Ossett Pictures - Gawthorpe Water Tower

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Gawthorpe Water Tower

Gawthorpe Water Tower dominates the skyline and can be seen for miles around. It is located at the highest point of the Ossett-cum-Gawthorpe area, mid-way along Chidswell Lane in Gawthorpe. This huge concrete structure was constructed between 1922 and 1928 to store drinking water for the town, which was pumped from the Pildacre Water Works some 1.25 miles away. The 25-foot trough has a capacity of 200,000 gallons or nearly 1 million litres. The pinnacle of the tower is now also used to accommodate colinear mobile telephone aerials and they can be clearly seen in the picture.

Pildacre Colliery was flooded on the 6th November 1910 by a vast inrush of water estimated as entering at 30,000 to 50,000 gallons an hour. The colliery was closed and 250 men and boys were made redundant overnight. This natural and very unexpected event was seen as a potential source for a much-needed new water supply for the rapidly expanding town of Ossett.

Responsibility for Ossett's water supply was undertaken initially by the Local Board of Health, forerunner of the Council before the borough was incorporated, after it came into being in 1873. Short-term arrangements were made with the Waterworks Committee of Batley Town Council for water to be bought from Batley Corporation reservoir near Holmfirth, and on the 20th May 1876, the first sod of the water reservoir at Gawthorpe (seen in the left of the picture above) was cut by Mr. John Whitaker. In the early years of the 20th century, Ossett was still without a permanent source of water. On the 1st June 1907, the Town Council entered into a 30-year contract with the Dewsbury and Heckmondwike Waterworks Board to take a minimum of 2 Million gallons of water per week from its reserves.

As the demand on water in the Ossett area grew, the Dewsbury and Heckmondwike Waterworks Board gave warning that it could no longer guarantee to meet this increasing need. It was this that made Ossett Town Council turn to the vast untapped reservoir of water, which was underground at Pildacre. An Act of Parliament in 1922 gave authority for the new water supply and Pildacre Colliery was bought. The Pildacre Waterworks were opened on the 25th February 1928 by Councillor J. H. Moorhouse, then the Chairman of the Ossett Water Committee.

The two pumping engines installed to draw up the water from the old mine workings and then pump it to the new water tower at Gawthorpe were named Maud and Edith. Engineering contractors for the project were Hathorn, Davey and Co. Ltd.

An element of mystery still surrounds the origins of the water, which poured into the Pildacre pit in 1910. Traditionally, it was believed that the source was an artesian borehole. It was known that miners refreshed themselves from a well at the bottom of the shaft. In more recent times, a leading geologist, Mr. Edgar Morton, who investigated Pildacre said that the mine water was almost certainly surface water, filtered down from an above ground catchment area. By the early 1970s, the water at Pildacre had almost dried up. The surrounding area has become increasingly urbanised and surface water caught on the roads or house roofs is now drained off and channeled ultimately back to the rivers instead of filtering naturally through the ground.

The Pildacre workings continued to provide water for Ossett until September 1974 when the source was transferred to the Fixby treatment works near Huddersfield (Fixby is adjacent to Junction 24 on the M62 West).