Waterworks, Kiln Lane

There is more history to come on the building known today as “Waterworks” in Kiln Lane but in the meantime the following article was written by H V Wood for the Parish Magazine in January 1982.

See also article “The Engineers Department at Hall Place” by Dick Wood, which gives a lot of detail about the workings at the Waterworks.

“Leigh’s Own Water Supply”

Newcomers to Leigh often wonder about the purpose of the two octagonal buildings with louvred lanterns behind the Scout Hut in Kiln Lane.

Now sadly derelict and overgrown with rubbish, once they formed part of the waterworks supplying water to Hall Place and its gardens, the Home Farm, the Laundry and most of the houses in the village belonging to the estate.

Soundly built of brick, with the familiar diamond pattern in blue headers seen on other village buildings of the same period and with sandstone corners and facings, these buildings were, for more than fifty years, kept in immaculate condition.

Within, the walls were of bright red brick with white tuck pointing.

A black Cornish boiler with gleaming valves and gauges supplied steam to drive the machinery.  A four horse-power horizontal steam engine, all burnished steel and polished brass, drove the triple set of well pumps and also the agitators in the softening process tanks.

The small octagonal building housed the well, twelve feet in diameter and drawing its water from a bore-hole sunk to Hastings’ sands level 103 feet below the surface.

The well pumps delivered the water to the large octagonal building, the filter house, where it was purified and softened by what was known as the Porter-Clark process.  Quick lime was mixed with water in a small tank and appropriate quantities of the resulting lime-water were added to the main flow in the agitating cylinders.  The water was then filtered through cloth and delivered into a white-enamelled slate tank with a huge copper ball valve.  From this, it was pumped by a direct-action pump to reservoirs in different parts of the village.

When the quick-lime was introduced choking fumes were released; hence the need for the lantern and louvres.

Before the days of the National Health Service, our village GP, Dr Frank Fraser, would often send a patient with certain disorders to the Waterworks with a verbal ‘prescription’.  “Please may I have a bottle of lime-water: doctor’s orders?”

It was bitter and astringent, fit to cure or kill.  The patient seldom returned for a second bottle!

H V Wood (Jan 1982)