Sketch map showing water supply line Show image info

Sketch map showing the water supply south of Bath, 1740s Reference BC/7/1/6/10/1)

Records of public health infrastructure: Water supply 1570-1768

Bath City Council provided a piped water supply from at least the sixteenth century, first to the city centre and later to a far wider area. Early records are sparse, but occasional references can be found in the following:

Corporation [Council] Minutes. (Ref. BC/2/1/1)
These have survived from 1631, but until 1835 they are concerned mainly with the leasing of Corporation property and the appointment of Corporation members and officials. Other matters are mentioned from time to time, some of which relate to water supply – for example, the supply of water to individual properties - but researchers should be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time looking for relevant information Transcripts of the minutes up to 1834 are also available; these include transcripts for minutes 1613-1617, the original of which has not survived. (Ref. BC/2/1/2)

Chamberlains’ Accounts (Ref. BC/5)
These date back to the 1570s, and like the minutes include occasional entries on matters relating to the water supply. Again, a considerable amount of research is required to find relevant information.

Title Deeds
These occasionally contain references to water supply. The following have been identified:

  • Grant relating to a plot of land between the South Gate and the neighbouring ‘fontem’ (spring), in Latin, c.1230 (BC/6/2/1/3/34).
  • Lease of excess water from St James's pipe near the Southgate, 1673 (BC/6/2/3/500).
  • Lease of the waste water running from the common conduit called St James's Pipe near Southgate Street, 1703 (BC/6/2/3/1034).
  • Lease of the waste or overflow water of all conduits within the city except Saint James pipe, 1664 (BC/6/2/3/2317).

Other sources
As well as the City Council, private companies and individuals supplied water to small areas of the city. Most of the records relating to these date from the late eighteenth century, but the following relate to a slightly earlier period:

  • Correspondence between John Wood and the Garrard family concerning the water supply to The Circus, 1754-1771. Photocopies of originals, location of originals now unknown (PP/508).
  • Deeds of the Circus Waterworks Company, 1758-1873 (0091).
  • Deeds and papers relating to the ‘Rivers Waterworks’ (supplying The Circus, Gay Street, Queen Square), 1758-1887 (0810/6).
  • The papers relating to the acquisition of the Holloway / Magdalen Hill waterworks by the City Council in the mid-nineteenth century include a small number of items dating from the 1740s-1760s (BC/7/1/6/10).

Books and other published sources

C W Shickle The Early Water Supply of Bath, published by Bath City Council, 1917 (BC/7/1/1/93).
This is a good starting point for those studying the water supply in this period. The Reverend Shickle identifies a number of entries in the corporation minutes and the Chamberlains’ accounts.

John Wroughton, Tudor Bath, Life and Strife in the Little City, 1485-1603 (Bath, 2006). (PP/1357).
Chapter 6 deals briefly with public health.

Alan Hardiman, ‘Servicing the Houses of Bath 1714-1830: Water Supply’ in Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society Journal, 27, 1994. (PP1837/1)