A remedy to the shortage of water

chasetown 3

A remarkable, and beautifully scanned image from Ruth Penrhyn-Lowe. Click for a full-size version.

Several times over the previous eight years of this blog the question of the function and decommissioning of the steam pump that once stood at Chasewater has cropped up, and always provokes interesting debate – well, reader Ian James has been in touch with a snippet of information he’s found in a book relating to the long gone pumping plant.

The reservoir, you’ll recall, was built to (and still does) feed the local canal network with water, as every time a lock is used, water is lost downhill. The pump seems to have recovered water back into the main reservoir when excess was available.

The engine in question stood near the dam houses that still exist today, between them and the small overflow pool called the ‘Nine Foot’ (so called because of the depth gauge that used to sit in it).

It can be seen on this map section from 1882 (top left):

1882 1:2,500 mapping of the Chasewater Dam and Anglesey Basin area. The pump house is upper left. Click for a larger version. Imagery from the National Library of Scotland archive.

There has been a lot of debate about this subject in the past, and courtesy of reader and contributor Ruth Penrhyn-Lowe I was able to share a remarkable postcard, which gave far more detail than previously seen. That can be seen at the head of this post.

We established over the years that several local mines discharged water into the local canal, and when levels were high, this waster was returned to Chasewater (then called ‘Cannock Chase Reservoir’ or more commonly ‘Norton Pool’). I’m not sure where I gained the information but I’m pretty sure that one mine owner even charged Birmingham Canal Navigations for the water supplied!

The new contribution clarifies the point well, as well as giving the definitive answer as to what became of the engine. Ian wrote:


Some eons ago, there was a question on your superb website about the Pumping Station at Chasewater asking for information.

I came across the attached copies out of a book and it can still be found on Ebay and Abe.  And something called a library?

1912 1:2,500 mapping of the Chasewater Dam and Anglesey Basin area. Note considerable civil engineering has taken place by now, with a breakwater, constructed embankments around the Nine-Foot and the curious ‘Rain Gauge’ by the basin. I wonder if this was in response to a failure or storm event? . Click for a larger version. Imagery from the National Library of Scotland archive.

Sorry about the quality, it’s a copy of copy at the very least.

The Canals of the West Midlands by Charles Hadfield
ISBN 10: 0715346601 / ISBN 13: 9780715346600    (ISBN: 9780715386446  feb 85)

From ‘Canals of the West Midlands’ by Charles Hadfield. Click for a larger version. Image Kindly supplied by Ian James.

From ‘Canals of the West Midlands’ by Charles Hadfield. Click for a larger version. Image Kindly supplied by Ian James.

It seems that each stretch of canal is at a known height above mean sea level, ours is 473 ft in old money.

Some of the maps label an aquaduct and the picture from the Nine Foot pool show the pipe across the the Valve House.  I guess they just dropped the water down there and, with the valves closed, the water went back in to the reservoir.

I’m really interested in this: the image and map (this section from the 1915 1:2,500 OS above) seem to show the ‘aqueduct’ output of the pump house going to the (still extant) thrupenny bit valve-house. Imagery from the National Library of Scotland Archive.

A couple of sections of the brick pillars beneath the elevated pipe are still on the property as well as the base of one pillar.

They sure made things to last in those days. I really wish they had left notes for the new dam engineers.

Ian James

Thanks to Ian for an excellent and most valuable contribution, which I’m sure will interest readers and prompt yet more discussion.

Background can be found in this article, and this one too. Readers may also like to gen up by reading this exploration as well.

If you have a view (and who doesn’t?) please do comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.

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2 Responses to A remedy to the shortage of water

  1. Victoria Owens says:

    There is, by chance, a satisfying connection here with a recent post of yours. Bob. George & Jonah Davis of the Albion Works, Tipton named in Mr James’s Hadfield extracts as the builders of the Cannock Pumping Plant engine (1853-4) also built the engine surviving at Sandfields Pumping Station (c.1873). According to Grace’s Guide – http://www.gracesguide.co.uk – the firm won various awards at the 1851 Great Exhibition. The detail that the Cannock Pumping Plant engine was evidently scrapped in 1937 (see above) is an additional reason to be glad of David Moore’s work towards the Sandfields engine’s preservation.

  2. morturn says:

    Indeed George & Jonah Davis seemed to have been a quite accomplished company who also designed a rotary steam engine too. We are very fortunate that there is at least one of their engines still in existence.

    Looking at the cylinder size and the stroke, being exceptional long, it must have been a very similar engine to the one we have at Sandfields.

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