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100-year-old promise kept following typhoid epidemic in Lincoln

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: September 28, 2011

  • TOWER OF STRENGTH: The Westgate Tower under construction during the Lincoln typhoid epidemic which started December 1904.

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One hundred years ago this week the people of Lincoln were preparing to celebrate. It had been six years since a devastating typhoid epidemic killed dozens of people in the city but, at last, a clean water supply was on the way. Here local historian Andy Blow tells the story of what happened ...

A CLOUD that had hung over Lincoln for six years ever since the disastrous water-borne typhoid epidemic of 1905 was at last lifting.

There must have been great relief, particularly among those citizens who had been queuing at wells or conduits, or carrying from streams, or locations where they could get imported water.

No wonder they called 1911 "the year of salvation".

As the new supply from Elkesley in Nottinghamshire began to enter the Lincoln mains network, and reach domestic taps, Lincoln Corporation was finalising plans for two great days of festivity.

Those councillors and officials who had received local and national criticism and derision during the typhoid epidemic – which killed 131 Lincoln people – could now declare with some satisfaction that they had redeemed themselves and their authority's reputation.

They promised to build a system that would last 100 years – and this weekend we can see that they were as good as their word, for both the Water Tower in Westgate, and the Bracebridge Heath Reservoir, crucial parts of the Elkesley system, are still in use and will be partially opened to the public by today's water authority, Anglian Water, on Saturday.

Anglian Water has teamed up with the Rotary Club of Lincoln in the Lincoln Water 100 Committee, chaired by Barry Dean, which has been planning the centenary celebrations in aid of the international charity Water Aid.

Detailed exhibition boards prepared by the committee and Anglian Water will tell the full and fascinating story of the typhoid epidemic and the search for new water which resulted in the Elkesley supply. They can be seen at the two aforementioned venues, and particularly in a special one-day exhibition at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life.

Original photographs from the period between 1905 and 1911 have been accessed by our committee and incorporated into the exhibition.

With some pride we will welcome the Mayor of Lincoln, Councillor Kathleen Brothwell, to our exhibition at the museum and, in the afternoon, to the Arboretum where she will be invited to re-fire the original fountain first switched on by one of her predecessors before a crowd of thousands in 1911 to signal the onset of Elkesley water.

The Arboretum fountain, which has been re-fitted for this event, is built on four cores of stone excavated from Elkesley in 1910 as the boreholes were sunk to eventually produce the first water for Lincoln from the Nottinghamshire bunter sandstone.

"To Fetch a Pail of Water", a book by Trevor Pacey, price £10, and Bygone Lincoln DVD Two produced by Andrew Blow, price £12.99, are available from the Echo reception. Both deal with the typhoid epidemic and the events that followed. All profits from the book, and a donation from the DVD profits, go to Water Aid. Both Mr Pacey and Mr Blow serve on the Lincoln Water 100 committee.

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  • Mr_Sneer  |  September 28 2011, 11:03PM

    Better to teach a man to fish than to merely give him a fish, is it not?

  • Gnome_Chomsky  |  September 28 2011, 10:29PM

    Much amused, Mr_Sneer. If anybody asks, I'll vouch for your positive and constructive post.

  • Mr_Sneer  |  September 28 2011, 10:23AM
  • adylincoln  |  September 28 2011, 10:04AM

    Not directly related to the story but can anybody point me in the direction that I may be able to find more old pictures of Lincoln for free on the Internet?