Herefordshire Historic Water Supply

Part 2 Ledbury

The Waterworks Museum tells the story of public drinking water supply to the City of Hereford and the associated public health benefits of this in a growing City from 1856 through to modern times.

At Easter 2018, the Museum introduced the first of a series of weekends to focus on the historic water supplies of Herefordshire’s market towns and villages. This started in 2018 with Ross on Wye and continued in 2019 with a focus on water supply to Ledbury.

The main feature at the Waterworks Museum that relates to water supply to Ledbury is the Massington Lineshaft Display, the centrepiece of which is the original Lineshaft from Massington Pumping Station at Eastnor. This was donated to the Museum in 2012 after having lain rusting in the gardens of Massington Lodge, the former pumping station, for many decades. The Massington Lineshaft Display, which took five years to complete, won the prestigious West Midlands Heritage Project Award in 2018. The creation of this display, and restoration of its key elements – the 1899 Lineshaft and the 1920’s Wilson Oil Engine and triple throw pump from Brancaster in Norfolk, has been told in a 2-part article in Stationary Engine magazine in September/October 2018.

What did the water supply system at Massington look like?

We have a good idea of this thanks to the photographs taken by John Townsend, the Museum’s first Curator, in June 1974.

Although the Lineshaft is the original from Ledbury, the Massington Lineshaft Display does not replicate the original system, as this was driven by an engine made by Fielding & Platt of Gloucester.

However, the oil engine and pump set are of the correct vintage to create a display strongly redolent of the public water supply system for Ledbury in the Edwardian era.

Ledbury’s Water Supply from 1899 to the post WW2 era

Massington Waterworks on the Eastnor Estate first pumped water on Monday 23rd October 1899. The below article uses extracts from press articles from the period to describe the water supply arrangements in the 1890’s and the pressing need for a pumped water supply.

The middle section of the article describes how Ledbury responded to the water shortages experienced in the late 1920’s and 1930’s, and the final section describes how the supply system was extended again in the immediate post WW2 era. Interestingly, the Medical Officer for Health’s report for 1945 describes how Ledbury’s water supply has been chlorinated since 1942.

Where does Ledbury’s drinking water come from today?

Since the summer of 1978 when the ‘modern’ water treatment works was built at Broomy Hill the drinking water supplied to the residents of Ledbury has come from the River Wye.

The treated water is pumped to a covered reservoir at Bewdley Bank, Burghill and then onwards to Ledbury (Bradlow) Service Reservoir for local distribution.

Some villages to the south of Ledbury also receive Broomy Hill water, but via Ridge Hill reservoir in the Malvern Hills and then from the reservoir at Cockshoot.

Broomy Hill Control Room
Broomy Hill WTW Control Room (2000)

Massington Waterworks – Summary of Key Dates

  • Dec 1896: Decision to proceed with new works on the Eastnor estate
  • Oct 1899: Engines first pumped water to high pressure reservoir at Cross Hands
  • Nov 1929: 2nd well sunk at Massington
  • Mar 1942: Extra water brought in from Bromsberrow (Malvern UDC)
  • Jun 1942: Water supply chlorinated for first time
  • Feb 1951: Electrification of Massington works
  • Jul 1978: Water supplied from Broomy Hill WTW
  • Wells at Massington initially kept as standby source

Bonus article associated with Ledbury and water engineering

So far, whenever we have conducted research into Herefordshire’s historic water- supplies we have found an unexpected bonus to share. In 2018, we found the story of Henry Blake (who was the first Water Engineer for Ross of Wye) and his patenting of the Alpha Fire Extinguisher in the UK and USA.

In 2019 we found the significant role played by Percy Hector Pitman, a water engineer working in Bosbury, in the development of the Pelton Wheel. Bosbury is a village just 3½ miles to the north of Ledbury.