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

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:



In the Huddersfield Enclosure Act of 1784 a number of wells are indicated as for public use and others as watering places for cattle. In the early survey maps the district is freely marked with wells, troughs and pumps in both highways and pastures. These were the common sources of supply and a few examples only can be given by way of illustration. In the Millstone Grit area, the usual type of well is the "dug out" from a solid block, but in the Coal Measures where the sandstones are often flaggy, it is not uncommon to find wells made of five flags clamped together. Water from the Coal Measures is frequently hard and is sometimes strongly alkaline or ferruginous, and the water is often credited with curative properties, but water from the Elland Flags yield a good supply of soft water. That from the Millstone Grits is usually soft and of good quality (see page 86).

It is common to find, especially in the older houses, wells sunk in the cellars from which water is drawn by bucket and rope, and commonly known as draw-wells, or by pumps. The following wells and watering places for cattle are recorded by G. W. Tomlinson in his "History of Huddersfield," published in the Huddersfield Parish Church Magazine of 1886, Article 17 : from the Enclosure Act of 1784 where two awards relate to


  1. One well at the north end of Gledholt Bank and on the west side of Gledholt Bank Road.
  2. At the east side of Birkby Lane End and adjoining the old enclosure of Thomas Holroyd, gentleman.
  3. Upon a common called Ashbrow on the south side of Ashbrow Road, in an allotment made to John Whitacre.
  4. On the north side of Sheepridge in an allotment made to Sir John Ramsden.
  5. In Sheepridge, in an allotment made to Sir John, lying on the south side of Deighton Road.

The above for public use, but not for watering cattle.


  1. Near the bridge over the brook at the east end of Bay Hall Common and the north-west side of the said Birkby Road.
  2. Near Cowcliffe, adjoining the north side of Halifax Road ; which two watering places are to remain free.

The award of the Commissioners under the Act was made on March 7th, 1789.

A good illustration of the use made of the springs and wells is supplied to me by Mr. T. Netherwood, of Bay Hall, and includes a series from Bay Hall to St. George's Square :—

Hempyard Well : a little to the east of St. John's Church, the over-flow of which furnished water for the Bay Hall Dyeworks in Willow Lane. This was the nearest well to Bay Hall.
Collegiate Pond : furnished water for the Bay Hall Chemical Works, occupied in their latter days by Mr. William Marriott.
A further source supplied three reservoirs at Newtown Factory.
Bath Street Spring : after serving the Baths, the over-flow was conveyed to a string of water-cress beds in the line of Green Street and then on to a reservoir for the Brick Factory in Fountain Street.
Bradley Spout : This spring was overlapped by the railway (opened in 1848) and a new and convenient place for public use was made in John William Street opposite the George Hotel stables (now the Empire Cinema). The over-flow from the spring was conveyed to a reservoir at Wells Mills, and on to a drinking trough formerly in Northgate. In lowering the road under the railway arch in October, 1937, the tunnel was found which was to get to the arrangements for passing the Bradley Spout water from the original source to the new location in the wall of the railway in John William Street. It was approached by a descent of three steps to the water taps. Later the water was condemned as unfit for use and walled up. The site may be located by a difference in masonry, but at present obscured by a hoarding.

James Bottomley in his memoranda of conversations with Joseph Byram of Storthes, Moldgreen, published in the "Huddersfield Examiner," May 30th, 1912, says, "For washing water people used to go to the river or to Bradley Spout. I have fetched water in a can on my head from Bradley Spout many a time. There was a man in 'Hell Square' called Webster. He had a cart and a barrel. He took the barrel down to Shore and filled it and carted the water to people's houses. He got his living by it. It was beautiful water. I have caught plenty of fish down there. It was at that part called 'The Goit' where the water went under the corn mill. When they filled up the Aspley road, the surveyor came on a flight of steps in the workings ... It was the steps where they had to go down by the side of the river to get the water with their cans."

A Well at the bottom of Meltham Road gets its supply from a pond in the grounds of Woodfield House. Years ago a landslip near Beaumont Park broke the pipe and for a time cut off the supply.

Horse Bank Well : a spa well in the grounds of Messrs. Bentley and Shaw's Brewery. The water is used by the brewery and the public have right of way to the well.

Jonas Broughton ("Watchword" December, 1931) records having "seen Lockwood spa water hawked in the streets."

The Lockwood Spa Baths, managed by a Company, were opened on December 4th, 1827.

A number of water troughs have been installed by animal welfare societies; one on the Huddersfield–Honley Main Road has been provided by the R.S.P.C.A. and is supplied with water from the Corporation main free of charge.

Many wells have had their supply cut off either from interference with the source of supply, or condemned as unfit for domestic use. At Damside is a railed off derelict well, and at Close Hill is a roadside well covered by an arch (Fig. 19), which has had the supply diverted ; now the only flow is of surface water during heavy rains.

In the neighbourhood of Armitage Gardens, Almondbury, several springs issue from the Elland Flags which form the hill side. One of these supplies a horse trough, made of flagstones, where the lane joins Somerset Road.

