Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Water - An exhibition at the Lakeside Gallery

The Lakeside Gallery at University Park Nottingham often has fascinating exhibitions about the history of Nottingham, its people, infrastructure and industries.

A good example of this is the current exhibition entitled "Water - Pipes, Pumps, Floods and Drains in the UoN's Water Archives, which runs until 19th May 2013.

The exhibition looks at the history of the Victorian network of pumping stations, water mains and sewers that served Nottinghams inhabitants during the boom years of the late 19th century - and much of which is still in use today.

The exhibition contained a lot of surprising information - for example the fact that the primary purpose for building Wilford Suspension Bridge was to carry water main pipes across the river Trent.

It was also fascinating to see images of Victorian workmen laying sewers in Bobbers Mill.

A brief wander around the Interweb reveals a number of places that one can go for further information on this subject...

Wikpedia entry on the City of Nottingham Water Department which includes a memorable quote describing the flow of water from the Trent Bridge Water works as being "at a rate of 10 Hogsheads per minute"

The Papplewick Pumping Station Association have a page that provides a detailed history of Nottingham's water supplies, including the story of Thomas Hawksley (1807 - 93) who was a tireless advocate for measures to improve the quality of life for Nottingham's citizens, especially those living in squalid accomodation. Hawsley was the designer of the Trent Bridge Water Works mentioned earlier, and which was the first pressurised mains water system in the country. A measure of its effectiveness in improving public health can be gained from the fact that, whilst Nottingham suffered like the rest of the country in cholera outbreaks in 1832 (before the opening of the works), Nottingham escaped almost unscathed during another outbreak in 1848 (when much of the city was enjoying a high quality water supply)

Picture the Past, is a site that "is jointly managed by the local authorities of Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, and Nottinghamshire with financial assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund" and "aims to conserve and make publicly accessible the photographic heritage of the North East Midlands, thus enabling people to see the richness and diversity of the area's photographic collections.", including this pic of water mains being laid during the construction of Western Boulevard.

A BBC article covers a lot of ground related to public health and slum clearances, including a description of the "ash pit privies, usually three or four per yard for as many as 250 people, were the norm. If you were lucky you might even get them emptied every ten years! The principle was that you mixed the ashes in the pit with the effluent. Often the pits overflowed, ran down the yards and into the living rooms of the houses. Intermingled with the houses were the slaughter houses, knackers yards and manure yards"

And, of course, the University of Nottingham has some great images and information.