Voices from the past: Our part in making cholera history

A lovely video podcast has been sent to me by Dave Moore of Lichfield Waterworks Trust about the pumping station in Lichfield that many people are surprised to discover, fed the Black Country with water for nearly a century.

The video, narrated by Graham Fisher and featured here on History West Midlands, goes into the way the pumping station worked, and it’s massive significance to the public health and wellbeing of our region. You can watch it below.

Find out more about this film here.

Dave said of the film:

This podcast forms the foundation for a project we will start soon called ‘voices from the past’. In the podcast you should he me mention that we need to give a voice back to the people who died in the cholera epidemic and the people who worked tirelessly keeping the water supply going.

Voices from he past will give an opportunity to anyone who is interested in history, to work with us and learn new skills and a new way to look at the past.

We will put on several training days at a nice venue and show people how to do family research, social history and oral history.

I think that this will be a great opportunity to connect non-professional historians with the community and the past, bringing people together to lean and develop new skills.

Dave Moore, late of this parish and tireless campaigner for all things local and historical is doing interesting for the Lichfield Waterworks Trust, and  taking a really unique approach.

Sandfields, although located on the southern edge of Lichfield, was a key force in supporting the growth and health of the Black Country further south. The provision of clean water, as Dave points out, prevented the spread of disease and helped our towns safely reach higher population densities.

Sandfields fed the reservoirs of the Black Country via a huge cast iron main that ran along the railway through Brownhills. We’ve covered that quite a bit here, and the main remained in use until past the middle of the last century.

Please check out the history of this almost forgotten gem, join Dave’s Facebook Group, attend the meetings or just help by sharing what you know of this fascinating building.

If you feel you can help, please comment here and I’ll hook you up with Dave, or send me an email at BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot Com. Cheers.

Sandfields is a remarkable place, as I found out when I visited it in 2001.

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2 Responses to Voices from the past: Our part in making cholera history

  1. andyropes7 says:

    What a brilliant piece of history well reported and illustrated regarding the Black Country something I will share with the Plumbing tutors at Walsall College if you don’t mind.
    Sincerely hope the waterworks building gets restored

  2. Pedro says:

    I think this is an excellent podcast, both in the filming and the informative content. It prompted me to go back and reread some of the information I had found when researching into John Robinson McClean.

    There are always going to be different interpretations and emphasis of events in history, and for me it raises several points of interest. The SS Water Company was supplying water to the Black Country around 20 years before Sandhills was built. The company was certainly created by entrepreneurs, and it seems profit was the driving force.

    In 1853 R Chawner was the Chairman and McClean and Stileman were listed as Engineers. One of the directors was Richard Greene whose story was told in the Blog article “Panic on the Streets of Lichfield” here…


    There is no doubt that great engineer McClean was brains behind the scheme, but the Company could see that profits were to be made out of the situation in the Black Country.

    At the1853 Shareholders meeting…”The present company will provide adequate remedies for these great evils, and the promoters after careful review of the Engineers estimates, and probable income, of the company are assured that while improving the sanitary and social condition of this important district, they will reap a liberal return of the money embarked in the undertaking.” (Note that the public are allowed a limited number of shares.)

    In 1855 more finance was needed…“In Wednesbury and Darlaston inhabitants gladly buy water that drains from pits and engines…6 to 10s per week for impure water…and the supply of water to 250,000 souls must prove highly remunerative to the shareholders….The consumption for manufacturing purposes will be large and will afford an important addition to the income of the company.”

    John Robinson McClean died in 1873, and never saw the completion of Sandhills? Around the same time in Birmingham Joseph Chamberlain was bringing Birmingham Water Company into the Corporation. “We have not the slightest intention of making profit…. We shall get our profit indirectly in the comfort of the town and the health of the inhabitants.”

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