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Alfred Street School - 1962
Visit to Sywell: 4 accounts

An account of our visit to Sywell by P Bailey
We clambered aboard our bus and settled down in our seats, the busy hum of conversation in our ears, but most of us at first were trying to secure a seat by the windows. However, we settled down and began to chatter, or look out of the windows, as we felt disposed. We saw Wellingborough High School, with many girls strolling in the grounds, most of them wearing gaily coloured dresses. I sat and talked for a while and when I again looked through the windows, we were passing through open country. We swung off down a narrow lane and soon we stopped. We had arrived. We walked down a pleasant drive and the sun shone down as if to welcome us. Mr. Elliot showed us round. First we climbed a tremendous amount of steps in the embankment, and sparkling in the sun lay the reservoir. The surface area is ten acres approximately. It is about forty feet deep. Mr. Elliot then took us to the control tower. Looking through one of the many windows we saw a pike. Mr. Elliot told us the reservoir held about 230 million gallons. The water level was at that time roughly four feet from overflow, which eventually leads back to one of the brooks which help to supply the reservoir. We then walked to the overflow channel and Mr. Elliot told us that the reservoir and water works were built in 1901. When we reached the overflow channel we were invited to go along the channel and see if we could explain why the channel was shaped in large steps. When we returned several explanations were offered, but Mr. Elliot had to explain in the end and he told us it was to reduce the speed of the water. He then took us to the filters. The water passes through various media, starting with quite large pebbles, then smaller pebbles, then large gravel and lastly small gravel. We went up a small ladder to a kind of gallery and Mr. Elliot showed us how they controlled the rapid gravity filters. (The Control Tower controls the amount of water sent to the filters.) Someone asked Mr. Elliot how much the entire works had cost and after a momentary hesitation, he replied "About £20,000." After passing through the rapid gravity filters, the water goes to a collecting tank and I was surprised to see how much cleaner the water seemed to be. When we descended the small ladder and walked over to it. After the collecting tank, the water goes to the slow sand filters, which we passed on our way to the reservoir. Mr. Elliot showed us some algae on the bottom. (Algae is a kind of green scum that forms on the bottom providing light gets to the water.) After the slow sand filters, the water is kept in constant darkness so that algae cannot form. Mr. Elliot lifted a lid from over the water and we all went to have a look. But still the water is not thoroughly purified. It still has to be chlorinated, and, as the chlorine uses up the oxygen in the water, it has to have ammonia added. We then went to the pump-house, where there were rows of pipes and machinery, apparently for pumping the water to various places and for ammoniating and chlorinating the water. Then, after being requested to be very quiet, we all crowded into a small room and formed a tight semi-circle around Mr. Elliot and he explained that if they (the waterworks) wished to know how many feet of water there were in a place, they rang a certain number on the telephone and instead of a person's voice, they heard a number of buzzes, one buzz standing for six inches of water. But now it was time to return and we climbed back into our coach feeling very tired. It was not long before we again swung out of the narrow road and I nearly went to sleep, but I was fully awake when we stopped, and I was soon back at home, telling my mother about our afternoon.
