02 Sep Historic England awards funding for investigations to Colchester water tower
Historic England has awarded a project development grant of £20,000 to support investigative works to the Balkerne (‘Jumbo’) Water Tower in Colchester, Essex.
The Grade II* listed municipal water tower, dated 1882 and opened in 1883, brought a reliable source of clean water to the local population for the first time and remained in operation until 1984.
It has now stood empty and unused for over 35 years and the condition of the tower has significantly deteriorated, leading it to be placed on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register. Of particular concern is the cast iron water tank, which is showing signs of cracking, and roof leaks causing timber decay.
Project development grant funding from Historic England will enable digital and structural surveys, test repairs to the cast iron tank and essential temporary roof repairs.
Tony Calladine, Regional Director, Historic England (East of England) said: “The ‘Jumbo’ Water Tower is a significant and much-loved local landmark in Colchester. As the tallest and most intact municipal water tower in England, it is a nationally important heritage site. We’re pleased to support the project development phase for the building, enabling urgent temporary repairs and the first steps towards a long-term sustainable future for this remarkable structure.”
North Essex Heritage, formally known as Colchester and North East Essex Building Preservation Trust, is working with partners including the building’s owner, towards preserving ‘Jumbo’ and bringing it back into sustainable use. Funding support from the Architectural Heritage Fund and Colchester Borough Council has also been given for this project.
Simon Hall MBE, Chairman of North Essex Heritage, said: “This is an important step in understanding the reasons behind the movement within the tank and the implications for the building’s future. We are delighted and very grateful to have the support from our funders, who recognise the national importance of Jumbo and the need for investment in its future. It is essential we are able to obtain grants and have continued support from local authorities to secure Jumbo’s renaissance. It’s difficult to imagine a more important project to save an iconic heritage asset.”
Standing at 110 feet, ‘Jumbo’ is the tallest and most intact municipal water tower in England. A much-loved major landmark in Colchester, it dominates the townscape and is visible across local landscape views.
The construction of this immense tower required approximately 1.25 million bricks and 142 tons of iron to support the cast iron tank that can hold up to 230,000 gallons of water. The tower is built in Romanesque Revival ‘Campanile’ style, referencing the Grade I Roman ruins that lie at its feet.