Herefordshire Historic Water Supply

Part 3 Leominster

Leominster Water Supply

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. In 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 with Ross on Wye and continued in 2019 with a focus on water supply to Ledbury. In April 2020, part 3 of the series – which was to have focused on Leominster – was frustrated by the Covid-19 pandemic and it is again frustrated in 2021. We have, therefore, decided to publish the information produced for display at the Museum on the website.

The main feature at the Waterworks Museum that relates to water supply in Leominster is our Tangye Building, which used to be Leominster’s water pumping station. Built in 1865, the whole first floor section of the pumping station was moved to the Museum in the early 1990s to save it from demolition. This story is told below.

Drinking water supplies in Leominster can be traced back to the seventeenth century when records show that there was a public well in each of the six wards in the town. In the nineteenth century many people lifted water from wells in their gardens, of which there were said to be over 400 before the Leominster pumping station was built. In the Victorian era water borne disease (cholera and typhoid) were rife, but folk in some parts of the town took water directly from the Pinsley Brook and were much healthier.

In 1865, typhoid fever killed 38 people in Leominster. As a result of this, the Public Health Acts were adopted for the borough and the Corporation raised the necessary funds in no small part because of the efforts of Alderman Mr Tertius Southall. Here lies an interesting connection with the Waterworks Museum.
Unfortunately, the pumping engines had been removed from the waterworks in Leominster before the Waterworks Museum became involved. But research has identified a little information about them and we have a similar configuration of pumps at the Museum as would have existed in Leominster in 1899.

A reliable supply of piped water for drinking and domestic purposes had a clear public health benefit, but there were less obvious benefits also in terms of water being available for street cleaning, sewer flushing and for fighting fires.

Leominster retained its waterworks until the formation of the Herefordshire Water Board and the extension of a piped water supply across Herefordshire in the 1960s. The formation of the county-wide water board was not supported by Leominster Borough Council or by most of the county’s borough, urban district or rural district councils. Leominster voted against the recommendation in February 1955 as existing supplies were sufficient and adequate for consumers (but only by use of the Mayor’s casting vote). There was also reluctance to hand over assets in which the town had invested over nearly a century.

However, despite widespread opposition, the central UK government passed the necessary legislation in March 1958 and the town’s water undertaking legally passed to the Herefordshire Water Board in April 1960.

Since then, Leominster’s piped water supply has come from the River Wye in Hereford where it is treated at the Broomy Hill Waterworks.