A Victorian temple

The weather on Friday evening was gorgeous, so after tea James and I went for a wander along Valehouse and Rhodeswood reservoirs in the Longdendale valley. This valley used to be known as the Cheshire Panhandle - a thin ribbon of land that joined Cheshire to Yorkshire, although it is now part of Derbyshire. Since Roman times (and probably even before that) there was a trade in salt from Cheshire to Yorkshire, and this thin strip meant that there was one fewer sets of tolls and taxes to be paid on the way, as the two counties connected directly.

Bramah Edge

The view above is across Valehouse reservoir towards Nell's Pike and Bramah Edge, and the little valley on the far right of the picture is called Devil's Elbow. There is a legend as to how it got this name, but I'm less romantic and suspect it's because the road round it has a sharp hairpin, and the name probably refers to the difficulty people had in negotiating it.

Valehouse Reservoir

The Longdendale valley used to have the River Etherow flowing along it, but in 1848 John Frederick La Trobe Bateman began building the chain of five reservoirs that still provide a large proportion of Manchester's water - a task that was to take 29 years to complete. The picture above is of Valehouse reservoir, with Rhodeswood dam in the distance.

Valehouse collie

Along the banks of the reservoirs are a series of houses built by the Manchester Water Board to house the reservoir keepers. Most are now private houses, but this one is still owned by United Utilities and lived in by the reservoir keeper, who has a most friendly Collie who insisted that we throw his entire stick collection for him to fetch :-)

Rhodeswood hydro

It is an amazing testament to Victorian engineering that the works associated with the reservoirs are largely unchanged from when they were built 150 years ago. This is the overflow weir for Rhodeswood reservoir. The building on the right is a new addition - a small hydroelectric power station. In conjunction with similar stations on Torside and Bottoms reservoirs it will supply enough electricity for about 800 houses. This isn't the first such station in the valley - in 1904 one was built at Bottoms reservoir to supply electricity for the small-gauge railway that ran along the north side of the reservoir chain, although this was abandoned in 1938, and the railway was dismantled in 1968. Just above this dam there was a major landslip - the shanty town of New Yarmouth that was built on it moved 8 inches downhill in the course of one night. Bateman brought in two of the best engineers of the day, Robert Stephenson and Isambard Kingdom Brunel as consultants to help him come up with a fix, as he notes in his journal:

31st March 1852

The best measures for adoption under these circumstances are now under consideration in connection with Mr Stephenson and Mr Brunel whose advice the Water Committee have allowed me to obtain.

On Saturday I accompanied Mr Stephenson and Mr Brunel over the works describing every part and directing their particular attention to the land-slips. I am to meet them this week in London for the purposes of further consultation.

The solution that was proposed and accepted was to tunnel underneath the landslip and route the watercourse underneath. This was to take an additional 15 months to complete, so the Victorians were just as familiar with unforecast project slippage as we are today!

Valve house

The Victorians built even the most prosaic of buildings with style and attention to detail - this temple-like structure is the valve house for Rhodeswood reservoir, one of several along the valley. The one at Bottoms reservoir has a rather splendid granite plaque commemorating all the Victorian worthies who were associated with the building of the reservoirs.

Categories : Peak District