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Meeting Report - March 2018

There were about 60 members and visitors present at the meeting of the Romsley and Hunnington History Society on Tuesday 27th March when Paul Harrison gave a talk on Water from Wales. Paul, a former teacher, lived in Romsley as a child and was intrigued by the large pipes carrying water from Wales to Birmingham, which can be seen in the local fields.

He discovered that at the end of the 19th Century the population of Birmingham was growing fast and it was known as, "The City of a Thousand Trades". The lack of a clean water supply became a problem and the Civic Heads began to look elsewhere for a solution.

The Elan Valley in Wales, 73 miles from Birmingham, with three times the rainfall, seemed to be the ideal source, but how could they get the water to Birmingham? The answer was to build huge dams with an aqueduct to carry the water through pipes and tunnels to a reservoir at Frankley.

A large workforce was needed to carry out this work, mostly by hand, as there were few machines in those days. Health and safety hadn't been invented either so the work proved to be very dangerous. A wooden village with a hospital and school was built and the whole project was paid for by Birmingham Corporation.

There were many problems to be overcome by the engineers and Paul demonstrated - with a jug of blue water and a length of plastic pipe, which went down from the stage, up over a table and up into a bowl - the principle of using an inverted syphon system at some stages of the water's journey. The members of the society had never seen anything like this before and were fascinated.

The work was completed early, Edward VII opened the dams and the first water started flowing in 1904. It says a great deal for the workers' craftsmanship that the water is still flowing from Wales today, through our villages, to supply the people of Birmingham with much needed water. It was a very enlightening talk.

Pat Evans

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