HOW LIVERPOOL GOT ITS WATER
A review of our July meeting
On July 18th we were entertained to a fascinating lecture by Peter Cahill, a senior manager with North West Water. With humour and a fund of facts, Peter led us on a watery journey from the 16th century to the present day. We quickly learned just how unhealthy the 'good old times' were. The Fall Well provided water to the citizens of Liverpool until the 1780s. It would seem that water from the well was not always a bargain, even at a halfpenny a bucket: we heard that James Hughes, an Irishman, was charged with polluting the Fall Well by, allegedly, bringing an unspecified disease from ... Manchester!
Did you know that there was also a spring situated in St James's Cemetery? Or that Bootle water was being pumped to Liverpool at the rate of 200 gallons per minute in 1780, through elm pipes some of which were still in good condition over a century later? Peter knew, and told us all about it.
The growth of Liverpool produced serious sanitation problems in the late 18th century, while the huge influx of Irish Famine refugees between 1845 and 1849 produced horrendous problems for a town which had no sanitation system other than the 'night soil' men. Liverpool became 'the hospital and cemetery of Ireland'. The city fathers were forced to react quickly: Dr Duncan was named as Medical Officer of Health (the first in the country), James Newlands became Borough Engineer, and James Simpson was contracted to build a reservoir at Rivington Pike near Chorley to provide clean water for Liverpool. In 1846 the Liverpool Sanitation Act had been passed, and it proved to be a model for the rest of the country.
Another landmark in the journey towards health and hygiene was reached with the building of the great reservoir at Lake Vyrnwy, Wales, in 1880. This was the largest in Europe, and although most of Peter's audience thought that we own it, it appears we do not. It now belongs to Severn-Trent Water, and a compensation water payment of 40 million gallons has to be diverted to the River Severn on 4 days each month between March and October.
Peter's talk ended all too quickly, but the question and answer session afterwards threatened to continue until breakfast time! We thank Peter for a most enjoyable evening and feel certain that, though he may occasionally get into deep water, he will never be 'out of his depth'.