The Water Tower, Reading
Lost Tower that dominated Victorian Reading

The old water tower in Reading used to stand next to St. Giles' Mill on the banks of the mill water that ran alongside the Kennet where the Oracle Shopping Complex is now. The site is more or less in the centre of the Riverside Car Park Building. The photographer is standing in Mill Lane just in front of the mill that spanned the water. He is looking north-west towards the water pumping buildings just below the tower. They could handle 250,000 gallons of water a day. Beyond, the brick house is part of Baynes & Beardís timber yard. Mill Lane itself is what we now call Yield Hall Lane running beneath the car park building. The modern Mill Lane has moved southward somewhat; and what we now call Yield Hall Place was the original Yield Hall Lane.

The 1,000 year lease of Minster and St. Giles' Mills was purchased by William May, in 1790. He was the miller of Burghfield Mill and lived at Moatlands Farm there. Nine years later, he sold the lease to his brother, Thomas, the miller of Brimpton Mill. Thomas was sixty-one and was buying up property to pass on to his many sons. The two Reading mills were allocated to the youngest ones, John and William, and they inherited the following year. The two of them lived in Castle Street, John with a family of four. In 1820, the brothers sub-leased the western part of their land to the Reading Waterworks and there the water tower was built soon afterward for the 'improvement and more effectual supply of water to the inhabitants of Reading'. There were about 13,000 of them at the time. A steam engine was installed to pump the water in 1836, but the water pressure and quality both proved rather poor and a damming report on public health in the borough in 1850 led to the water company being purchased by the Corporation eighteen years later. The water tower was decommissioned and a new one built at Calcot, although the steam engine at St. Giles did continue operating until 1877. The Reading Water Tower was finally demolished in 1901.

The Water Tower no longer stands. This article first appeared as a post on our Royal Berkshire History + Face Book Page

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