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Crystal Palace Water Towers

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1856 'THE GREAT WATER TOWERS AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE. As the whole of the water system designed for the Crystal Palace is now completed, and ready to be brought into action, it will be interesting to the reader if some particulars are given of these water-displays will be carried out. The directors were anxious that this branch of their attraction should be unrivalled, and that the glories of Versailles should pale before those of Sydenham. The idea was a bold one, and deserved success; and, to do the directors justice, they have spared no exertions and no outlay to endeavour to accomplish the object. Among other things it was resolved to have jets of water thrown to the height of not less than 250 feet, and the great desideratum was to obtain some head of water of sufficient altitude to ensure such a result. The water for the whole of the fountains could not be obtained from any existing supply and the company was therefore compelled to sink a large well in the lowest part of the ground for the purpose of obtaining the requisite quantity. But in this position the well was in the most unfavourable spot for the use of the fountains, and artificial means were therefore required to be resorted to in order to make it available. In the first place the water from the well has to be pumped into the large reservoir formed by the lake at the bottoms of the garden, which is inhabited by the antediluvian animals. From thence the water is forced up by powerful engines into an intermediate reservoir, about midway between the lake and the palace, and on the north side of the grounds. From this spot, again, other engines send it into the large brick reservoir, holding more than two millions of gallons, on a level with the palace, and situated at its north end. The water has not, however, yet arrived at the end of its forced journeys. It is next pumped into large iron tanks; thence it is distributed to the fountains in the upper terrace. From the commencement of June, however, another step will be taken, and the water will have to be forced up from the brick reservoir to the top of the water towers, a height of 238 feet, for the purpose of supplying the large fountains of the lower basins, which have not yet been brought into play.
These towers deserve to rank among the most extraordinary engineering works of the present day, and some idea of their strength and magnitude may be obtained from the fact that they will each — for there are two of them — have to support, at a height of 238 feet above the ground, a body of water equal in weight to not less than 2,000 tons - that this vast mass of fluid will not be in a quiescent state, but will be constantly in motion, caused by the entry mto the huge tank of the supply, and the rushing out of the waters into the lower basins. The first attempt to construct the water towers was a failure, and involved great loss to the company; for when nearly completed it was found that they were insecure, and would neither carry the weight intended for them nor sustain the vibratory shock of the ascending and descending water. They were accordingly pulled down, and an attempt was made to obtain the necessary elevation by placing large tanks on the top of each wing of the building. The tank was constructed, and the water was in the course of being supplied, but scarcely had five hundred tons of water been poured in when the glass of the buildings below began to crack, and ominous sounds of creaking rafters and bending girders warned the by-standers to make a precipitate retreat; and to put an end to further proceedings, the water was withdrawn, the tanks were taken down, and a few days since an announcement in the newspapers informed the public that they were for sale. Finally the plans for the present towers were decided upon, the works of which are now just completed. The towers are polygonal in their constructbn, and are 46 feet in diameter from centre to centre of the columns. They are constructed, to a great extent, upon the same plan as the Crystal Palace, viz., of a series of cast iron columns aud girders, and the whole of the height is divided into tiers or galleries, each of which, to the uppermost one, may be reached by a winding staircase. The total height of the towers, from the first floor or tier to the top of the chimney cap, is 279 feet, being 57 feet more than the entire height of the monument of the fire of London, 107 foet higher than the Nelson Column in Trafalgar-square, and 155 feet above that of the Duke of York, in Carlton-place. It is hardly necessary to say that, from the summit of these lofty towers, a most extensive view may be obtained of the surrounding country, and on a clear day, and with the aid of a good glass, some portions of the Channel may be distinctly seen. The foundation of each tower is composed of a ring of Portland cement concrete, the dimensions of which are — outside diameter, 58 feet; width of the ring, 11 feet ; depth, 3 feet. On this foundation are erected 780 cubic yards of brickwork, also in Portland cement. This cylinder of brickwork is 18 feet in height, with an average thickness of 7 feet, carrying the entire structure of outer base plates, columns, face-panels, tanks, balcony floors, and roof. The diameter of each tower, from centre to centre of the columns, is 46 feet. There are eleven stories in each tower, the height between the floors being 20 feet. Winding round the chimney shaft is a spiral staircase of iron and wood, containing 4?4 steps. As a means of additional stability each tower ontains ten diaphragms of wrought iron, 5 feet wide, weighing about six tons. These diaphragms are all fixed between the columns and connecting pieces, and are tied together by iron rods 1 3/4-inch in diameter and 32 feet in length. There are 10 tiers, each tier 20 feet high, making the height of the balcony-floor round the outside of the tanlk from the first floor, 200 feet. The tanks are 38 feet deep and 47 feet in diameter. Each tank, when full of water, contains 448,000 imperial gallons, or about 2,000 tons. Mains connected with the water-towers are laid in the palace itself, which, in case of fire, could throw a jet of water to the top of the centre transept. When finished, the tower, will be decorated similar to the palace, in blue and white. Mr. I. K. Brunel was the engineer, and Mr. J. P. Ashton, of the firm of Fox, Henderson and Co., the contractors, superintended the erection of the towers.'[1]


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Sources of Information

  1. Huddersfield Chronicle, 7 June 1856