HC Deb 18 March 1864 vol 174 cc317-21

said, he rose to call attention to the dangerous state of the Doe Park and other reservoirs, belonging to the Bradford Corporation Waterworks. This was a question of great importance to a large number of people residing in his own immediate neighbourhood. He put a Question the other evening to the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in respect to the dangerous state of those reservoirs; and the right hon. Gentleman replied by saying that be would communicate on the subject with the Mayor of Bradford. On a subsequent evening the right hon. Baronet informed him (Mr. Ferrand) that he had made the communication referred to, and that he had received a letter from the Mayor of Bradford, informing him that his (Mr. Ferrand's) statement in regard to the Doe Park Reservoir, was exaggerated. Instead of that being the case, he now asked the indulgence of the House while he endeavoured to prove that, so far from his statement being exaggerated, it was considerably within the mark. The Bradford Corporation had expended nearly£750,000 on those waterworks, a large item of which money was expended in repairing leaking and dangerous reservoirs. The engineer of the Bradford Corporation Waterworks held his appointment under an Act of Parliament, and received 5 per cent of all the money expended on those waterworks. The corporation had no power of dismissing him, therefore he was a paramount master over the corporation and over the waterworks. In his (Mr. Ferrand's) immediate neighbourhood there were three reservoirs belonging to those waterworks. The highest of these is, he believed, in a perfectly safe state. The second, called the Doe Park Reservoir, which, when full, contained 110,000,000 gallons of water, was completed about two years ago. Soon after it was filled the immense volume of water forced its way through the embankment, and there was every probability of the embankment giving way, and the water in such case would have burst down the valley, carrying death and desolation wherever it spread. A messenger arrived at his house one evening, informing him of this alarming state of things. He (Mr. Ferrand) immediately dispatched a messenger on horseback to Bradford to inform the Mayor, and at the same time he addressed a letter to the Home Secretary on the subject. The Waterworks Committee happened to be sitting at the time, and by great exertions they were enabled to stop the leak. Since that period this reservoir had been frequently repaired, and the embankment lad been repuddled seven different times. About a month ago he himself visited the reservoir, and he found the water within a few feet of the top of it. In the centre of the embankment a large number of men were employed driving a shaft twenty yards long from the summit to the bottom for the purpose of stopping the leakage. Another shaft was being driven outside the embankment for the purpose of discovering the leakage, where a large body of water flowed out sufficient to turn a good-sized mill. During the last two years, when this reservoir was full of water, the corporation employed men during the night to watch it and to report to the inhabitants when there was danger of the embankment giving way. The contractor gave up repairing it some months ago and threw it upon the hands of the corporation, who, for a considerable time, had been endeavouring to stop the leaks. It was under these circumstances that he had called the attention of the Home Secretary to the dangerous state of this reservoir. The Mayor had stated that the reservoir had been run dry, and at present there was no further danger. Below this reservoir there was another which held 11,000,000 cubic feet of water. If the higher reservoir broke down upon the second, both embankments would go, and the water would rush through the valley and would probably occasion as much destruction as the Sheffield reservoir had recently done. If the catastrophe occurred during the night, the probability was that every person residing in the valley would perish. Last Monday week the water of the second reservoir, notwithstanding the by wash and the perpendicular culvert, rose five feet above the culvert and by wash, and if it had only risen a few feet more, it would have overflowed the embankment, and the most disastrous consequences would have ensued. In the valley there were five or six mills. There were seven or eight tenants will their families, on his own property besides about 300 people residing in the valley. A short distance below this valley the railway crossed the river Aire with a wooden bridge upon a high embankment, and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was carried across it by an aqueduct. If the embankment gave way the manufacturing town of Shipley would be a scene of ruin—in fact, there was a danger of the waters rushing even as far as Leeds itself, where the damage would be frightful. There was another reservoir in the valley of the Aire—the Silsden Reservoir—to which also he wished to draw attention; this had also been in a dangerous state, and the embankment would have given way on one evening but for the timely warning given by a person who discovered the leakage. At the time, there were 2,000 or 3,000 persons residing in its immediate vicinity. In that case the embankment was taken down and a new one constructed. There was another reservoir in a neighbouring valley also in a dangerous state, and notwithstanding that the engineer of the waterworks had a few months ago certified on oath that it was in a secure state, he (Mr. Ferrand) was informed that that reservoir had since given way. He thought he had now made out a strong case to justify the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in sending down a good engineer. He would now ask leave to read the following letters from a gentleman at Bradford, for the purpose of showing that he had not made an exaggerated statement, as he had been charged with having done:— Bradford, Yorkshire, March 16, 1864. Sir,—I see by the paper this morning that Sir George Grey stated last night in the House of Commons, in reply to your question about the Doe Park Reservoir, that he had written to the mayor of Bradford for information on the subject of its alleged insecurity. Without at all wishing to cast any reflection on our worthy mayor, it may be important to you to know that any statement he may make, if even affirming its safety, will not have the slightest effect in re-assuring the minds of a large portion of the public hereabouts. The present mayor has always been in the corporation the most prominent and assiduous promoter of the corporation waterworks schemes; and it is almost unnecessary that I should tell you that in every respect the public have reason to complain of the whole management of these matters. Not only have the original estimates of cost been very far exceeded, but wholly unlocked for delays in the completion of the works have taken place, and it is well known in the town and neighbourhood of Bradford that these delays have mainly arisen from the defective character of the workmanship in the various stages of construction, and especially so in the reservoirs. I am not at present a resident of Bradford, having removed from the borough about four months ago, and it might, perhaps, be said that I meddle with what does not now concern me; but as the safety of human life concerns every man, I do not hesitate to say that any reply the mayor of Bradford may send to Sir George Grey will not be deemed sufficiently reliable by thousands of the inhabitants and ratepayers of Bradford; not that the mayor would willingly state any untruth, but because he has been so often identified with waterworks mistakes. W. Ferrand, Esq., M.P. He had also received the following telegram from a merchant of Bradford, residing in the valley below the Doe Park embankment: — March 17.—The Doe Park embankment since it was made has been repuddled in seven different places, and is still leaking. Hughenden reservoir which must receive the water from Doe Park, rose five feet last Monday week, notwithstanding the by wash and culvert being in full play. The arch under the Hughenden embankment is considerably out of… I say these reservoirs are unsafe. The Silsden culvert is three feet out of perpendicular. What he desired to know was, whether a Government Inspector would be sent down to places where danger was apprehended?


thought it would have been more convenient if the hon. Gentleman had brought the facts he had just mentioned under the notice of the Government in a different manner. If the hon. Gentleman would be good enough to place upon paper the facts which he had now mentioned and communicate with him (Sir George Grey), he would consider whether they were sufficient to require that a Government Inspector should be sent down to the place in question. He did not dispute the facts stated by the hon. Gentleman, because he only now heard them for the first time, and therefore could not say that the reservoirs referred to were not in a dangerous state; but certainly no previous communication to that effect had been made to him.