit Land Trust is Richard Greene.

      Around the same time as McClean speculates with the lease of lands from the Marquis of Anglsey to mine coal, Greene buys Pelsall and Brownhills Colliery with the Bank’s money.

      1856 Palmer and Greene Bank fails.

  5. morturn says:


    Indeed I would say that your analogy around church architects knowing about tall buildings and construction to cost is sound. We know that our own Edward Adams designed the South Staff Waterworks and St Anne’s church in Chasetown; the resemblance is clear for all to see.

    I believe that the people who funded the construction of these waterworks were looking to inspire confidence and longevity, so what better than the example set by one of our enduring institutions, the church. I also believe that this is why we also see example of both Roman and Greek architecture used in these places.

    A really fine example of an highly ornate waterworks is Papplewick Pumping Station, the images speak for themselves.

  6. Pedro says:

    Lichfield Mercury 21 Aug 1896.

    The Friary…

    During the reign of George II, the Duke of Cumberland had his hqts here when the King’s army was stationed at Lichfield during the rebellion of 1745.

    • Rob says:

      That’s right.
      The Hanoverian army was engaged in european conflict and the Pretenders forces reached their southernmost advancement at Swarkestone bridge on the Trent.
      After prevarication and rumours of returning Crown forces they retreated North to their doom at Culloden.
      Strange place, Swarkestone.

  7. Pedro says:

    Worcester Journal 5 April 1862.

    The New Reservior

    The whole of the arrangements needed for supplying Dudley with service water from the South Staffordshire Company’s reservoir, at Licfield, are, we now believe, complete, and the inhabitants of the town will soon feel the benefit of being supplied with water of a much superior quality to that which they have hitherto been compelled to consume.

  8. Pedro says:

    Bob mentions the Lower Smithfield Cattle Market, and while checking out British History Online there appears to have been other “smithfields” in Lichfield. Indeed, this seems to be the case in other parts of the country.

    At first I took a smithfield to be a term for a market, and probably got its name from the market in London, however it doesn’t seem to be in the dictionaries that I have checked.

    In Brewer’s Phrase and Fable, for Smithfield the following is given…

    The smooth field (Anglo Saxon, smethe, smooth), called in Latin Campus Planus, and is discribed by FitzStephen in the 12th century as a “plain field where every Friday there is celebrated rendezvous of fine horses brought thither to be sold.”

  9. Pedro says:

    It appears that the Lichfield Archery meetings were held at St John’s Grounds from at least 1883. In 1900 it looks like there may have been a ground purpose built called the Friary Grounds, and used until at least 1916.

    In 1924 it had moved to the Cricket Ground.

    • Pedro says:

      July 1893 the Annual meeting of the Lichfield Archers took place in St John’s Grounds.

      Mrs WB Harrison, wife of Captain Harrison, was the Lady Patroness

      First Lady’s Prize was taken by Mrs Carill Worsley, hits 66, score 290.

  10. Pingback: Trouble at t’mill | Lichfield Lore

  11. Pingback: That didn’t go to plan… or did it? | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.