Thirlmere Aqueduct Facts
It’s easy to forget how privileged we are to have fresh water. As Jim Rothwell says: “You never miss the water till the well runs dry”. But in Manchester if you turn on the tap, out comes clean, soft water, fresh from the lake district hills. And this is thanks to the vision and “grit” of the Victorian Engineers who built the Thirlmere Aqueduct.
The Thirlmere Aqueduct, was the solution to Manchester’s growing need for water towards the end of the Nineteenth Century. The Thirlmere valley was flooded, drowning a couple of villages and joining up two smaller lakes into one big one, and a tunnel was dug to carry the water nearly 100 miles to Manchester. A staggering feat of Victorian engineering, it was the longest aqueduct of its kind anywhere in the world, and still provides water for the people of Manchester today. To find out how the Aqueduct features in Spylark read the book for yourself. No plot spoilers here!
1. At 95 miles long the Thirlmere Aqueduct is the longest continuous underground aqueduct in the world.
2. The Thirlmere Aqueduct takes water from the Thirlmere reservoir to Manchester, a descent in height of a mere 230 feet, or a fall of just 20 inches to the mile, moving the water at a sluggish 3 mph by gravity alone, taking just over a day to reach Manchester.
3. The project required several acts of parliament to enable the city of Manchester to purchase the 11,000 acres of land it needed to create the reservoir.
4. In 1881 the entire route of the Aqueduct was laid out in a long chain to show landowners where it would pass through their land.
6. The Thirlmere Aqueduct was opened in a special ceremony in 1894. After a six minute prayer and a speech by the Lord Mayer of Manchester, a valve was opened and the water began to flow. The following day a similar ceremony welcomed the arrival of the water at a fountain in Albert Square in Manchester.
5. The exact route of the Aqueduct is not marked on any publicly available maps. (Perhaps to keep the likes of Rufus Clay from using it for their criminal purposes!) But the route is marked by many hundreds of identical black gates. If you find yourself standing in front of one of these gates the Aqueduct is directly below you – spare Tom Hopkins a thought as you consider the thousands of gallons of water passing through the rock in the dark beneath your feet!
7. The Aqueduct carries 200 million litres of water per day.
8. It is now owned and managed by United Utilities who drained it for the first time in 2005 in order to carry our maintenance.
9. The Aqueduct runs right under Bolton’s football academy training pitches at Middlebrook.
10. When empty you could start walking at the Lostock water treatment works in Bolton, all the way to Thirlmere without seeing daylight. But not if you suffer from claustrophobia!