Bagshot’s First Water Supply

tap-waterWHILE Affinity Water digs its way along the A30 laying its new water main, spare a thought for Bagshot folk of yore who obtained their water either from wells or the watercourses which ran through the village.

Towards the end of 1874 the village was struck with several fatal cases of enteric fever. The Medical Officer of Health produced a report the following year showing that of 51 houses in the village, 44 had common privies (most of them “offensive”), seven had closets with trapped pans and cesspools, twelve houses had no drains, 11 drained into ditches, 28 drained into watercourses or cesspools which overflowed into them. Thirty five houses had no water, 16 had wells but the water in four wells was undrinkable, leaving 39 houses effectively without water.

Faced with forking out large sums of money on providing the village with clean water, the Windlesham vestry (precursor of the parish council) passed a resolution saying it was well known that any attempt at laying on a water supply to Bagshot would be very expensive indeed to the ratepayers “and benefit to none – the present water supply from the open stream being all that can be desired by the inhabitants.” (This could be the stream which flowed along the south side of the High Street and joined the Windle Brook at Bagshot Bridge.)

However improvements were carried out – the stream was cleaned and drains which ran into it were stopped up. But the Medical Officer of Health thought the water was still unfit for drinking. Although samples from above the village were fairly satisfactory, those from opposite the Institute (now Bagshot House) in the High Street and down by the Methodist chapel (near where Waverley Road is today) contained a large quantity of free ammonia and “putrescible matter.” Even if sewers were provided, the stream would still be liable to pollution from dung etc washed off the fields which lay behind the south side of the High Street.

The Windlesham vestry had the water tested for themselves by a professor of chemistry and lecturer on public health at Charing Cross Hospital. From three samples he reported it to be of good quality and uncontaminated with sewage matter to any appreciable extent – but he recommended that it should be filtered before drinking.

Salvation came in the shape of James Hodges, the civil engineer who built Penny Hill House (completed in 1851), who in July 1876 offered to provide a water supply at his own expense. A meeting was held the following October to decide the “most desirable situations” to erect water fountains for supplying the inhabitants with pure water. The proposed sites were opposite the Hero of Inkerman (site of the present Windlebrook pub), opposite Mr Finch’s coal merchants, opposite the post office and near Bagshot bridge. The water works were handed over to the parish authorities and thanks were expressed to Mr Hodges for saving the parish the considerable expense it would otherwise have incurred.
June Green, material derived from A History of Bagshot and Windlesham by Marie Eedle, Phillimore & Co, 1977

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