Powys Digital History Project

The Elan Valley dams
The aqueduct

  'A great and useful scheme'
The work carried carried out over a hundred years ago to build the Elan Valley dams and reservoirs was only part of the huge undertaking. Almost as impressive was the challenge of delivering the enormous quantities of water by gravity alone, across very hilly country and over many river valleys, to a new reservoir on the outskirts of Birmingham in the English midlands.
This involved building a 73 mile long aqueduct down which the water travels at less than 2 miles per hour, taking one and a half days to get to Birmingham.

of the syphon
crossing the
River Wye,
February 1897

By kind permission
of Radnorshire
Llandrindod Wells

Lowering pipeline section,1897Construction of the main dams project was handled directly by Birmingham Corporation, but work on the aqueduct was put out in allotted sections to outside contractors.
Work on the first 13 miles of the route from the Elan Valley was started in June 1896.
This extract and the
early photographs
on page 2 of this
sequence are from
"The Future Water
Supply of Birmingham"
by Thomas Barclay,
published in 1898.

James Mansergh, the remarkable engineer who was the driving force behind the whole project wrote wryly in 1894 about the business of first securing the route of the aqueduct from the many landowners involved :
"To the construction of the line of aqueduct from the Elan to Birmingham there was no serious opposition, landowners being well enough aware nowadays that they have little chance to stop a great and useful scheme of this character, and that their prudent policy is to acquiesce, with the chance of bleeding the promoters heavily for interfering with their property. Experience is showing that in this process they are perhaps more than fairly proficient".

There are 3 pages on the Elan Valley aqueduct. Use the box links below to view the other pages.

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