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)



The Water Works

In a letter from Lawrence Biddle dated 31 January 1985, he makes the following comments about the Water Works:

“The building had not been built in May 1872 but must have been built very shortly afterwards.   As George Devey did all the other work for Samuel Morley at that time it is virtually certain that the building was designed by him….   the smaller octagonal building contains the well, 12ft in diameter to a depth of 36ft and 10ft 6″ in diameter for a further 7ft 6” with a 6 1/2 inch bore for a further 60ft making a total depth of 103ft 6inches.  The water rises to within 10ft of the surface. The larger octagonal building contained a softening and filtering house.  There was a direct acting steam pump which pumped water into the reservoir at Hall Place, another reservoir behind Mr Boyd’s house for the village and to tanks at Home Farm …  Samuel Morley when he came to Leigh in 1870 provided his village cottages with water in stand pipes in the wall, gas from the gas works (also located in Kiln Lane) and a drainage system installed in 1872.  The drainage is still used but is not visible so the octagonal waterworks buildings are the best evidence of a Victorian’s concern for the welfare of the village.

From a letter written by Alfie Houghton on 8 March 1989, he describes the Water Works:

“The octagonal building covers a well 12 feet in diameter to a depth of 36 feet, and 10 1/2 feet in diameter for a further depth of 7 1/2 feet.  Daily output to Hall Place, estate properties and Home Farm was 25,000 gallons.  Conversion to mains supply by Tonbridge Waterworks Company took place in 1936.  The well was covered over with concrete some time before the premises were sold in October 1959.  This building has been vandalized a time or two and is boarded up where vulnerable.  The larger pump building has been denuded of all equipment, in is empty. ”

(Since 1989, the building has had several owners and is now a well-maintained and is an attractive property in the village.)