THIRLMERE'S HISTORIC "CASTLE" Facelift for one of region's most unlikely listed buildings

Date: Saturday 6th March 1999

ONE of the Lake District's least known historic "castles" is being given a dramatic facelift.

ONE of the Lake District's least known historic "castles" is being given a dramatic facelift.

The 105-year-old valve tower at the waterworks at Thirlmere — surely the area's least likely listed building — is being renovated by North West Water as part of a £6 million scheme to improve the water supply pipeline between Thirlmere and Preston.

The tower, which nestles in the trees beneath the main Keswick-

Ambleside road, looks just like a castle, with battlements, a huge oak door, a glass roof and a coat of arms above the entrance.

But it houses nothing more palatial than the electronically operated valve which controls the flow of around 220 megalitres of water supplied every day to major towns and cities in Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

"It's a very fine building — but goodness knows why it was built like a castle," says Steve Rycroft, North West Water's works controller who manages the Thirlmere reservoir.

The work being done on the tower includes a thorough spring clean, with lichen being removed from the walls, metalwork being repainted and broken glass and woodwork replaced.

Building work on the tower, which is now a grade one listed building, started in 1890. It was opened by Sir John James Harwood, chairman of

Manchester Waterworks Committee on 12th October, 1894, allowing the first water from Thirlmere to begin its 27-hour journey to the city.

The next day Sir John and the rest of the civic party gathered round a fountain in Manchester's Albert Square to watch as that same first water arrived.

A huge painted plaque inside the tower gives details of the specifications of the pipeline which leads from it to Manchester — a length of precisely 94 miles and 1,642 yards, with 45 miles of pipes, 14.125 miles of tunnels and 36.75 miles of covered channels cut in the rock.

Most surprising of all is that the aqueduct fails at a steady 20in per mile all the way to Manchester, so water finds its own way there with no need of pumps.

Until 1980, when the Dunmail Raise water treatment centre was opened, the tower housed a straining well which sieved the water before it was sent down the aqueduct.

The tower can sometimes be visited, through special arrangement with North West Water.

PIC: Steve Rycroft and the Thirlmere "castle".