Along with the cathedral towers, the Westgate Water Tower dominates the skyline of Lincoln. It was built in response to a typhoid epidemic which devastated the city in 1904/5. Over one thousand people were affected and over one hundred died. It was one of Lincoln’s biggest peacetime disasters. The cause was traced to polluted water from Hartsholme Lake and the River Witham. Many people stopped using the existing source of heavily chlorinated tap water and preferred to go back to wells used fifty years earlier.
The city officials realised they were faced with a crisis and needed to send out the message that the city was taking the supply of clean water seriously. A new water source was identified at Elkesley, about 20 miles away and water was pumped from there to the top of a newly built tower. No expense was spared in the design which resembles a castle keep.
The outside square walls are built of local brown Darley dale gritstone. The inside is circular and is brick. The walls are over 4’ thick and support the massive tank at the top of the tower. This is 52’ in diameter and 31’ deep. It can hold 300,000 gallons of water and weighs 1,400 tons.
When completed in 1911, the tank held enough water to supply the needs of the city for one day. Now the supply would only last two hours during peak demand.
The water is pumped to the top of the tower. Originally this was done using two stationary steam engines but one blew up in 1974 and demolished the building housing it. Some of the stones from the building can be seen on the floor inside the tower. They are now replaced with an electric pump. One of the governors can be seen in the base of the tower. Near it is the flow recorder which recorded the amount of water used every day.
The inside of the water tower is not normally open. I visited on a heritage Open day in September 2016 and it is impressive. The outside can be viewed any time. There are car parks on Westgate. The nearest post code is LN1 3BD and the grid reference is SK 975720.