Lichfield Water, Past, Present and Future

The Society's open meeting on Thursday 22nd November contained the two ingredients thought most likely to appeal to our members; a most essential supporter of life and its local availability. Those who attended were treated to a wealth of information by Mr Colson, Manager for the Burton Area of the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company, who was standing in for his colleague Mr A.L. Rogers at short notice.

As long ago as the 14th century Lichfield is said to have had a piped water supply. The Conduit Lands Trust was set up in 1545 with a primary duty to supply water to the City, which they did from the springs at Aldershaw. As a consequence Lichfield was among the first towns to have such a well ordered supply of clean water. In the early 1800s the City had a system of conduits carrying water to stand-pipes set at intervals in the City's streets; but by the 1850s the Aldershaw springs were unable to meet the demand and the Trunkfield pumping station was opened to deliver more water to the main "Crucifix Conduit".

The growth in demand for water, negotiations with South Staffordshire Waterworks Company and the influence of the industrialisation of the Black Country were all related by Mr Colson as he traced history of Lichfield's water supply to the present time. The South Staffordshire Waterworks Co. now supplies 1.5 million people with 96 million gallons of water every year.

Concluding his talk with a description of the modern devices which enable engineers to detect leaks and more rapidly repair fractures, Mr Colson also drew attention to the low percentage of water used for drinking and washing; with over 90% being flushed down the drain after expensive treatment to meet the high standards now required.

The illustrations for this talk were well chosen but a series of maps showing the conduits and source locations would have been welcomed by those not familiar with the area.

Ivor Mitchell
November 1990