Family visit site of pioneering ancestor who dug deep to bring clean water to Hull

A family from North London visited Hull last week to see their ancestor’s pioneering project which brought clean drinking water to the city for the first time back in 1859.

Located at Springhead water pumping station, ‘Warden’s Well’ still has pride of place as the original test borehole designed and built by the Yorkshireman, William Warden, who was born in Anlaby.

The family entourage who visited the famous well included Ms Simpson, whose Great Grandfather was William Warden, her daughter Zoë, and grandchildren, Tallulah and George. George Brown, aged 10, said: "It was really exciting to see what my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather did to help Hull. I'm proud of him."

Born in 1817 and the son of a cooper called John, William developed the idea of boring down into the chalk deposits underground. He claimed that by doing so, he would be able to bring the water to the surface and supply the majority of the Hull area with some of the best quality drinking water available. This was vital following the cholera outbreaks in the area in 1832 and 1849.

William’s hope was that he could extract five million gallons of water a day, which was the equivalent of fifty gallons per person. Due to doubts from the council’s members, it was agreed that he would receive a payment of £500 for his costs, but only if he was successful.

He started work in 1858 and by March the following year, had managed to construct the first borehole, which by 1860, was down to 250 metres below ground. Despite the trial being a huge success, there was a snagging point around the final costs of around £2,000, which was way more than originally hoped. Following a local campaign, the council finally agreed to pay William for his efforts, and the site continues to operate to this day.

Ms Simpson commented: “We visited Hull as part of the City of Culture celebration and wanted to visit the pumping station to see for ourselves what my ancestor achieved. Yorkshire Water were kind enough to show us around and it’s something we’ll all be able to remember for a very long time.”

Following the success of the borehole, Springhead pumping station was built and completed in 1864. The building was made Grade II Listed in January 1994 and received a £2.6 million overhaul earlier this year. The site is still very much part of our operations today with the pumping station transferring water to Keldgate water treatment works for treatment before supplying residents of Hull and East Riding with drinking water. Springhead pumping station still produces around six million gallons of water every day - a quarter of Hull and East Riding’s daily water supply.

Yorkshire Water’s Communication Advisor, John Bond, showed the family around the site and said: “It was brilliant to show the family around what remains an integral part of our system 150 years on. Usually, we explain to our customers the processes involved and the history of the site; however, in this case, Ms Simpson educated us and brought along documents from the 19th century which were amazing to read.”

William went on to run his own brewery before passing away in 1879.