In the tiny picture-postcard village of Lower Bradfield just outside Sheffield, an abandoned water works sits at the side of the road, overgrown and completely surrounded by unsightly Heras fencing. The water works was built in 1913 to filter and treat water taken from the Dale Dike, Strines and Agden reservoirs in the nearby Loxley Valley. In addition to treating the water, supply pressure was raised here with huge pumps before sending it on into Sheffield. The water works was cutting edge in it's time and it even had the first telephone to be installed in Bradfield back in 1930.

Clean, safe and seemingly limitless mains water running readily under pressure from a tap 24/7, is actually a relatively recent innovation in Great Britain - it was only in 1880 that Sheffield City Council assumed responsibility for the supply of water to the city whereas previously the public had relied on local wells, stream etc. - the provision of water was the individual's own responsibility until late in the Victorian era.

In the next big change in 1974 Yorkshire Water Authority took over supply from the city authority and then finally during the Thatcher government some years later, the entire UK water industry was privatised with the Water Act of 1989, and Sheffield began to be supplied by the newly created Yorkshire Water plc. In their hands modernisation of the system began and the pumping house at Lower Bradfield was abandoned in 1994 when a new pump house and processing plant was built elsewhere. Since that time the building has remained an eyesore in an otherwise beautiful village.

The entire site appears never to have been much more than walls and a roof, and in much of the machinery area there are not even concrete floors, just  a bed of coarse sand. A separate room is situated towards the front of the building where huge, blue painted, open topped, inspection tanks give the appearance of a primitive bath house. Here, workers checked the water quality and then added chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride.

The biggest open area within the building has a huge expanse of undecorated wall and inevitably that has attracted the attention of graffiti artists over the years. I am not normally a lover of the artistic efforts of your average chav - there is a limit to how many times I wish to see crude, testosterone fuelled, phallic representations crudely daubed by acne riddled wide boys; or witty and erudite one liners such as, "Daz sucks c*ck" etc. etc. etc...*yawn! This building however has attracted a totally different kind of artist, most of whom actually have at the very least a smattering of real talent and many of the paintings are actually quite remarkable works of art.

It's a shame then that the combination of damp and sunlight are causing massive and rapid deterioration, bringing much of the plaster "canvas" off the walls  - indeed, the beautiful girl's face painted in the corridor at the side of the main pumping hall has already lost a third of one side including an eye. If you wish to see what "she" used to look like before the plaster began to crumble then might I suggest you take a peek at Elle Dunne's highly individual and artistic photographic work. She visited the pump house in 2008 so it is interesting, and rather sad, to pick out the paintings that are gone now. Elle tends to work a lot in monochrome and captures some very dramatic images.


In May, 2012 we visited the water works again to see what had changed since our previous trip.

Here are our photographs from the two visits, we hope you enjoy them!


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 In the "Hall of Graffiti"

in September 2011...

   Our return visit in May, 2012...  
 Thanks for looking!



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