severalls, warley | comparisons

9. Water Towers

Enoch Powell’s death sentence on the asylums was known as the “Water Tower Speech” and members of parliament were still referring to the “Water Tower Hospitals” as euphermisms for asylums well into the late 1990s.

These prominent markers, especially visible as most asylums were built on hills, were unique identifiers, a telling ‘an asylum is here’ marker on the horizon.

The reasons were simple; when built on the periphery of towns and cities, often in the middle of nowhere, services were non-existent or unreliable. Needing a vast amount of water per day, both for patients and staff, bore holes were sunk in the most convenient places, and water was pumped to the huge iron water tanks which were hidden inside the water towers. This both gave the quantity of water required, and also enough pressure to supply the entire asylum and direct fire hoses onto building roof-tops if fire broke out.

Our corridor asylum expanded rapidly, and the small water tower in the centre of the site was deemed too small. A second, much larger water tower, was subsequently built to the north, on higher ground, which supplied the much needed extra water for the expanded hospital.

By the time Severalls was completed, the size of the water tower was standard, and no further building was required. (The water tower at Severalls has changed over the years, being reduced in height during the war years).

© Simon Cornwell 2006