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Local History Talk: Withens Reservoir

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Shirley Daniel, Cragg Vale resident and founding member of Cragg Vale Local History Group, was inspired by her love for the area to research the history of Withens Reservoir. It was, she told a meeting of Hebden Bridge Local History Society, 'small but our own'. It stands isolated in the apparently bleak landscape, but is part of a fascinating story . . . and not so much Cragg Vale's reservoir as the property of distant Morley.

Withens Reservoir

The landscape of Withens had provided people with a livelihood from ancient times, including the mills which sprung up in the nineteenth century, making use of the fast flowing Withens Brook. It was this landscape that caught the attention of Morley, a rapidly growing town with a growing need for water. They wanted their own reservoir and Withens was their choice.

Engineer Charles Gott planned to make use of the difference in altitude, with Withens at 1000ft to Morley's 400ft, to send up to 1.5 million gallons of water a day along a twenty one mile pipe to Morley. Farms were demolished, their stone no doubt recycled for the beautifully constructed reservoir. In April 1891 there was a lavish ceremony to mark the cutting of the first sod, with five hundred arriving from Morley and transported by wagonette from Mytholmroyd station. Others walked up the hill accompanied by a brass band. The VIPs were treated to a luxurious lunch at the Cragg Vale Board School.

Soon the site was taken over by builders and huts, with the backbreaking work of the navvies eventually supplemented by the arrival of a loco-engine. Pasture Farm was adapted to become the reservoir keeper's house, and a sophisticated filtration plant installed. Withens reservoir still plays an important role in being part of Yorkshire Water's grid system. It is even rumoured that the soft Pennine water of Withens adds to the flavour of the Coca Cola bottled in Wakefield!

The next meeting of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society at 7.30 on Wednesday 27th November at the Methodist Hall Hebden Bridge will be taken on a Visit to Sunny Bunce's by Chris Helme. All welcome,

Details from the Local History website

Many thanks to Sheila Graham for this report

Previously, on the HebWeb

Local History talk on Witchcraft in the Upper Calder Valley: As make-believe witches come knocking on our doors John Billingsley, folklorist and author of many books on the subject, told members of the Local History Society that to our ancestors witchcraft was very real indeed. More info (27 Oct)

Local History talk on Mytholmroyd's Moderna: Joan Laprell spoke to the Hebden Bridge Local History Society where she recalled the village within a village that was the Moderna Blanket Factory in Mytholmroyd, where she worked for ten years. More info (12 Oct)

Local History talk on maps: The first meeting of the new season of lectures for the Hebden Bridge Local History Society was launched by Tony Morris speaking about the history of maps and map-making as well as cartographic crime. More info (30 Sept)

Bridge Mill: History on our doorstep. Justine Wyatt, with the support of the mill's current owner David Fletcher, has uncovered more of the story of the building, and gave a fascinating talk to the Hebden Bridge Local History Society. Read more (3 April)

Working from home in 1825; Working from home is not a new concept, Malcolm Heywood told members of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society. William Greenwood's described his several different occupations. Read more (20 March)

The Grave of Robin Hood: mysterious goings-on in Calderdale. Kai Roberts told the local history society about Robin Hood in Calderdale and especially the monument known as Robin Hood’s Grave. Read more (11 March)

Todmorden Weavers and the Great War. Alan Fowler, former lecturer in Economic and Social History, told a meeting of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society that the local Weavers’ Association had 4000 members at its peak. Read more (19 Feb)

Our Railway Station in the 19th century. David Taylor told a meeting of the Local History Society about how the early railway developed in Hebden Bridge. Read more (28 Jan)

Untold Stories: A glimpse into the lives of local people - Tony Wright has for the past ten years been collecting personal life stories on film and audio tape. Read more (18 Jan)

City in the Hills - Corinne McDonald and Ann Kilbey told a meeting of the Local History Society of Dawson City, the building of the Walshaw Dean Reservoirs and the publication of a new book. Read more (16 Dec)

Lament for the Mills - Robert Cockcroft, poet and academic told of his childhood spent close to mills owned and operated by his grandfather, John Cockcroft and his father, Keith. Read more (2 Dec)

How much thought do you give to a war memorial? - Mike Edwards told a meeting of the Local History Society, war memorials can be found in many forms and in unusual places. Read more (17 Nov)

Clubhouses: self help and co-operation - A small row of houses in Old Town, called Clubhouses, encapsulates some of the history and spirit of the Calder Valley explains Julie Cockburn. (30 October 2012)

Small Town Saturday Night - The story of a love affair with rock 'n roll at its peak in the 1950s and 60s from speaker Trevor Simpson.

The world of Cornelius Ashworth, speaker Alan Petford, Local History talk of 10 October 2012

Hebden Bridge Local History Society

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