cane hill | a pictorial record of the interior organisation of the watertower

I thought about the other water towers Iíd climbed. The final part, the push towards the roof, was always the most laborious, usually involving actually getting on the main water tank itself. It was almost as if the access to the roof was an afterthought.

Which it almost certainly was. The most important thing was the water tank itself. Providing access to that was probably enough for most architects; as typified by the designs of the water towers at Severalls and West Park. The water tank also dictated the dimensions of the water tower, so an extensive, elaborate stairway past the tank wouldíve simply pushed out the towerís dimensions and increased its cost.

However, inspection would be required of the tank and its covering to ensure there were no leaks nor that nothing nasty had fallen in. Hence the requirement to be able to get to the top of the tank, but it was by the tightest squeeze possible.

Howellís trick of placing a ladder over the tank itself for access to the roof was also used by Hine (as seen at both Rauceby and St. Maryís).

The other commonality between water towers was the sheer amount of empty space in them. All the lower levels are typically empty, sometimes used as store rooms (with appalling access) or simply left as empty spaces with flimsy ladders hugging the sides of the wall. The reason was simple; you had to get your main water tank one hundred feet up in the area to provide enough pressure. Anything below that would simply be at a lower pressure and of less use.

Therefore Cane Hillís main water tank is right at the top of the tower, in the area occupied by the twenty four lancet windows. And I donít believe this was for totally decorative reasons; illumination of the tank for inspection was probably a necessity and so Howell provided the extra lancet windows.

Original descriptions of the water tower mentioned five levels whilst I listed six. I believe this difference was due to me counting the joists on which the main water tank sits as an extra level.

Laura admiring the view from the pinnacle of the watertower. Note how low the parapret is. © Simon Cornwell 2008