Cumbria

Thirlmere Aqueduct reaches 120th anniversary

Image copyright United Utilities

Thirlmere Aqueduct was constructed to supply Manchester with drinking water drawn from a Lake District reservoir.

Water began to flow on 12 October 1894 and arrived at a specially-constructed ceremonial fountain in the city the following day, to the jubilation of onlookers who stood with cups to get the first sip.

Image copyright United Utilities

Work started in 1886 with navvies equipped with shovels, spades, and explosives.

The aqueduct was hewn directly from rock and inside is high enough for a man to stand without stooping.

Image copyright United Utilities

A reservoir to supply the aqueduct was constructed at Thirlmere. This lake was chosen because its height above sea level meant gravity could be used to get the water to Manchester. There are no pumps along the aqueduct's length.

Image copyright United Utilities

The eight-year construction project involved about 3,000 men.

According to one story, two teams of navvies started on opposite sides of the mountain at Dunmail Raise, near Grasmere, and met in the middle just eight inches (20cm) off centre.

Image copyright United Utilities

Now owned by United Utilities, the aqueduct also supplies communities in Keswick, Lancaster and the Fylde Coast. It takes water about 36 hours to reach Manchester, moving at walking pace.

Image copyright United Utilities

The structure is looked after by United Utilities' regional supplies manager, John Butcher, who describes himself as a "pipe anorak" and gives regular talks on the subject.

He said: "It's just an amazing structure and yet hardly anyone knows it's here.

"When you think of the technology the Victorians had available you have to take your hats off to them."

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