The Southend Waterworks

Company Timeline

1865 Messrs. Peto, Brassey & Betts, the famous firm of Railway Contractors build the Pumping Station Milton Rd and reservoir

in Scratton Rd and supply water to Cliff Town, Southend on Sea. A private undertaking operated the works until 1871.


These works transferred to the Southend Waterworks Company Ltd.

1879 The Company was incorporated as a statutory undertaking and the supply was extended to the surrounding villages.

1894 The Company becomes responsible for the water supply to Thundersley.

1907 The water undertakings of the Billericay Rural District Council and the Leigh Urban District Council.

1912 Construction of Vange reservoir at the Vange borehole site which became a major source of water to Southend before the

Langford River Works was operational.

1913 The Company becomes responsible for the water supply to the Rochford Rural District Council’s area.


Water was supplied locally by wells and boreholes. Area of supply now 200 sq miles bounded by River Crouch in the

north and River Thames to the south, westerly to outskirts of Shenfield. At first increase in demand were met by the sinking of

additional wells and boreholes in total 37 were spaced over the area of supply sunk below the London clay into the sands of

the Lower London Tertiary Deposits. Many borings were made a considerable distance into the chalk and exceeded 100 ft in

depth. The yields were generally poor and abstraction over the whole area resulted in gradual reductions in the initial yields. A

Bill was lodged in Parliament for the construction of Langford River Works near Maldon. Water supply is added to the Parishes

of Buttsbury and Fobbing.


Langford Treatment Works near Maldon was constructed and water was abstracted from the Rivers Chelmer, and later

Blackwater, treated then pumped into supply along a 28” diameter water main 20 miles long (later a 32” main was laid along

side to increase capacity) to a covered service reservoir at Oakwood Reservoir. In 1929 the works were completed pumping

additionally from the River Blackwater.

1939-45 During the war years the Company’s property was damaged by enemy action 89 times. On 59 occasions water mains

were damaged, pumping stations, reservoirs and towers were damaged on 24 occasions one pumping station being totally

destroyed. There was no loss of life among the staff.


The normal growth of the undertaking was at a standstill during the war but new demands were being made on the

Company’s resources with the advent of Basildon New Town and it was necessary to research and develop new sources.

Meanwhile electrically operated automatic submersible pumps were installed in the wells and boreholes and the sites were



Southend Waterworks Company in association with the South Essex Waterworks Company the Hanningfield Water Joint

Managing Committee was formed to design and construct the Hanningfield reservoir with its associated treatment works and

pumping stations supplying both companies.

1951 Construction of Hanningfield reservoir commenced.

1955 Hanningfield reservoir completed and took a further 200 days to fill.

1956 Hanningfield treatment works become operational.

1957 Official opening of Hanningfield reservoir and treatment works.

1959 The Company becomes responsible for the water supply to Langdon Hills.

1960 Work starts on Basildon reservoir. The Company becomes responsible for the water supply to Shoeburyness.

1965 Reconstruction of Oakwood reservoir.

1966 Reconstruction of Thundersley reservoir.

1968 Following the passing of the Water Resources Act 1963 the two companies together with the Essex River Authority

promoted and developed the Ely-Ouse-Essex scheme by which water from the Ely-Ouse river is pumped to the River Stour a

proportion of which is re pumped across to the River Blackwater and on to Hanningfield Reservoir.

1970/71 The Southend Waterworks Company, the South Essex Waterworks Company and the Hanningfield Joint Managing

Committee amalgamated together with six local authority undertakings (Chelmsford RDC, Chelmsford Corporation

Waterworks, Maldon RDC, Maldon Waterworks, Burnham on Crouch UDC and Witham UDC) formed the Essex Water

Company, Three divisions were formed, The Southend Division, The Mid Essex Division and The South Essex Division. A new

enlarged Langford treatment works was opened. First expansion of Hanningfield treatment plant.

1972 Ely-Ouse to Essex Transfer Scheme operational.

1980 Suffolk Water amalgamated and Essex & Suffolk Water was taken over by a French Bank.

1982 New Mid Essex Division Head Office opens at the old Marconi Factory in Chelmsford.

1983 Further expansion to Hanningfield treatment works.

1985 Modifications to Hanningfield administration block, staff move from Romford and Chelmsford offices as part of company


1986 Old Head office in Cambridge Road, Southend closes. All company laboratories centralised to Hanningfield site.

1988 Partnership with Lyonnaise des Eaux (Suez Group) who also acquired Suffolk Water Company.

1989 Privatisation of water industry. Suez Group acquired East Anglian Water.

1991 New purpose built laboratory constructed at Hanningfield.

1994 Further expansion to Hanningfield Treatment Works, Essex and Suffolk Water merge.

1995 Suez acquired Northumbrian Water.

1996 Further expansion completed to Hanningfield treatment works.

1998 More staff moved from Dagenham and Southend sites to Hanningfield offices.

2000 Under the ownership of Suez, Essex and Suffolk Water merged with Northumbrian Water.

2003 Suez sold Northumbrian Water to a consortium of British blue chip investors.

2004 Northumbrian Water became plc and floated on London stock market.

2011 The group were taken over by the Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings.

Sea of Change Southend-on-Sea

Abberton Reservoir
The History of a Seaside Town

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