09 November 2013

Broadwell Conduit Head, Shrewsbury

Hidden away in the woods of the Nobold area of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, are the remains of the sixteenth-century conduit head from which the town was supplied with water from 1556, right through to 1947.

The conduit head building, Grade II listed, is constructed of roughly-squared red sandstone, timber trusses to each gable, and plain tiles, and dates to about 1578. Inside is a single space, taken up with a brick-lined water tank.

Water was collected from nine wells in the immediate vicinity, seven of which can be easily located amongst the briars. The wells are accessed by a series of interconnected and covered boardwalks, tiled with shingles.

From the site, known as Broadwell, water was piped into town, originally in hollowed-out elm trunks, elm being resistant to decay when permanently wet. Five of the later outlets once associated with the system survive in the town.

Originally a licensed private enterprise, the facility was acquired by the town's corporation in 1878. On the same site is a later pumping house, of 1903, which was in the 1980s converted by Severn Trent Water into a visitor centre, now closed and vandalised. The council acquired the site in 2007, but has, of course, done nothing with it.


Frank Yensan said...

Absolutely fantastic! I love the history lesson and industrial instruction. Thank you for this post.

kathy said...

I have been to this place and it is both fascinating and quite captivating - I am struggling to get historical info on it - would you be happy to give me some pointers please? :-)

YMGW said...

Sorry Kathy, but the only historical information I have is that contained in the blog post. I would be very interested to hear of anything you can add.

Unknown said...

There is a lot of early detail in the transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society volume LXXV 2000, Paper by R Cromarty. Following that I went to the site today but want expecting the coveted walkways etc. So thank you for the info on that!

Anonymous said...

As a boy I played in the marsh land adjacent to the old water works.This would be circa 1955.There was a small spring/issues in the land which always had water running I never saw it without. The stream ran to near Radbrook Crescent where it ran adjacent to the Hanwood/Pontesbury Road for about 40 metres then crossing the road into land owned by the Bebb's and Macpherson's. There were defunct structures which had been used to pump water to the fountain and gardens of what became the Radbrook Hotel. These consisted of a small dam/weir with piped draw off through the weir to a manhole with hand operated flap valve which in turn was piped to a 3m by 3m by 2m deep chamber in which was housed a pressure chamber. I assume it was a pneumatically operated ejector station or similar.
In all my years in living in the area I am afraid to say that I never heard the area referred to as Broadwell.In 1955 there was a substantial steel structure supporting a reservoir / water tower(perhaps 6/9m square and 3m deep.Knowing the local topography I would have thought any 16th Century pipework would have followed the stream from Radbrook Crescent to the Rad Brook and thence on to the Severn.The stream was piped and culverted when the land was developed in the 1970s.
Roger Meredith

Brian Goodwin said...

Thanks for your comments Roger, they are very interesting. The Shropshire Beekeepers Association has just taken over the site to locate their training apiary. We will be restoring the whole site, including the wellheads and will provide information boards etc.
We have initially to make the site secure as their has been considerable vandalism recently. We will the open the site on a regular basis to the public, schools and other groups. The site has been left wild for 30 years or more and it is now a haven for a wide range of wildlife.
We hope to work with the Shrops. Wildlife Truat and other groups to create a an interesting natural habitat which could be available to a wide range of visitors but this will take time and a considerable amount of money. Thanks again for your interest. You can look us up on shropshire bees.co.uk.

YMGW said...

Very interested to read of this development, as a bee-keeper myself. YMGW