Steve's Deep Dive into Water History Books

05 Jun 2024

Steve Allinson local historian 1.jpg


A local historian’s search for an elusive title has been given an unexpected boost by United Utilities.

Researcher, Steve Allinson from Bury had been delving into the details of water supply to Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal during the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) and had tried everything he could to get hold of a title, ‘Reservoirs from Rivington to Rossendale’ by Norman Hoyle, published by North West Water in 1987.

As a last resort Steve wrote to the Corporate Affairs office at the water company’s HQ who were happy to look in their archives where they were able to retrieve and provide a copy.

Steve said, “I had tried all manner of means to secure a copy of the book but couldn’t find one anywhere so was delighted to receive a scan of the original and a printed copy. Norman was a previous employee of North West Water (now United Utilities). His work is one of the highest quality and to me, greatest utility, too.”

“In the early 1830s, a number of mill owners brought together a scheme to build more reservoirs along the River Irwell (up to as many as 15 or more) to improve water supply and increase power to their mills.

“They abandoned their plan some time early in 1833, although a few years later, in 1836, it was revisited and partially resurrected by the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Navigation and Railway Company who put forward a much-reduced scheme to supply water to local works, mills and collieries. An announcement was made in The London Gazette for some very specific proposals including an enlargement of the Turton and Entwistle Reservoir and building of a new reservoir on Ogden Brook.

“By an Act of Parliament, 1838, they secured powers to increase capacity in their own Elton Reservoir and also to commission an increased supply of water for their own use. Then to build or extend reservoirs as might be deemed necessary for them to supply water to mills and works etc. There was no mention of any specific scheme or plan by name or location in that Act.

“It would seem that events overtook them, and the canal company would enlarge only their own reservoir which is today owned and managed by the Canal and River Trust. However, we know from a report to a Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways (1906) that at its then peak, the Canal Company would supply 57 mills, works and collieries with around 280,000,000 gallons of water annually for their condensing and non-condensing engines.

“Significantly and very helpfully for me, Norman’s work tells us what became of the plans for each of the 15 reservoirs: some of which would be built by individual business owners, some by emerging new water authorities, and some … not at all.

“Once I have finished this piece on the canal reservoir, I want to extend my work to ghat whole plan of the mill owners, and follow up what they did and didn’t do in greater detail, and look beyond at the wider water supply along the rivers above both Bolton and Bury.”