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Construction of Ulley Reservoir


Ulley Reservoir Ulley Reservoir is a 35 acre reservoir, up to 10 metres deep and holding 580 million litres of water. Construction - Earth embankment with Spillways; ashlar pitching set on concrete. Spillways:Two lateral overflow stepped spillways. Width: 1.83 m, Height: 0.69 m, Length: 3.05 m.

In December, 1863 it had become clear to the Board of Health that Rotherham's springs supply could not be relied upon to provide water to the local area, and Parliamentary Powers were sought to create an impounding reservoir.

Map showing Ulley Brook At a special meeting held by the Rotherham Board of Health on 4th December, 1863, it was decided that the water from the Ulley Brook spring should be taken as well as that from Pinch Mill:

... the minimum quantity of water flowing every twenty-four hours from Ulley Brook was calculated at not less than 75,000 gallons, and the united springs would supply at least 400,000 gallons per twenty-four hours in the dryest weather. The board will not at once construct the reservoirs included in their scheme, but filtering beds into which the water will naturally flow will be made to answer present purposes. Negotiations for the purchase of land on which the filtering beds will be made, and through which the pipes will pass, will be opened immediately.

Ulley ReservoirIn July 1870 The Rotherham and Kimberworth Water Board advertised for tenders from builders willing to construct a storage reservoir at Ulley.

It is not known when Messrs. Logan & Hemingway began the construction, but in July, 1872 the whole of the navvies employed by the company went on strike. They wanted an increase in wages and a reduction in the number of working hours. They afterwards compelled the masons to cease work by threatening them. A number of quarrymen and labourers refused to join the strike, until the navvies took their horses from them and made them stop work. At one stage, there were 250 to 300 hundred masons, quarrymen and navvies on strike.

The navvies were receiving 3s.4d., 3s.6d., and 3s.8d. per day according to their class of work. They wanted to work no more than nine hours per day and finish work at 1 o'clock on Saturdays. About 100 navvies left the neighbourhood and the remainder expressed their determination not to resume work until their terms had been agreed to.

By 1874 Ulley Reservoir, sited on Rotherham Red Rock, on the upper part of the 'Middle Coal Measures' was completed utilizing the flows of Ulley and Morthen Brooks and this supply, together with a small impoundment on Dalton Beck, was said to be adequate to meet the needs of Rotherham for a further 20 years.

However, later the same year, it was reported that during the summer months the inhabitants of Rotherham were only supplied with water from 10 to 12 hours each day. The supply at Ulley reservoir, capable of holding over 84,000,000 gallons, had decreased at the rate of about fourteen million gallons per month since June and it got to the stage there was only four feet of water left in the reservoir. It was decided that water should be turned on for three and a half hours each day, from 7 to 9 in the morning and from 5.30 to 7 o'clock in the evening. The Waterworks Committee met and they hoped to be able to obtain further water from Sheffield.

In addition to the Borough, the Corporation supplied water to Rawmarsh and Greasbrough, altogether a population of 50,000.

An outbreak of Typhoid Fever occurred in the autumn of 1891 affecting Rawmarsh, Rotherham and a limited part of Greasbrough and it appears there was concern of pollution as the water flowed into Ulley reservoir.

Dr. Theodore Thomson, an Inspector of the Local Government Board, told a meeting at Rotherham Town Hall in December 1891, that the total number of cases since the outbreak in Rotherham was 89 in 82 houses, resulting in 20 deaths. In Rawmarsh there had been 86 cases in 78 houses and 13 deaths.

A report was presented in 1894 concerning this pollution. The Medical officer of health stated that 'The Ulley reservoir is on two sides protected by by washes from the danger of immediate contamination by drainage from adjacent cultivated land ...'

Dr. Theodore Thomson is recorded as being concerned about, ' ... serious causes of pollution to the water, taken from the gathering grounds at Ulley, Aughton, Aston, Aston Netherthorpe ...' . The drainage of the village of Ulley, with the exception of what is lost in the ground surrounding the village, passes directly into a stream which flows down to the reservoir' he stated. 'The drainage consists of liquid refuse from houses ... ' .

The water from 'gathering grounds' was filtered through beds of sand and gravel, and when discussing 2200 acres of land around Dalton, only a small proportion was uncultivated, mostly it consisted of pasture and arable land, which, at the time it was inspected was covered with manure down to the very margins of the streams.

In 1896 demand was outstripping supply. The Board entered into an agreement with the Sheffield Corporation and Doncaster to construct Langsett reservoir from which Rotherham would be entitled to a daily supply which came on stream in 1905, delivered by pipeline to the Boston Castle supply reservoir. In 1906 Dalton Brook became polluted by discharges from Silverwood Colliery and was abandoned.

Later a further supply was obtained from Derwent Reservoir via Rivelin Valley Reservoir. The Yorkshire Derwent Water Transfer Scheme was in operation in the 1960's.

During the early 1940ís difficulties occurred in working both the High Hazels Seam and the Barnsley Seam of Treeton Colliery. Two geological faults hampered the mining operations and a large pillar of coal had to be left uncut in order to support Ulley Reservoir (Hill 2002 p139 ¹).

By the early 1980s the reservoir was no longer needed for water supplies and was kept on standby by the owner, Yorkshire Water Authority. In 1986 ownership passed to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council who designated the area Ulley Country Park

Rotherham The supply from the company is not more than two hours a day ...
Report of the Sub-committee on the Answers Returned to Questions Addressed ... By Health of Towns Association, London, London Health of Towns Association

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Archives and Local Studies Section hold the book A comprehensive treatise on the water supply of cities and towns.... by William Humber, 1876, which includes: Rotherham Waterworks specification pp 325-335.Drawings of Ulley Reservoir, PI 20-23.
Reference: 33/B/33/1



1. Hill, A. (2002). The South Yorkshire Coalfield. Stroud. Tempus Publishing Ltd.


Living at Reservoir House in 1881 was John Torr, Reservoir Keeper, born 1829 at Budby, Nottingham, age 52, his wife Mary Ann born 1839 at Guilthwaite and their children:

Experiments with weather gauges from about 1895 were trialed at Ulley Reservoir, by Rotherham Council and later by Mr. Chrimes of Guest and Chrimes.


The Threat of Inundation June, 2007

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