Wednesday, 9 September 2015

When the Brook emited "noxious odours and offensive gases which polluted the air"


I would have liked to have listened into the discussions between the seventeen Chorlton households who sometime in the summer or autumn of 1863 decided to ask the city of Manchester to build a water main.  

Up till then we had relied on wells, pumps and ponds for our drinking water.  Not that they were going to be enough, for while they might have served our needs in the past there was soon to be a pressing need for alternative sources of supply.

So while George Whitelegg had built his two fines houses on Edge Lane with a joint well in 1863 in the following January the Water Works Committee of Manchester Corporation  resolved “to  authorise the laying of a service Main in Edge Lane ........... for the supply of the houses situate in Chorlton cum Hardy”

The request had come from 17 of the principle residents and the 3 inch main extended down Edge Lane, along St Clements Road to the Horse & Jockey.

All of which was rather timely given that many of the existing sources of water were either drying up or becoming polluted. The small water course which had fed Blomeley’s fish pond on the Row had become so full of rubbish that it was flagged over and the stones then covered with ash and earth.

And a little over ten years later there were serious concerns about the quality of water in the Chorlton and Longford Brooks, which flowed through the township.  In 1875 a special conference had been convened in Manchester between the city council “and a large number of members of sanitary authorities and local boards” to discuss “what steps should be taken on the subject of the outfall of sewage and filthy matter” in the water courses across south Manchester.*

A decade later the Withington Urban District Council reported that Chorlton Brook “is  being constantly polluted with the sewage and other liquid refuse of several large manufacturing towns” and “emits most noxious odours and offensive gases which pollute the air.”  So much so that the Bridgewater Navigation Company had “discontinued using the water for some time past owing to its polluted state.”**  A state of affairs which was no better in 1907 when one newspaper reported “faecal matter” clearly visible in the water.

The very real threat to the health of the township became a a serious cause for debate in the May of 1886 but that is for tomorrow.


*Pollution of Streams about Manchester, the Manchester Guardian November 6th 1875.
**Pollution of Streams in the Withington District, the Manchester Guardian September 12 1885



Picture; Brook Road Bridge and the brook, 1909, City Engineers, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, m78027

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