Historic Water Supply in Ross

Bob Higgie and Clive Lafford gave a talk to members of the Ross-On-Wye University of  the Third Age (U3A) on Monday April 15th.  This is how U3A reported the event:

This month’s talk on Monday, the 15th of April was given by Bob Higgie who was cheerfully upfront about repeatedly plugging the Waterworks Museum - Hereford where he is a volunteer. I hope that many in the audience do choose to visit the Museum as some of the star engine exhibits were at one time working away to keep Ross supplied with water.

Given the town’s proximity to the River Wye one might have thought that that would have been the natural source of water. However centuries before the current concerns about the River Wye’s high phosphate levels, people were complaining about the poor water quality and how it was affected by sludge, sewage and variable flow. So the 17th century solution of using a waterwheel powered by the Rudhall brook to pump water up to the Prospect (where the Royal Hotel is now) did not last.

Several attempts were made in the 19th century to provide a more comprehensive service but it was not until 1888 after a local investor purchased Alton Court and surrounding land, sunk 4 wells, built a reservoir, pumping station and commissioned pipe work to supply the town that clean, safe water became available for all. Interestingly the over 5 miles of pipe work took less than 3 months to lay! The water from these sources was exceptionally pure because of its having been filtered through the local red sandstone on which Ross is built. In 1880, 350 of the 800 or so houses had no water supply. By 1888 no dwellings were in that position. Until the late 1970s the water supply was still from these wells but nowadays Welsh water extract water from the Wye at Lydbrook and pump it to its treatment works at Mitcheldean and thence to Ross.

We were shown a video of one of the gas fired pumping engines that is now in the Waterworks Museum with a live commentary from a member of the audience who had worked with the engine. Not only him but his father and the original owner had worked with the very same engine since its installation in 1910.

I came away from the talk with a greater respect and understanding of our infrastructure and its engineering and that it does not come cheap.



Leave a comment on this post

Thank you for for the comment. It will be published once approved.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.