Colchester’s Balkerne Water Tower gets Historic England Grant

Historic England has awarded a £20,000 project development grant to support investigative works at the the Grade II* Balkerne Tower in Colchester, also known as the ‘Jumbo Tower’. It was built in 1882-3 by the local council to bring clean water to the Essex town, and was last used in 1984. It is currently on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.

The Balkerne, or Jumbo, Tower at Colchester. Image courtesy of Association for Industrial Archaeology.

At 34m (110 feet) it is the tallest and most complete municipal water tower in England and dominates the local landscape. It is built in the Romanesque Revival ‘Campanile’ style, a reference to the Roman remains within the town, t o a design by borough surveyor and engineer, Charles Clegg. The construction of this immense tower, with its four square piers and a central service pier containing a stairway, 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 project will be run by North Essex Heritage, formally known as Colchester and North East Essex Building Preservation Trust. They are working with other partners, including the building’s owner, towards preserving ‘Jumbo’ and bringing it back into sustainable use. Urgent repairs are needed to the cast-iron water tank which has developed cracks, whilst the roof is also leaking. The grant will be used for temporary roof repairs and test surveys of the tank.

Funding support from the Architectural Heritage Fund and Colchester Borough Council has also been given to the project. Further details can be found here:

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