An account of our visit to Sywell by T Jones
We boarded the bus at about 1-30p.m. outside our school. It was a single-decker United Counties bus. We went down the High Street, along the Hayway to Wellingborough, where by the River Nene floodwater opposite the embankment, we saw a swan's nest. We passed the High School, where we saw the girls playing tennis and turned left at the traffic lights into Broadway, which we followed until we again joined the A45. Passing the outer fringe of Wellingborough, we saw various cars parked on the grass verge. We passed through the twisting streets of Wilby and came on to the dual-carriageway, where the coach travelled at about 35 m.p.h. along the three lane traffic way. We passed a large garage and then turned right into the small narrow Sywell road. We travelled along this picturesque lane until we came to a left hand turning into which we turned, and then, after about 300 yards, we stopped outside the waterworks. We were met at the gate by Mr. Elliot, the man in charge of the water-works. We walked along a path which was bathed in bright sunlight. After a short walk, during which we passed the slow sand filters, we mounted the flight of steps to the dam, which stretches for 350 yards across the mouth of the reservoir. At one place, there is a bulge in the wall. This is where it had to be strengthened during the course of the building, because it caved in. The reservoir was started in 1901. The catchment area is 1700 acres, the reservoir 70 acres, the maximum depth 40 feet and the capacity was 250,000,000 gallons, but now, after 60 years of use, it is nearer 230,000,000 gallons. Water is fed into the reservoir by two brooks, the Mears Ashby and the Sywell. Jutting out into the water was a control tower or wet tower. We walked into this tower, amazed by the number of fishes that we could see through the windows. The valves in the tower control the water to the rapid gravity filters. These valves collect the water from the different depths of the reservoir. We then ran along to the mouth of the overflow which is there in case the water rises above normal water level. There are steps in the overflow to reduce the speed and the wear of the water. We then walked to the rapid gravity filters. We had to mount a ladder to the balcony. We saw the method of cleaning the filters and then, after descending we went and looked at a collecting tank (10,000 gallons). We saw a workman named Joe cleaning some dirty sand from the filters. We then saw the three slow sand filters (110,000 gallons each). From there the water goes to a collection tank which is covered to prevent light from getting in and prevent algae from forming. Next the water goes to a suction well. We walked to the pump house where the water goes from the suction well. We saw some charts and then, by a method, we found out how much water was in Bedford Road Water Tower. We did this by counting a number of buzzes, each representing six inches of water, which cane over the telephone. We then boarded the 'bus and began the journey home. As we passed the Wellingborough School, we saw the boys playing cricket. We were held up at the London Road Station because the level crossing gates were closed. The number of the engine, which was pulling the train, was 41218. We then restarted our journey and returned to school at about 4-15p.m.
An account of our Visit to Sywell by M Hughes
One afternoon on May 8th we went on a trip to Sywell Waterworks. On our way there, I was lucky to see a swan's nest opposite the Wellingborough Embankment. After this, we travelled as if to Northampton, but turned off a half mile after Wilby. At last we turned into a very narrow road, but made a mistake and turned towards the employee's houses. Luckily we were directed to the proper waterworks by a woman. At the gate we met Mr. Anker, our Guide for the afternoon. After saying "hello" to us he told us to race up to the reservoir. It was very tiring and there must have been at least 45 steps. When I reached the top I uttered a gasp of amazement at the biggest amount of water I have ever seen inland. Our guide told us some of the facts about the reservoir; for instance, it was built in 1901 and it holds 236,000,000 gallons of water. It covers 68 acres and is 47½ feet at its deepest part. Our guide also told us about the catchment area. "This" he said "is where the water is caught". By this he meant that when it rains the water is drained into Sywell reservoir. After viewing it for a few minutes, Mr. Anker told us we could go along to the control tower in the water. We had to walk along a black plank. It made a terrible noise when we walked across it. He told us that there was a pipe attached under the tower to the reservoir. There were ten valves inside the tower - one was called the washout. Mr. Anker also told us that every eighteen feet there is a valve. I noticed out of the window two swans were on the reservoir. When we came out Mr. Anker told us that we were standing on something called a Claypuddle dyke. He explained that when they first started to build the reservoir, they dug a trench fifteen feet wide, put in some clay, wetted it and put stones on each side. After this I, and some others, ran on to the Bywash Channel, leaving the others behind talking to Mr. Anker and Mr. Hughes. The Bywash Channel was a lot of massive steps where the water flowed down. Unluckily, it was dried up when we went. He said also "the purpose of these was to slow the flow of water, because if it were flowing straight, it would punch a hole in the concrete." After jumping down a few of the steps we stepped out. Mr. Anker told us to run to the filter building. This is where the water is cleaned. This is done by sending the water through a process of sand and gravel. This sand can only be found at Leighton Buzzard. The filter was called a "Rapid Gravity" filter. As a special treat, Mr. King operated the filter for us, but before he did this I