History of the Huddersfield Water Supplies (1939) - Chapter XII

The following is a transcription of a historic book and may contain occasional small errors.

History of the Huddersfield Water Supplies (1939) by T.W. Woodhead

Table of Contents:



An enquiry as to the state of our Water Supply was made in 1917 by a committee appointed by the Waterworks Committee, and it was predicted that an additional supply would be needed by 1933. As we have seen the early tendency was for people to congregate in the valleys and around the factories, but the modern trend, with improving conditions and better transport facilities, is to develop housing sites at higher levels and on the terraces of the valley sides, and so spread out the population in more congenial surroundings. But the demands made by new housing sites for baths and the conversion of privies to the water carriage system, have not made that difference in the demand for water that was predicted. The same has been found to apply, on a much larger scale, in Leeds.

In July, 1934, during the severe drought, a Government enquiry was held into the question of decreasing compensation water, owing to the strain on our present supplies, and the Inspector expressed the opinion that the time had come when another reservoir should be provided, especially if we had to make provision for larger housing schemes, expanding industries, and the demand of increased supplies by District Councils within our area of supply. Further we have to take into account the general decrease in rainfall.

Other authorities, e.g., Batley and Wakefield, had already constructed reservoirs in this part of the Pennines and so reduced the number of available sites.

Neighbouring councils, e.g., the Colne Valley and the Holme Valley Urban Districts, where so many houses depend for their supply on wells and cisterns, many of which are open to pollution, find great difficulty in meeting the demand in dry spells. This is well shown by Dr. R.T.E. Naismith, M.B., B.S., Medical Officer of Health, in his first Annual Report for 1937, for the Colne Valley Urban District (17). He says that owing to the division of the former Urban Districts of Golcar and Linthwaite, and the amalgamation of the remaining areas in the Colne Valley, much work has been entailed in the revision of statistics respecting water supply. He gives statistics of great interest relating to the water supplies in that area, and points out, as shown in the tables below, that nearly fifty-six per cent, of the houses in the new Colne Valley Urban District receive their supply from the Huddersfield Corporation Waterworks (which is within their area of supply), and that the remainder depend for their supply from private sources, and from springs, wells and standpipes.

A dry spell in the autumn of 1937, caused a number of these small supplies to dry up and solutions of the difficulties caused will not be found until it is possible to extend the Huddersfield Corporation's service, and financial considerations preclude this in many cases.

In his preface, Dr. Naismith says that one of the important problems to consider is that of water supply, a subject which crops up nearly every week in one part of the district or another. I am convinced, he says, that wherever possible a supply should be provided from a water supplying authority when there can be a strict control kept. There are at present too many spring supplies running through cultivated land and land on which cattle and poultry are kept. Even if no epidemic or disease has been traceable to these supplies, it does not mean that they should remain as they are at present, because one never knows when serious results may occur.

From the following table it will be seen that in the new Colne Valley Urban District area, no less than 1,106 houses have no water laid on, and it has to be carried in from wells and cisterns.


Public supplies
Laid on services
Area Houses Huddersfield Corporation Lord Dartmouth Private Supplies laid on Wells and Cisterns to carry in
Golcar 2,488 2,083 200 205
Linthwaite 1,713 1,047 310 356
Marsden 1,625 671 674 280
Scammonden 112 50 62
Slaithwaite 1,558 386 969 203
Totals 7,496 4,187 969 1,234 1,106


Private Supply Reserve Gallons Houses
Earl of Dartmouth Woodhall Ing 278,000 312
Mary's Rest 1,346,000 139
Lowerwood 4,275 80
Slaithwaite Moor Spring 223
Other cisterns 215
Marsden Council Woods Avenue 40,000 150
Crowther Bruce and Co. Plains cisterns 54,000 144
J. E. Crowther Ltd. Reservoir 200,000 140
S. & C. Firth Cistern 4,500 40
Lower Hey Green Cistern 200


Huddersfield Corporation. Laid on services. 55.86%
Earl Dartmouth. Laid on services. 12.92%
Private supplies. Laid on services. 16.46%
Springs, Wells and Standpipes. Not laid on. 14.76%

