Many modern amenities are now taken
for granted. We flick a switch and the lights come on or we turn
a tap in our kitchen and water comes out.
In terms of history this a very
modern convenience and has only been widely available for less
than a century.
The three cyclinder ram pump in the
Railway Road Pumping Station. It was scrapped in 2011
Our most important utility is also
the most taken for granted and that is our water supply. No gas
or electricity would be very inconvenient, but not immediately
life threatening. Without the wholesome water supply from our
taps our days would be numbered.
Up to the mid-19th century rivers,
springs and wells were our source of water but these limited
domestic and industrial growth. Because of pollution there was
always the danger of disease and outbreaks of cholera were
The 1848 Public Health Act was the
first step in improving public health which included the
provision of clean drinking water. Further acts followed and
Withnell Urban District Council began the construction of an
integrated water supply networks shortly after its first meeting
Pike Lowe (lower) Reservoir in 1973.
It was, and is, used for treated drinking water
Pike Lowe (upper) Reservoir was
originally untreated water that was then filtered etc.
water supply of considerable volume was already
available in the village as the ‘goit’ was carrying
water from the Roddlesworth Reservoirs to Liverpool and
flowed by Railway Road. To provide sufficient pressure
head to allow water to flow by gravity through the pipe
network the water had to be pumped to the highest point
possible. Pike Lowe was chosen as the location for the
reservoirs that would hold the pumped water and allow it
to be cleaned and treated before flowing out to domestic
houses and industry.
New pumps installed at
Wheelton Pumping Station in
Pike Lowe (upper) Reservoir was
modified in 1973 and a roof fitted.
A pumping station was needed to lift the water and this was
built on Railway Road across from the goit. The whole scheme was
completed and commissioned in the late 1890s. A three piston ram
pump was used and in the early days was powered by a gas engine
and later by an electric motor. A branch pipe from the goit ran
under Railway Road and the water was pumped through an
underground pipe up Bury Lane and across the fields to Pike Lowe
(higher) Reservoir. The water was straight out of the
Roddlesworth Reservoirs and still peat coloured and needed
treatment. A filtration system cleaned the water and it was then
held in a sealed underground reservoir before flowing out into
supply by gravity. Distribution pipes radiated out to Withnell,
Withnell Fold, Wheelton and Abbey Village.
Pike Lowe (upper) Reservoir is now
securely fenced off (2018 photo).
There were some seasonal operation difficulties with the goit
intake and during autumn many leaves would flow down and clog
the pump intake. The blockages had to be cleaned out manually
and this would take place whenever necessary, even through the
The ram pump needed servicing from time to time and
during the 1960s this was carried out by engineers from the
nearby Withnell Fold Paper Mill. In 1963 a borehole was drilled
adjacent to the pumping stations down through the boulder clay
and shale to a depth of 80m. A submersible electric pump was
installed and this gave a second water source and additional
security. However, as the water had to be pumped from deep
underground there was a considerable extra cost. This system
operated into the early 1970s when the Withnell water supply
system was taken over by Preston and District Water Board.
The old Pumping Station on Railway
Road in 2009
The old Pumping Station after
conversion to offices.
A new and more reliable system was designed to
take water from the Thirlmere Aqueduct at Wheelton and pump it from
there up to Pike Lowe Reservoirs. With modern pumps the costs would be
less and maintenance easier. The higher reservoir at Pike Lowe was
originally for untreated water but it was enclosed by a roof in the new
scheme and could be used for treated drinking water. The Pumping Station
on Railway Road then became redundant and was later sold and converted
to offices. A new Lancashire Conjunctive Use pipeline was laid and
commissioned in 1980. This relieved the connections from the Thirlmere
Aqueduct and Pike Lowe was one of many connections transferred to it.