Much Loved Landmark Water Tower is Listed

The Gawthorpe Water Tower is an historical icon in our area. IMAGE: Mike Robinson

Wakefield’s landmark neoclassical water tower, which sits on a high ridge and can be seen for miles around, has been listed at Grade II by Historic England, following a campaign by residents and support from the Twentieth Century Society.

C20 Society caseworker Coco Whittaker said: “The 1920’s Gawthorpe Water Tower is a muchloved feature of the Ossett landscape in Yorkshire. We are delighted it has been listed and hope this will ensure it is protected and maintained for the benefit of future generations.”

Chris Burley, who organised the local campaign and submitted the listing application, commented: “I’ve lived close to the tower all my life and seen it as a great local attraction. But this all started with my wife Joanne one day saying, ‘it needs a good paint job, it’s looking tatty.’ We tried a lot of ways to get it done. It needs substantial repairs, and you can’t paint it until then, but there is no funding for this, meaning it would fall apart and then be demolished which we couldn’t see happen. After great success with the local community and a meeting to discuss, we applied to get it listed to save it. Now we can concentrate on repairs and maintenance, then painting.”

Historic England’s listing report states: “As a structure primarily serving a functional purpose one might expect it to simply be utilitarian in design, but instead it is treated architecturally, demonstrating that aesthetic considerations were clearly just as important as functionality. It is clear that the local board intended to make an impressive visual statement reflecting the civic pride of the township in this provision, and the tower’s elegant rotunda design successfully achieves this, with its panelled tank and domed cupola, all in reinforced concrete.

“Stylistically the tower compares very favourably with other listed concrete water towers, including the water tower at Rockwell Green, Somerset (about 1930, Grade II) and the water tower at Goole (completed 1927, Grade II). In a wider context, numerous listed examples of water towers serving private country estates survive, including the ornamental water tower and sun room at Wappingthorn, West Sussex (about 1930, Grade II), which is more like a folly, the near-identically styled tower at St Antony’s Convent, Leweston, Dorset (about 1930, Grade II), and the vernacular dovecotestyle water tower at Lytes Cary, Somerset (about 1934, Grade II), but there are far fewer listed municipal towers. Gawthorpe Water Tower is a notable example of this type of public tower.”

Gawthorpe Water Tower is also of special historic interest in reflecting the developments in public water supply provision that took place in England in the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century.

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