Tag Archives: Grand Junction Water Works Company

Hidden water – subterranean reservoirs

This post is a kind of addendum to one I did a few years ago about the old water works in Campden Hill Road and the demolition of its water tower. I was taken with the way our photographer John Rogers had documented the slow dismantling of the brick tower with a pair of water pipes embedded within it.  I hadn’t  seen those pictures before I wrote the post and although they sit in the same filing cabinet I hadn’t seen these pictures either until a week ago.

This picture, which I used in the first post shows the tower and the main building. More importantly for us it also shows the grass area in front of the works.

Demolition of the tower took place in 1970. After they finished with that, the demolition team turned to the water reservoir which had been under the grass since the late 1850s and was suddenly revealed.

You can see that the grass grew in a thin layer of soil supported by pillars, above a space which could be filled with water.

The structure looks remarkably flimsy for something which existed for just over a hundred years.

At any rate, it was soon cleared.

You can still see traces of water as the debris is cleared away.

A few shallow pools of water remain. In this picture you can see details of the brickwork.

Here is a wider view of the site.

As with the tower, the perimeter wall was breached so that rubble could be removed.

The original works and the reservoir were built in the later 1850s. The Company acquired more land to the west and built a second reservoir adjacent to the first in 1886-89. The land above the underground chamber became a set of tennis courts stretching as far as the grounds of Aubrey House. Unlike its brother, this reservoir was not demolished in 1970, as demonstrated by this photograph from 1994.

It looks like a slightly more solid design.

At this point in the research stage one of my volunteers went downstairs and returned with some planning photos from 1998 showing the area above ground.

Thames Water still in occupation. Behind the fence you can see Aubrey Walk and St George’s Church.

The tennis courts.

A closer look at the perimeter of the site showing some evidence of what lies beneath.


Along with a few loose pipes.


And this distinctive object.

The courts were much used in their day. (Although not much on this particular day.)

But after these pictures were taken about half the site, and the remaining works buildings were redeveloped for housing.

There are still some courts there, accessible via a narrow set of steps from Aubrey Walk. And the reservoir? Well I don’t know. It would be interesting if a brick vault covering a shallow underground pond was still there, dark and silent.


Thanks to Isabel, and Barbara for finding most of these pictures. If anyone can add more detail to the story, I’d be very grateful for further information.

Forgotten buildings: the tower at the top of the hill

Grand Junction Water Works Company Campden Hill 1857 628.14 CAM

For the Victorians the movement of water around London whether for drinking, bathing or washing sewage away was much more than a simple utilitarian process. It was one of the pinnacles of new technology, and an essential part of the growth of civilisation. The mastery of flowing water was one of the great skills of urban living. So the buildings and structures associated with it whether below or above ground were subject to the same aesthetic principles as any other grand public building. Hence the impressive Italianate tower above which stood at the peak of Campden Hill and dominated the local skyline for more than a hundred years. You saw it first in the Towers of Kensington post but as I looked deeper I found quite a few pictures illustrating the tower’s rise and fall.

The Grand Junction Water Works Company acquired the site in 1843 in order to build a high level reservoir but they added the pumping station and the water tower a few years later. The tower did not contain a tank but a series of pipes into which water could be pumped to gain extra pressure to power its subsequent progress through the water network.

The Tower was a popular local sight and can be seen in a number of pictures by local artists my favourite of which is this watercolour by Elizabeth Gladstone:

Waterworks tower Campden Hill Road June 1888 BG2459

Remember that spire on the left.

The Grand Junction Water Works Company and all its assets were taken over in 1904 by the Metropolitan Water Board. The tower remained undamaged in both world wars. Here it is in 1964 surmounted by some kind of electronic device:

Campden Hill Water Works 1964 628.14 CAM 024

And again in 1969:

Campden Hill Water Works 1969 628.14 CAM 021

This picture shows the space around the works including part of the covered reservoir. The truncated tower of the “strange and wilful” St George’s Church. Aubrey Walk (1863) is visible behind the works and the tower block on the right is the equally wilful Campden Hill Towers at Notting Hill Gate.

Campden Hill Water Works 1965 628.14 CAM 006

This 1965 picture shows the intricate detail of the brickwork.

Inside the works was some impressive machinery.

Campden Hill Water Works 1965  interior 628.14 CAM 005Campden Hill Water Works 1965  interior 628.14 CAM 003

By 1970 the tower was surplus to requirements and the land it stood on ripe for development. As luck would have it our photographer John Rogers was on hand to chronicle its slow demolition. Here the main pipe is exposed.

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 008

This was not one of those Fred Dibnah style spectacular demolitions. Because of the solidity of the structure and its closeness to a residential area the tower had to be disassembled almost brick by brick. Here is the first sign of the secondary pipe:

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 017

A man is working up there with a hand held jack hammer which would have made progress slow. Gradually the double pipe is revealed:

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 019

The pipe falls:

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 002

Finally the base is demolished. It is now safe to use a wrecking ball.

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 014

You can see how massive the walls of the tower were. The crumbling brickwork spills out of the gate.

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 023

The tower is gone. A few short weeks before there was snow on the ground and a family walked up the hill on a chilly February day.

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 022

The tower has joined the ranks of vanished buildings left behind as London moves on. But at least its passing was recorded.


“Strange and wilful” is one of those slightly odd descriptive phrases from the Survey of London which I have come to treasure. “Pungently Burgundian” is another. If you come across any yourself in the Survey or any other architectural guides please send them. There might be a whole post based on them one day.

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