It’s time for a confession folks; sometimes, I write blog posts when I really should be resting, in bed, or frankly, just paying more attention than I can at the time spare – last week I did just this and made a total arse of myself.
Most times I get away with it, but this time I dropped a real clanger, as anyone who knows Gentleshaw (like I do, actually) will know.
I enquired after Gentleshaw Reservoir, a feature I knew to exist, but a reader had questioned. Feeling bullish but tired, off I went to the mapping archive and pulled out a map. Seeing ‘reservoir’ marked, I ringed it and the post formed around it.
I had ringed an old reservoir on the Beaudesert Estate and not Gentleshaw, which is on the east side of Chestall Road, and a place I’d looked at before. In my tired state, I completely overlooked it. To compound the arsehattery, I misread the map.
As several readers pointed out, the Beaudesert reservoir was not quite where I ringed, but a small mound to the east.
This leaves the question of what this reservoir was actually for. I honestly have no idea, and hope readers may be able to help. Reader Paul has suggested on Twatter that it might have been a reservoir to feed the large number of water features on the estate, which of course, fell into dereliction in the 1930s. I think he’s possibly right.
Reader and friend of the blog Rocky Sprogs pointed out that was about 30ft diameter and was filled with rubbish for years so it probably fell from use with the estate. The painting found at this link gives a good clue. There were lots of water features on the estate when it was in its prime:
Beaudesert, Staffordshire, Marquis of Anglesey.
[after Humphry Repton.]
Published by J. Taylor, Feb 1. 1816.
Coloured aquatint with overlay, very rare. 230 x 320mm (9 x 11½). Trimmed into plate at sides.
Beaudesert, a stately home on the southern edge of Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, one of the family seats of the Paget family until the 1930s when financial difficulties forced a sale. Many of the furnishings, including oak panelling and the Waterloo Staircase, were exported to Carrick Hill in Adelaide, South Australia; when the buildings were demolished some of the bricks were used to re-face St James’s Palace. Published in Humphry Repton’s ‘Fragments on the theory and practice of Landscape Gardening’, the plate has a hinged overlay: when the slip is down the view is of farm buildings under a wooded hill, with a stream; lifting the slip reveals the mansion on the hill, a reservoir, cascades and terraced gardens. Repton (1752-1818) was the last great English landscape designer of the C18th, who coined the term ‘landscape gardener’. Regarded as the successor to Capability Brown, he worked at Blaise Castle, Woburn Abbey, Stoneleigh Abbey & the central gardens in Russell Square, but lost out on the Prince Regent’s Brighton Pavilion to John Nash (although he published his designs).
Back to Gentleshaw, or rather, Chestall…
The reader who mailed me with the original enquiry was doubting if the other structure was actually a reservoir as he’d never seen work done up there, so I went up last Sunday (one of the reasons I ended up on the Chase) to check it out. There’s no doubt that’s what it is, but I can see why it might be questionable. More on that in a bit.
With regard to your current posting re. Gentleshaw Reservoir, here is the relevant extract from the History of SSWW: –
Replacement for Scout House Reservoir.
In 1928, the Company had to consider an alternative scheme for providing a new reservoir in a favourable site to replace Scout House Reservoir, Hednesford. Several schemes for the reparation of the doomed reservoir had been prepared, but owing to the excessive cost, ranging from £35,000 to £75,000, the Engineer considered the advisability of choosing an entirely new site.
A careful survey of the district near Chestall was made and a probable site selected at a favourable altitude. In order to avoid another white elephant, with coal mines affecting the works, a mining consultant was engaged to report on geological conditions. Negotiations were carried out with the Marquis of Anglesey’s Agent for purchase of the ground at Gentleshaw near Cannock. An area of land, six acres, three roods, was secured for £2,000 which included the rights to mines and minerals lying under an area of seventy acres.
Thomas Lowe and Sons of Burton on Trent submitted the winning tender £37,191, to construct the five million gallon, reinforced concrete, covered reservoir on similar principles to Shavers End Reservoir. The site was situated 746 feet above sea level and acted as a balancing reservoir for the Cannock area pumping stations. Its dimensions were length 252 feet, breadth 216 feet, depth 15 feet and it was brought into commission in 1930.
The reservoir, which is in Chestall Road, is still in service.
So that wraps it up – and you’ll see below a gallery of photos I took on the site, which show this installation to be unquestionably a reservoir and one of some importance. It clearly has monitoring equipment fitted, as there is a connection to the public telephone network, and a radio antenna near the southern access door.
What may be causing the question about secrecy is the National Grid microwave relay tower in an adjacent compound. The tower is a secure installation, and from the angles of the antenna, seems to be performing line-of-sight connection between Pye Green Tower and Sutton Coldfield Transmission Station, amongst other duties. Like the installation at No Man’s Heath in Warwickshire, I suspect the site is now technically obsolete for it’s original function, but would now just provide data bandwidth for mobile telephony systems.
It also carries antenna for other purposes.
I was particularly interested in the locking arrangement to enter the compound, which requires the removal of four padlocks, so four separate entities have to approve entry. A curious feature, but in modern times when different companies have equipment on the same towers, very necessary.
There appears to be no connection between the relay tower and the reservoir, although to the casual observer, they seem like they might be related; however, the only commonality I suspect is that they both need elevated locations.
There’s a further puzzle in the mapping, spotted immediately by the young David Evans: towards the bottom of the map segment, southwest of Gentleshaw near Redmore, the site of an abbey is marked. David wanted to know more about this.
An expert and great student of this area is Kate Cardigan, of Lichfield Lore, and what she said during a discussion about this on Twatter is interesting, and reveals a familiar name to the old hands:
@BrownhillsBob Duignan "Think the surveyors have mistaken furnace slag for ancient ruins as in the spot indicated are heaps of furnace slag"— Kate Gomez (@LichfieldLore) October 29, 2015
So it seems there was a touch of Stonnalls about the Abbey, and someone might have been finding a pattern in the tealeaves.
There has to be further investigation value in this! Of you go, people…
Comments? Corrections? Welcome, as always. Comment here or BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks, and sorry for the cockup.