Across the road is an enclosed well, reached from the footpath by a descent of six steps. Formerly this was an open well, and an attempt was made to cut off the supply, but residents made an effort to preserve it. About 1893 the water was analysed and found to be good. A small trough was added and both were enclosed by flags, and above was placed a notice board, now in parts not legible, informing users that

The Water from This Well was
Analyzed on the 25th July,
189 ? and ——— by them
And was Proved to be Pure, Wholesome
To Drink and Moderately Soft.

This well provided an unfailing supply during the severe drought of 1934. The spring arises from the Elland Flags in the bank above and is conveyed by a short pipe to the well.

On the other side of the village, in St. Helen's Gate, may be seen the remains of St. Helen's Well, now walled up ; its position easily recognised by one side of the well and the arch, which now form parts of the masonry of the wall. Another example of early supplies which are slowly disappearing, to be replaced by safer and more convenient laid-on town supplies.

In some nearby villages pumps are still in use, some within the house to serve one family, others outside to serve the tenants of several cottages. Wooden pumps, still in use, may be seen near the Golden Cock Hotel, Farnley Tyas, and between there and Thurstonland, as at Green Side Lane to serve a small group of cottages, and along this road are several roadside troughs, which as we might expect in this Lower Coal Measure area, are made of flags clamped together, though near Thurstonland Church, is one dug out of a solid block of coarser sandstone. Beyond the village are others, from some of which water is piped to houses at Bank End.

Pumps, still in use, occur at So wood Green and at Stainland. In the latter place, at Kiln Croft is a pump (Fig. 20) alongside which is a circular stone pig trough. It was not until 1932 that town's water was laid on here and the tenants supplied their needs from this pump, which they still use.

A common method of supply is to collect water from a spring into a cistern at a suitable level and from this, pipe it by gravity to a tap in the house. In some cases a small motor is used to pump the water from a sunken well into a cistern, from which it is piped to the house.


Many small communities within the present Borough, but outside the Waterworks Commissioners area of supply, formed Companies and raised subscriptions for the construction of wells and cisterns to secure a supply of water to meet their local needs. On many of these wells throughout the district may still be seen tablets affixed, "Erected by Subscription." Here are a few examples in illustration of what was common about a century ago, and some of these Waterworks Companies, as we shall see, are still in existence and collect their "Water rents." Well waters are deemed especially good for making tea.


In the "Centenary Souvenir" of the Newsome Church School (1837–1937) the Vicar, the Rev. Edward Clarke, referring to "The Fountain" in Towngate (Fig. 21), says, "In early days many wells had been sunk (note 'Lane Wells,' now Church Lane), but they did not yield a satisfactory supply in dry weather. In 1844 a public effort supported by a voluntary rate, was made to bring water from Castle Hill side to 'The Fountain,' also known as 'Newsome Water Works.' In dry times, hundreds of pitchers would be waiting to be filled, and 'The Fountain' still to be seen with its inscription, in Towngate, was open from 6-0 a.m. to 10-0 p.m., except on Sundays when it was open for two hours only, from 7-0 a.m. to 9-0 a.m. The cost, which amounted to 30/- per house, was shared equally by landlord and tenant. It was thirty years later before the village was supplied with Corporation water." "The Fountain Inn" nearby still perpetuates the name.


At the bottom of Bluebell Hill, Taylor Hill, are two wells known to the residents as the "Hard Well" and the "Soft Well" respectively. Over the "Hard Well" or "Enclosed Well" (Fig. 22) is a tablet bearing the following inscription :—

by subscription
A.D. 1851
NOTICE, any person or
persons damaging
these water works
or wasting the water
will be prosecuted
as the law directs.

The "Soft Well" is a stone trough in the wall, beyond the "Hard Well" (Fig. 23) to the extreme left, and is protected by a hinged door and latch.

When these wells were first made I have been unable to discover, but a Committee managing these water works still functions and possesses minute books of its proceedings, the earliest bearing the date 1851 and records meetings to the year 1906. A second minute book dates from the year 1907 to the present time. The first record states that "in consequence of several nuisances connected with the water works at Taylor Hill it was thought advisable to call a meeting." This was held on Monday, September 23rd, 1851, "to take into consideration the best and most efficient steps for the better maintenance and cleanliness of the aforesaid works." A Committee was appointed, also collectors, treasurer and secretary.

At a meeting held July 20th, 1855, resolutions were adopted including the following :—

"That the Annual Meeting be held on the last Friday in July at 7-0 o'clock.
"That the key turner have 15/- per year for locking up, keeping clean and respectable.
"That if a man build a house and occupy the same connected with the Taylor Hill water works to pay 3/6. But a person Build a house or more than one house to let, such person shall pay 2/6 per house in addition to a shilling from the incoming tenant. That the collection be made in June each year."

