Bob Courdery’s travails with mains water outages reminded me of a remarkable site I once went too and have passed a few times recently.
Coombe Conduit on Coombe Hill, Kingston-upon-Thames is part of a fresh water supply system built for Hampton Court Palace nearly 500 years ago. There are several springs on Coombe Hill (east of Kingston town centre, and about 3km from the Thames). C1540 the two brick buildings in the picture below were constructed, I think as cisterns for the spring water to regulate flow. They were connected below ground by lead pipe, which is just about visible if you look down into in the building, to Hampton Court Palace c. 5 km away. Not only does the pipe work cover a significant distance but it also crossed the Thames.
I was amazed when I first heard about this. I’d seen these old brick buildings when I used to beetle up to my older kids’ primary school across the road. Eventually I got around to having a look inside. I never knew that the Tudors had done anything of the sort, and my ignorant assumption was that there was a big gap in the history of water hygiene between the Romans and Victorians. Of course unlike the works of those two, Coombe Conduit was just for the benefit of the ‘quality’.
|North is to the right in this picture|