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III. A STILL BORN PROGENY ?


Over the next 10 years Leeds Council spent about 10,000 per annum on extensions to the new sewerage system. Private property owners however did not seem to be responding with much enthusiasm to the new amenity. In December 1854 the Streets Committee noted that there had been very few applications for the connection of house drains to the new sewers. In May 1857, the same committee advertised a decision not to sewer any street unless 2/3 of property owners in the street agreed to connect to the sewer.

The slow rate of improvement of sanitary conditions, despite the new sewers, is illustrated by the continuing rarity of the flushing water closet system in Leeds:

Year

No. of WC s

1856

1005

1860

1628

1865

3221

1870

6000

In 1870 an estimated 30,000 privies were still in use in the Borough of Leeds. The middensteads - great piles of human dung - were still a feature of the Leeds streets. Writing in 1874, in his "Report on the Sanitary State of Leeds", J.Netten Radcliffe described a middenstead in Wellington Yard "which measures 21 feet long by 5 feet 10 inches broad, and which is 6 feet deep below the surface of the ground. Into this middenstead there fell not long ago a half tipsy man, plunging deep into the revolting filth, and there, suffocated, he lay until, days afterwards, discovered by the scavengers."

The lack of an effective piped water supply was no longer a constraint on the spread of the WC. The water supply undertaking, upon becoming a municipally owned utility in 1852, had works consisting of a Storage Reservoir at Eccup (capacity 250 million gallons); a Service Reservoir at Weetwood and one at Woodhouse Moor. After municipalisation large extensions were made, including filter beds at Headingley (1860) and a pumping station at Arthington on the River Wharfe.

In September 1866 Edward Filliter, the Council's Engineer, could report to his employers that "the present supply of water is derived chiefly from the River Wharfe at Arthington (whence you have Parliamentary powers to pump 6 million gallons per day), and partly from the small gathering ground about the Eccup Reservoir, with certain springs thereto."

Average consumption, he pointed out, was currently 4.5 million gallons per day. However "should your consumption attain even 6 millions of gallons per day before a new scheme is actually in operation, you will become dependent upon the Eccup gathering ground, and, if a stoppage by accident or for ordinary repair should happen to one of your pumping engines at Arthington, much uneasiness might justly arise among the inhabitants, especially among your large consumers."

The piped water supply had freed industry from the banks of the river. As a result, the needs of industry played no small role in forcing the pace of development of the water supply.

Table of Annual Water Consumption in Leeds

Year

Average gross daily consumption (gallons)

Number of houses supplied

Number of WC s

1856

1,596,000

30,996

1005

1860

2,534,000

35,447

1628

1865

4,407,000

46,305

3221

To help meet the increased requirements three new impounding reservoirs were built: Fewston, Swinsty and Lindley Wood in the Washburn Valley 15 miles north of Leeds. By 1883, 78,600 houses were supplied with piped water.

In the 1870's, not before time, the Sanitary Committee began a campaign against the "abominable middenstead and cesspool". By 1889 there were 28,000 WC's in Leeds and by 1902 only 15,000 of the 100,000 tenants supplied with water had no WC.

4. Treatment