A look back at days long gone 
Miles of mains
I wrote last week about the early history of the Newark Waterworks Company up to 1891 when it was bought out by Newark Corporation.

At the time of the takeover, piped water was being supplied to 1,805 of the 3,352 houses in the borough, with the remainder still using backyard wells or other arrangements such as public pumps.

In an attempt to increase the number of subscribers, one of the first steps taken by the corporation in 1891 was to look for a suitable site for a new, enlarged waterworks.

Test borings at Farnsfield revealed that the water contained in the local sandstone was of excellent quality and the corporation quickly obtained the necessary Act of Parliament to allow the construction of a new waterworks there.

Work on the site was virtually complete by 1893 and in July of that year water pumped from the old works at Muskham Bridge was switched off in favour of that from Farnsfield.

It was to be another five years, however, before the undertaking at Farnsfield was complete. In fact the works did not receive its official opening until August 5, 1898 - 100 years ago this month.

Located at the head of a 54ft well, the new works, costing 128,000, comprised an engine house (containing two steam-powered beam engines capable of pumping 480,000 gallons a day), a cooling pond and a sizeable reservoir about 11.5 miles away at Newhall Farm, Edingley.

Here the height above Newark was said to be equal to the top of the parish church spire. The reservoir was built to hold 11.5m gallons of water pumped from Farnsfield, it then being piped by gravitation to a service reservoir on Beacon Hill at Newark.

From Beacon Hill, the water was piped to private subscribers and businesses around the town. A water main of 18ins diameter was laid from Farnsfield to Edingley.

From Edingley to Kelham (via Halam, Southwell, Upton and Averham) a 15ins main was employed and for the final stretch into Newark the gauge dropped to 12ins.

Overall, 3,800 tons of cast iron was employed in creating the new system. In addition to serving villagers along the route from Farnsfield, further distribution pipes were laid at the Newark end to take in nearby settlements such as Balderton, Coddington, Winthorpe, Muskham and Caunton.

This great flurry of constructional activity by the Newark corporation up to the waterworks' official opening in August 1898 ensured that, by the end of the last century, the basic infrastructure of the town's water supply was in place and operational.

And thus it continued, with very little modification and only modest expansion, for the next 40 or so years. In 1902 a second reservoir was constructed on Beacon Hill, followed in the Forties by the erection of a second pumping station at Farnsfield and the partial replacement of the old steam engines by oil driven plant.

An additional source of supply was also created with the sinking of a new bore hole at Clay Lane in Newark although this was generally found to produce harder, less acceptable water than that from Farnsfield.

By the late Fifties the corporation works were serving about 35,000 people over an area of 48 square miles around Newark - and the system was clearly under strain.

Garden watering had always to be prohibited, while in some villages pressure was often so low that water could not reach upstairs taps or lavatories.

A 250,000 expansion project was put forward by the corporation to install 11 miles of trunk main from Farnsfield to a new storage reservoir at Kelham Hills and to increase daily extraction rates from 1.4m to 2m gallons.

Steam pumping at Farnsfield continued in some degree well into the Sixties to be superseded by electricity following the takeover by Severn Trent in 1973.

Today, 100 years after its official opening, water is still extracted at Farnsfield with the automatic, electrically-driven pumps being serviced and maintained by Severn Trent Water.

Although it now feeds into a much larger system, it may still be true to say that, to some degree at least, Farnsfield water is still being piped and consumed around the Newark area.

ABOVE: Newark Corporation Waterworks at Farnsfield, photographed at the time of their half century in 1948. The cooling pond in the foreground - with water still somewhat warm from the steam engines - was often used as a swimming pool by local villagers.


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