Built in 1875, at the instigation of Henry Bright, backed by Aldermen Wackrill (then Mayor), Bishop and Bradshaw, Campion Terrace Water Works were the first publicly owned waterworks in the country to supply a whole town – Leamington Spa – and the surrounding area with potable (drinking) water.
When Mayor Henry Bright laid the Foundation Stone on 11th September 1877, the Borough Surveyor, Mr Davidson, placed in the cavity under it a time capsule, – a bottle containing a parchment giving details and the history of the event, copies of the four local newspapers of the day, a list of members of the Town Council and its committees, and the coins of the realm. Those attending were naturally optimistic about the potential of their joint venture to deliver clean water to the town, but could not have foreseen the scale of the demands placed on their Wellhouse and pumping equipment in the following 100 years that the Water Works continued to serve the needs of the town.
Water was first drawn from a well at the corner of Campion Terrace and Leicester Street, but as demand increased, the site was enlarged to include specialist units for treating water from the River Leam. Campion Terrace remained the principal treatment works until 1969, when although the Victorian well had been refurbished and continued to provide high quality water, increasing demand and higher quality standards led to the building of the new treatment works on Campion Hills.
In February 1988, shortly after the treatment works at Campion Terrace were decommissioned, Bill Gibbons, Jo Clark, Peter Coulls and his daughter Helen, my son and I and a few more friends were given conducted tours of the former Water Works at Campion Terrace, and the new Water Treatment Works on Campion Hills.
At Campion Terrace Wellhouse, we discovered that the two steam pumping engines, (one of them named after Alderman Wackrill, the other after Mayor Harding) had been decommissioned as long ago as 1959, but we were still able to see the mammoth pipework system and the Wellhouse. With its extensive overhead gantry and oak lifting beam, the roof structure immediately attracted attention, – so similar to the construction of the roof of the old swimming bath at the Pump Rooms, – and also designed by William Louis de Normanville, Leamington’s 19th Century Borough Engineer.
However, unlike the swimming bath roof, which was listed in order to prevent its demolition, the handsome structure of the Wellhouse roof was dismantled and it vanished, along with the rest of the building, to make way for social housing.