Bradford on Avon Waterworks

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


Former Bradford Waterworks pumphouse

The former pumping station at Avoncliff


The Public Health Act of 1875 allowed local authorities to provide a public water supply. Until then the people of Bradford got their water from the public springs of Ladywell in  Newtown and Pippet Well in Pippet (now Market) Street or from private wells that were liable to become polluted.

Nearby Trowbridge was in the process of setting up a water company which was seeking to extend its pipes to Bradford. However, there was a strong reaction against the prospect of being supplied with Trowbridge water and a petition of prominent ratepayers was presented to Bradford’s Town Commissioners. So measures were taken to find a suitable source. The Ladywell spring proved inadequate and an idea of using the Avoncliff Westwood Mill to pump water had to be abandoned when the water proved to be polluted.

A source was found on the Winsley side of the river Avon, under an old quarry belonging to the Great Western Railway. Adits were dug there and a steam engine-powered pumping station was designed by London engineer (later Professor) Henry Robinson in 1883. The water was pumped up the hill to a covered reservoir on Bradford Road in Winsley, also designed by Robinson, from where it ran down to the town by gravity.

The grand opening came on 3rd October 1883 with parades, the Town Band, a temporary fountain and demonstrations by the town’s Fire Brigade that they could throw water over the tallest buildings.

The expansion of the town on the top of the hill meant that other pumps had to be provided later at the top of Wine Street, in Avoncliff Lane (1943) and Bath Road (1950), powered by electricity.

Bradford’s water was only just sufficient for the town, so the villages continued to be supplied by local springs and wells into the 1930s and beyond.

The Bradford on Avon Waterworks merged with the North Wilts Water Board in 1964. Today the whole area is supplied by Wessex Water, its successor that was created in 1973 and privatised, sold off to the American company Enron, which collapsed and Wessex Water was sold to its current parent, the Malaysian YTL Power International in 2002.  A network of pipelines joins reservoirs such as Bradford’s original one and another at Little Ashley.