Among magnificent architectural structures in uphill Lincoln is a tower which, despite its significance, sits widely unrecognised next to neighbours like the city’s castle and cathedral.
As part of our ‘hidden gems’ series, we’re taking readers on an exclusive tour of the 104-year-old Westgate Water Tower, and diving into its fascinating history.
Many taking in the sites of the historic quarter, perhaps from the walls of Lincoln Castle, will have wondered “what is that huge tower?”, or even surmised that the building is a part of the city’s Roman fortress.
The 120-feet-tall building was in fact commissioned as a result of a tragic Typhoid epidemic which swept over the city between November 1904 and April 1905.
Reports indicate as many as 1006 people contracted the disease and 113 people died – one of Lincoln’s biggest peacetime disasters.
The outbreak was caused by a polluted supply of drinking water, which in 1904 came from Hartsholme Lake and the River Witham.
Faced with the crisis, city officials and the waterboard commissioned the construction of the Westgate Water Tower, which still supplies water to the majority of uphill Lincoln today.
The building was designed by Victorian architect Sir Reginald Blomfield and was completed in 1911.
Inside, the water tank sits within a circular brick tower, which is encased in the imposing square brown structure made from Darley Dale Gritstone.
Its facade, complete with decorative fleur-de-lys (a Jewish symbol associated with the Patron Saint of Lincoln, Mary Mother of Jesus), was designed so as to compliment, but not compete with, the spires of Lincoln Cathedral.
Interestingly, the steel plated water tank which sits within the tower was designed by the same people who designed the infamous Titanic.
Usually visitors to the water tower will find it barred off by railings and a locked gate. We were given a rare tour by the Anglian Water supply manager for the area Jon Pawson.
He said: “The reason the tower is round on the inside is so that the water can rotate in the tank and there are no dead spots or corners that water can sit in and stagnate.
“There aren’t many assets built 100 years ago that are still in public supply so this building is very unusual. In addition to the reservoir at Bracebridge Heath which was built at a similar time.
“It was designed for 300,000 gallons of water, which is about 1.3 million litres of water when it’s full. So the weight of the tank with the steel structure itself is about 1,400 tonnes.”
The tower is also currently housing the remains of a stone sculpture which previously featured on the Elkesley engine house before it was dismantled.
It will soon feature in a historic exhibition within the city.
For more information on the story of water in Lincoln, we recommend local author Trevor E Pacey’s To Fetch a Pail of Water.