noticed grey slime around the tanks and also a dead fish on the edge. To operate the filter Mr. King had to turn on two machines called a compressor and a pump. The compressor compresses the air and the pumps pump the water. When he turned them on, the water in the tank went down very quickly, but five minutes afterwards it began to bubble. It did this for a long time. After this, Mr. Anker showed us the sand in which he cleaned the water. He showed us three jars of gravel and sand and the gravel was extraordinarily large. We then had to go down a flight of steps, or a ladder into the field outside. Mr. Anker then took us to four pools, one round and the others square. The bottom of these pools were covered in algae. This is a kind of green slime. The tank was called a First Open Clear Water Tank; the other three were called Slow Sand Filters. Mr. Anker then led us towards an open clear water tank. After telling us a few things about this, we walked away to a black covered tank dug into the ground. When he opened it up, we saw how clean the water was now; quite a change from the water in the reservoir. "Next" said Mr. Anker "we will go to the pumping station." The pumping station was a building by which two machines were housed, excluding the pressure gauge and the Water Consumption Recorder. This was a machine with a graph inside it. An automatic red pen recorded the amount of water used by Rushden and Higham Ferrers per head. At the time of our visit it was 23.8g. per person. Finally we crossed over to the two pumps. Mr. Anker told us that one pump pumps 20,000 gallons per hour. He told us also that there were two blue cabinets called an ammoniator and a clorinator. After this we went inside another building full of gardening equipment: also a telephone. This was used to determine the depth of Bedford Road Reservoir. To do this Mr. Anker dialled the number 8863436. After a momentary silence, there came 16 consecutive pips, each pip stood for 6 inches of water, therefore there was 8 feet of water in the tank. Finally we boarded the bus to take us home to Rushden. In Wellingborough, we saw a lot of senior schoolgirls and boys dressed in their winter uniform. Then past the Wellingborough Embankment and on to Rushden Alfred Street where some boys met us. I think it was worth the shilling we paid for a most enjoyable visit to Sywell Waterworks.
An account of our visit to Sywell by James Billett
As I mounted the United Counties Bus, wonder filled me, for I had never seen the water-works before and my mind bombarded me with - what would it look like? Is it large or not? Opposite the Embankment at Wellingborough, where flood-water was, we saw a swan's nest. A little further on we turned left at Broadway and we saw High School girls playing tennis. When we arrived at Sywell we turned left down a narrow winding lane for about 300 yards, where Mr. Hughes asked a lady, who had come out to meet us, the way. She told us that it was a little farther down the hill, so we walked to the water-works. Mr. Anker, who is Rushden's Surveyor and Engineer, told us that we would start at the reservoir and we could run there and see who was first to reach it. We ran up a lot of steps, which was the dam to the top. The dam is approximately 70 feet high. When Mr. Anker and Mr. Hughes arrived, Mr. Anker told us that the land around the reservoir is called the catchment area because the water runs down hills into the reservoir and the Sywell and Mears Ashby streams which feed the reservoir. The reservoir holds 236,000,000 gallons of water and the surface measures 70 acres, but at the new water works at Ditchford, the reservoir is fifteen times larger. We then went into the wash-out tower, which stands just inside the reservoir. It houses the valves which let water out at different levels into the tunnel which takes it into the Rapid Gravity Filter Building. Mr. Anker told us to run or walk along the dam to the overflow channel, which empties the water which comes over the top. In the overflow channel, it is like large steps with cushions (puddles) at the beginning, so that when the water rushes down the channel, the water cushions stop the water washing the steps away. We walked through long grass and passed the sand cleaner, before we arrived at the Rapid Gravity Filter, which cleans the water by mixing it with small pebbles, smaller ones, gravel and sand. Each layer has 1’ 3". Mr. Anker fetched Mr. King, who operates the Rapid Gravity Filter, to show us how it works. He let some of us empty a tank and clean it. At the bottom of the tank: there were some small fish but Mr. Anker said it was mostly coarse fishing in the reservoir. The sand used at Sywell and every waterworks in the Country comes from Leighton Buzzard, because it is the cleanest. We then went to the slow sand filter which gets out the finer dirt left behind by the Rapid Gravity Filter. The slow sand filters are in three tanks, each holding 110,000 gallons. The water then goes into the final clear water tank, which is covered, because if the sun gets on it, it goes green and the water gets a brackish taste. The water then goes by pipe to the pumping station. At the pumping station chlorine is inserted to stop algae forming, but chlorine uses a lot of oxygen, so a small quantity of ammonia is put in to stop the chlorine being greedy and using up too much oxygen. There are two pumps at Sywell, one capable or pumping 22,000 gallons per hour, the other 38,000. Mr. Anker showed us how, by telephone, he could find out how deep Bedford Road Reservoir was, by dialling a number. As many bleeps would follow, each bleep was six inches. The depth was then eight feet. It was then time to go home. On the way back I saw my friends coming out of the Grammar School and we arrived home at 4-15.

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of a teacher or of the trip, we'd be pleased to hear from you.

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