Safe and clean drinking water is currently supplied to the whole of North Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire and parts of Somerset, Bath & North East Somerset and Gloucestershire by Bristol Water.
Several prominent local citizens in Bristol formed a group in 1845, with the aim of supplying clean drinking water to Bristol. The city had suffered a cholera epidemic in 1832 and the disease was spread via contaminated water supplies. The Bristol Waterworks Company was established on 16th July 1846 by an Act of Parliament. The following year the first water flowed from Chewton Mendip via Barrow into Bristol. Bristol was hit by another cholera epidemic in 1849. The first of three reservoirs at Barrow was constructed in 1850. Later sand filters were added to treat the water.
In 1888 parliamentary permission was given for Blagdon Reservoir, which captures water draining off the Mendip Hills via the River Yeo. Work on the construction of the dam began in 1898 and the reservoir was filled to its top level for the first time in 1903. The associated pumping station was completed in 1905.
In 1888 Bristol Waterworks Company was also given permission to take water from the springs at Langford and Rickford. In around 1895 they built a ornate gauge house in the style of a Swiss chalet at Rickford to regulate the flow of water into the village brook and into an underground pipe, which flows into Blagdon Lake.
Springs at Cheddar were first tapped in 1922 and Cheddar Reservoir was built there in the 1930s. Bristol Waterworks Company began chlorinating its water in 1935. However until the 1940s or later many villages still relied on wells and springs for their water supply and communal pumps were a common sight. Although no longer in use, some of these have been preserved.
The construction of Chew Valley Lake was delayed by the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Work on it eventually began in 1950 and it was formally opened by the Queen in 1956.
Bristol Waterworks Company helped with the construction of the Clywedog Reservoir in Mid Wales in 1967. This reservoir regulates the flow of the River Severn. Over half the water supplied today by Bristol Water is extracted from the River Severn, via the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. Bristol Water’s treatment works at Purton and Littleton in Gloucestershire purify the water extracted from the River Severn. Other sources of water currently used by Bristol Water in North Somerset include a well at Clevedon, a spring at Banwell and boreholes at Winscombe.
In 1991 Bristol Waterworks Company changed its name to Bristol Water plc.
In Bleadon there are two cast iron parish pumps outside Well Cottage in Coronation Road. They were the main communal source of spring water for the villagers until mains water arrived in Bleadon in the 1940s. The higher pump was used to fill containers on carts while the lower one was used by pedestrians.
The Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association was set up in London in 1859 by Samuel Gurney (an MP and philanthropist) and Edward Thomas Wakefield (a barrister) to provide people with free drinking water. In 1867 the organisation changed its name to the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association to also support animal welfare.
Public drinking fountains were also sometimes provided by wealthy philanthropists or in memory of someone who had died. This was erected in memory of Edward Long Davis, who died in 1899. There is a quotation from the Bible carved into the side above the drinking fountain, which says “Many waters cannot quench love” (Song of Solomon). Users of the drinking fountain were instructed to “Keep the pavement dry”.
This colourful tiled drinking fountain for people and their dogs was donated by Mr T. Sheldon in 1895. It was restored in 1992.
This was the gift of George Thomas of Bristol in 1869