14th October 1859 - Loch Katrine Water Works Opened

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14th October 1859 - Loch Katrine Water Works Opened

The Loch Katrine Water Works were officially opened on 14 October 1859 by Queen Victoria. For its time it was a very ambitious scheme to increase and improve Glasgow city’s water supply, aiming to provide 50 million gallons of water in any one day.

Up until the early 1800’s the main water supply for Glasgow city were many ancient public wells, the River Clyde and streams. Most of these sources were dubious in quality and the quantity was far from sufficient for the needs of the city’s growing population, for fighting any fires, and for use in industry.

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A page from the report by R.D. Thomson, M.D., Glasgow College, on the sanitary state of Glasgow wells, 11 March. 1848 Ref: A1/2/5/22, which includes the following extract 

‘The Stirling-Square Well is near the base of the declivity from Canon Street, or circumstance which, united to its depth, may probably enable the fluids from the lower strata, and from the common-sewers, to make their way into the Well. The Bridgegate Well is in a somewhat similar condition.’ 
Previous schemes from private water companies were largely unsuccessful. The 1848 outbreak of cholera contributed to the growing demand for a better water supply. Finally in 1852 the Glasgow Corporation took control and appointed civil engineer John Frederick Bateman to look into solutions for the problem. Bateman produced a report considering several schemes, but strongly recommending that involving Loch Katrine. 

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​Front page of the report by civil engineer John Frederick Bateman on ‘Supply of Water to the City of Glasgow’ that recommended the use of Loch Katrine for the ambitious scheme Ref: T-CN3/90
However the scheme was contested by the existing private water companies, landowners affected by the works, and even the admiralty. After many more reports tackling the objections, an Act of Parliament was passed in 1855 and work began.

The works were a huge undertaking, including an aqueduct 26 miles long, dams across Lochs Vennachar, Loch Drunkie and Loch Katrine, a reservoir at Mugdock, construction of some 20 miles of trunk mains from the reservoir, and 46 miles of new pipes to distribute the water through Glasgow and its suburbs.

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​Map showing the routes of the aqueducts (including a later aqueduct) from Loch Katrine to Glasgow Ref: TD701/2

It took over 3 years to complete but on 14 October 1859 Queen Victoria turned the handle to open the sluice at the Royal Cottage in typically rainy conditions. 

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Depiction of the opening ceremony at Loch Katrine by Queen Victoria on 14 October 1859 Ref: TD701/9
However it was reported that not all of Glasgow’s citizens welcomed the change with the story that one old woman, on the closing of the hazardous public wells, complained that ‘Huh I just canna’ thole that new water, it’s got neither taste nor smell!’

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​Sluices at inlet to aqueduct and Royal Cottage, Loch Katrine Ref: D-WA22/1
Overall the supply of plentiful clean water has been seen as a huge improvement to the health and industry of the city. Since its opening the works have been enlarged and the water supply increased.

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Visit to Inlet Tunnel, Loch Katrine by the Glasgow Corporation Water Committee and Commissioners, 24 August 1876 during one of their inspections of the site Ref D-WA22/1.​

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