In the Holme Valley they have had similar difficulties to those in the Colne Valley, although they have waterworks of their own and are not within the area of supply of the Huddersfield Corporation. Their own supply reduced the need for roadside wells and pumps and many have been removed ; remains of one in Dunford Road "erected by Subscription 1850" (Fig. 52) serves to remind us of these early supplies, yet almost a quarter of the houses in the township have Wells in the cellars. The district is rich in spring water and though some of these were giving a good yield in the drought of 1937, others, for the first time in fifty years, have dried up, and Mr. W.H. Hirst, Surveyor to the Holmfirth Urban District Council said that this resulted in a heavy demand for the Council's supply. In July, 1937, it was stated that the water cart still visits the higher parts of the Council's area daily.

The Bradshaw Reservoir, which supplies Holmbridge and Hinchliffe Mill, was empty and housewives were unable to obtain any water through the mains. The shortage caused great anxiety to manufacturers and some of them had applied both to the Holmfirth Council and the Huddersfield Corporation for an additional supply, but had been unable to obtain it. In the district there is a pressing need for an improved supply, and as will be seen below, an arrangement has been made with the Huddersfield Corporation to take over from them the Holme Styes reservoir, which will greatly relieve the situation.

When we consider the large number of wells and cisterns still in use in the district of supply of the Corporation, as well as extensive housing developments and the spread of population, it is very probable that cases of pollution will often occur, resulting in increased demand on the town's supplies and hence the need for making further provision.


In view of such facts, a survey of the area was made and it was found that the most suitable remaining site was the Digley Valley, Holmbridge, where an impounding reservoir could be made by constructing an embankment across the Digley Brook (Fig. 55). Higher up the valley is the Bilberry Reservoir owned by the Holme Valley Waterworks Company, who also owned two others further south, Boshaw Whams and Holme Styes.

On the Digley site are two mills, the Bilberry Mill, now derelict, at the foot of the embankment of Bilberry Reservoir, and Digley Mills, occupied by Messrs. Greenwood Limited, Worsted Manufacturers (Figs. 53 and 54). Within the catchment area, near the Greenfield (Isle of Skye) Road are waterworks belonging to the Holmfirth District Council.

In 1936 steps were taken to purchase Digley Mill and farms within the reservoir catchment area, to purchase the reservoirs belonging to the Holme Valley Company, and to sell to the Holmfirth District Council, which is in need of a larger supply, the Holme Styes Reservoir and arrange with this Council re their Waterworks near the Greenfield Road.

In October a Parliamentary Bill was introduced called "The Huddersfield Corporation Water Bill" applying for powers to carry out the scheme. In the House of Lords this Bill was given the Royal Assent on July 6th, 1937.

On December 20th, 1938, an amicable agreement was reached with the Directors of the Holme Reservoir who accepted the Corporation's offer for the purchase of their three Reservoirs for the sum of £24,000 and £3,000 towards costs in full settlement of their claim of £123,318. This agreement made it unnecessary to proceed further with the arbitration, resulting in a considerable saving in costs.

Meanwhile a geological survey of the valley was made by Mr. Edgar Morton, M.Sc., and his report was issued on November 27th, 1936.

In this report Mr. Morton points out that the valley is typical of the valleys in this part of the Pennines and will serve well to illustrate the difficulties to be overcome (Fig. 56 is from his survey).

The Digley Brook cuts through the alternating beds of sandstones and shales from the Pule Hill Grits to the Kinderscout Grits, which dip to the east downstream. As seen from the map (Fig. 56), part of the floor of the reservoir will rest on a thick bed of shale between the Pule Hill Grit and the Kinderscout Grit. It is of interest that the Readycon Dean Series, consisting of sandstones, grits, and flags, and with interbedded shales, is absent in this area, and the strata is shaly from the Kinderscout Grit to the Pule Hill Grit.