Here are a few extracts from the minutes of subsequent meetings :—

1868. "That John Haigh be stopt for fetching water from the wells until he has paid his money for his new buildings. That John Kay be employed to stop John Haigh and all persons not entitled to the water at the rate of 4d. per hour."
1877. "The householders who have Corporation water pay one penny and those who have not three pence."
1886. "That B. Vickerman and Sons be allowed to convey the overflow from both wells into a reserve. That they pay an annual subscription of 10/6."
1901. "That we charge the sum of Twopence for the privilege of taking water away from the wells to non-contributors."

This waterworks Committee still functions (1938) and rents are collected to maintain the wells.

On December 18th, 1935, building plans for two semi-detached dwelling houses in Bluebell Hill were brought before the County Borough Council. The proposal was opposed by the Taylor Hill Waterworks Committee as it Would interfere with the wells and the "ancient water rights" of the inhabitants. The houses, however, were built and set back to the line of the road widening scheme. The boundary wall was removed, leaving the well projecting into the road as shown in Fig. 23.


This Company constructed a small reservoir at Coldhill from which water was delivered to seven or eight cisterns and pumps in the village, some of which still remain ; a wooden pump supplying the Robin Hood cottages was recently replaced by an iron pump ; a supply also fed a drinking trough on the main Huddersfield Road. There were cisterns to supply groups of houses at the Freehold, another at Warwick Bridge, a third at Stony Lane, and a fourth for houses in and near Parkgate.

In the Huddersfield Waterworks and Improvement Act of 1876 reference is made to the transfer of this undertaking.

"And whereas by an indenture dated the first day of April one thousand eight hundred and seventy-five, the undertaking, lands, and property of the Berry Brow Water Supply Company (Limited) who were supplying water within the borough, were transferred to the Corporation, and it is expedient that as soon as the debts and liabilities (if any) of that Company have been paid and satisfied, and their assets distributed, and their affairs wound up, the said Company be dissolved." The services of Mr. Matthew Bradley, its one and only secretary, were retained by the Corporation.

Records of this Company were unfortunately destroyed a few years ago. When taken over by the Corporation, the reservoir at Coldhill was used for a time as a service reservoir, but later discontinued and the trough on the main road was removed. There is still a well in the lane above the site of the reservoir.


A further illustration of an effort to improve the water supply is found at Upper and Lower Park, Berry Brow. The draw wells from which water was obtained by bucket and rope, did not yield a reliable supply and on September 18th, 1854, a Company was formed to improve the supply. An agreement was drawn up stating that "We, the undersigned, do hereby agree and promise to pay as undermentioned in weekly payments until all the expenses of the Waterworks be paid with interest on any monies which may be borrowed to carry out and complete the various works." A set of rules was drawn up including water rates based on the Poor Law Assessment.

The scheme appears to have been delayed and it Was not until 1868 that it materialised.

The Company consisted of five members, John Heaton, Robert Shaw, Edwin Ainley, Oldfield Alfred Stccks and James Fearnley; later two more members were added. Money was borrowed to carry out the work, the Company agreeing to repay by weekly instalments as stated above, until the work was complete. "It was agreed that they should commence by making an opening on the south-east side of a field in the possession of Robert Shaw called High Croft extending into a field south called Well Close to the east by driving a mine till it was considered they had obtained an ample supply for all necessary purposes." A drift sixty yards long was made and a supply found. An embankment was made at the mouth of the drift and water from this small reservoir was piped to the farmsteads and cottages and still serves their needs. Documents relating to these Waterworks are in the possession of Mr. J. W. Heaton, Upper Park Farm, Secretary-Treasurer of the Company, who kindly allowed me to use them.

The late Mr. B. Langrick of Armitage Bridge contributed an article to the Huddersfield Examiner on July 13th, 1929, on "Former Local Water Supplies" at Berry Brow and Armitage Bridge. He mentions three noted wells, Ned Well named after a farmer in Birch Road, Penny Well in Coal Pit Lane now Newsome Road South, where coal was worked from a day hole, and Parson's Well near the Vicarage. Waters from many streams were piped into cisterns at convenient places for distribution both in Berry Brow and Armitage Bridge, for some of which small subscriptions were collected for their upkeep. The houses from the Armitage Bridge School to the Mill were supplied from two cisterns and pumps; one was at the end of Top Row, and the other at the bottom of "Pig Tail Lane." These cisterns were supplied by an unceasing flow from Nan Hob Spring which is situated in a wood on the Armitage Bridge House Estate. This spring for more than a century has provided a constant and valuable supply to the Armitage Bridge Mills.

When the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company sought powers to construct the railway from Lockwood to Meltham the riparian owners and residents secured clauses in the Bill ensuring that the construction and maintenance of the line must not interfere with the natural flow into the Dene stream in order that the two cisterns at Armitage Bridge fed by this stream, and the reservoir of the "Old Tolson Dyehouse" may be continuously supplied.

It was from such sources that water for domestic use was obtained, and as we shall see, is still a common source of supply. To purify such supplies consumers often resorted to domestic filters of which many forms were in use. We have, however, to keep in mind that many residents in rural areas have a strong prejudice in favour of spring and well water, and consider it superior and safer than town supplies, which they regard as an "unnatural, manufactured water."

Continue to Chapter IV...