Bulletin 402

May, 2016

The Importance of Water by Dr. Noel Meeke, of Hereford Waterworks Museum

The Museum opened in 1974, at the former Hereford Waterworks Pumping Station, near the Wye, and has acquired redundant machinery of every type as they became superannuated, and has maintained much of them in working order, and regularly demonstrate their activity with frequent “steam days” and such like.

It is a fallacy that water for domestic and commercial use is superabundant – it may be “water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink” in the middle of a salty ocean, but ? on not so dry land, – but a lot of global water is secluded in icebergs etc., or in the depth of the earth, and recovering useable water from local rivers requires considerable expense and expertise. It is worth remembering that the colossal infant mortality rate in some overseas countries is mainly due to contaminated water supplies, and that as little as 3% of available water is fit for drinking on its own. Sorting this problem out is likely to prove more of a challenge in the future, than maintaining fuel supplies, and efforts are being made all over to use desalination as a constant source of potable water. It is no surprise, that in areas like London, it is reckoned that the water just drawn from your tap there, has been “round the houses”, more than a dozen times previously – which could be a commendation for the effort of recycling water locally.

Ancient civilizations in the Middle East clustered around important rivers, the supply from which could be used as a bargaining power – or at worst, suffer a division. So we see most towns in this country develop next to rivers, where an available crossing is of more importance than a clean supply of water, and water borne bacterial disease came to the fore in the crowded 1800s. However there was a reversal of the usual problem in Leominster in the 1850s, when the wells of the “well off” became contaminated by sewage from cesspits, and the river water from the Pinsley Brook afforded the poorer households reliant on it – freedom from the typhoid epidemic.

So regulation, and ‘Water Boards’ came in to remedy the situation where possible, drawing water from the rivers, and also pumping out aquifers beneath the clay basin widely spread beneath the County. However the relatively clean water from the aquifers was soon monopolized by the breweries, strategically sited.

So, we see in Hereford, and in Kington, water from the local rivers being abstracted, and when settled, pumped up to a reservoir or tank, as in Kington, near the Church. Hereford had their own challenge comparable to Church Bank, when the ‘better off’ started building on Aylestone Hill, across the Town, in the late 1800s, when habits were changing, and a copious supply of clean water was required, and this meant extra machinery needed just to push the water up a hill, to a tall water tower on site. (Fifty years after Kington!)

The energy required can be supplied by water operated turbines – as at first in Kington, steam engines of various sophistication, horse power, wind powered pumps, and more recently, internal combustion engines and electricity.

So the Museum in Hereford demonstrates all of these, with machinery rescued, initially from Cardiff, (the huge beam engine), supplemented by examples from Kington and Leominster, and in order to engage the next generation – examples of hand operated pumps and such like, with buckets and small tanks that need filling, demonstrating that both effort and ingenuity are needed to produce that glass of water on your table. Review JR.

Dates for your Diary. 

If you have not done so yet please put your names down for our May and June visits.
Sunday May 1st 3pm Tour of Dunfield House & grounds £5 includes afternoon tea.
Friday June 17th 12.30 Tour of Brecon Cathedral Donations please 3pm Cruise on the Brecon canal £6.80 Cream tea extra at £3.70. Booking for both outings is essential so please contact Nancy Wheatland 01544 230691.

We now have a date for our July venture which is a Picnic and map display up on Bradnor hill, Kington Saturday 23rd July 3pm No charge open to all. If you wish to come along please let us know in advance so   we have an idea of numbers. Hope to see you all in the Summer. Best wishes from the Programme committee and thank you for your support.

We return for our indoor talks on Fri 16th Sept. with a fascinating talk by Roger Curtis about “The old picture house” in Kington.

Editor: Vera Harrison