Running through the valley from south-west to north-east is the Digley Fault which crosses the valley on the downstream side of Digley Mill and runs through the embankment of the proposed reservoir. Another one, the Brownhill Fault, on approaching the embankment, curves in a southerly direction ; on the official Survey map it is shown with a northerly curve.

Nine boreholes were sunk along the site of the embankment and in the neighbourhood of the faults, and the knowledge gained from these, together with investigations of the geological structure of the basin of the proposed Digley Reservoir, led to the conclusion that the site does not appear to be one where any insuperable engineering difficulties are likely to be encountered in the creation of a watertight reservoir. One of these bore-holes yielded a sulphur water which will have to be cut off.

The occurrence and situation of the Digley Mill Fault may be regarded as advantageous in connection with the construction of the proposed embankment. The fault evidently acts as a barrier preventing the subterranean waters which have percolated into the Kinderscout Grits in the upper part of the valley, from passing beyond the fault in a downstream direction. The fault also represents a probable means of security against any loss of water through the Pule Hill Rock on the north-eastern side of the reservoir basin. A further point of interest is the occurrence of several beds of shale underneath the south-eastern portion of the basin. Should it prove necessary, in order to. avoid leakage, to seal up the fissures in the several grit beds, these shale beds should enable each gritstone bed to be suitably treated with cement grout. One of these shale beds, 55 feet in average thickness, is important in that it lies at a relatively shallow depth below stream in the south-eastern area but also extends continuously from the proposed embankment to the Digley Fault, by which it is severed, thus forming an impermeable bottom to the deepest part of the basin, where it will be a valuable adjunct to the watertight barrier formed by the intended dam to the passage of water through the strata down the valley eastwards.

The proposed water level of the reservoir is 797 feet O.D.; it will have a capacity of six hundred million gallons and the estimated cost is £580,000. In addition to this is the Bilberry reservoir with a capacity of sixty-seven million gallons, to the embankment of which the Digley Reservoir will extend. The drainage area of these two reservoirs is 2,242 acres, Bilberry Reservoir 1,835 acres, and Digley Reservoir 407 acres.

Meanwhile, to comply with the Safety of Reservoirs Act, 1930, the reservoir at Bilberry had to be inspected and the Waterworks Committee appointed Mr. H.P. Hill, Engineer, Manchester, to undertake the work. For this purpose it was necessary to empty the reservoir to facilitate inspection. In December, 1938, a scraper elevator was purchased for use in cleaning the sludge from the inner slope of the embankment, to assist the engineer in carrying out this work. Figure 57 shows the great depth of silt in the reservoir when emptied for inspection. It will be useful as a settling tank for the new reservoir.

It is proposed to construct a Filter House just below the reservoir at Digley; to construct a Service reservoir at Newsome, and a booster plant at Thongsbridge to augment the Deerhill supply to Shepley.

On Friday, December 9th, 1938, and confirmed at the Council Meeting on January 4th, 1939, the tender for the construction of Digley Reservoir (Contract No. 1) was accepted and placed with Mr. J. McColville, of Cardiff, for the amount of £478,196. However, at a meeting of the Waterworks Committee on February 21st, 1939, the contractor attended and explained difficulties which, had arisen respecting the contract and asked permission to withdraw the tender; this the Committee allowed him to do and decided to re-advertise for new tenders.

In addition to the making of the reservoir, much further work is necessary as indicated above, which will involve a total expenditure of about £700,000, and it is calculated that a period of five years will be required for the completion of the scheme. On completion the total capacity of the storage and service reservoirs will be about 2,396,000,000 gallons.

It is expected that there will be available (after providing compensation water) about three million gallons per day for domestic and trade use within the limits of the Huddersfield Water Area. It is estimated that this augmentation of the resources will be sufficient to provide for the requirements of the Huddersfield Water Undertaking for the next, thirty-six years. It is proposed to use this supply mainly to improve the supplies in the south-eastern part of the Borough and the adjoining districts of Kirkheaton and Lepton. This will reduce the call now made on the Blackmoorfoot Reservoir, and will also enable the water in the highest reservoirs to be reserved for parts of the district which lie at high altitudes.