History of the Cardiff Corporation
By JOSEPH LARKE WHEATLEY, Esq,
Town Clerk and Clerk of the Peace.
Like most towns in their infancy, Cardiff had to
depend upon public and private wells for the
supply of water. In the year 1841, when the
town was divided into two parishes only, i.e.,
St. John the Baptist and St. Mary, the population
was only 10,077, and the most important of the public wells was in
the centre of the thoroughfare now known as High Street, opposite
the premises which are now occupied by Lloyds Bank, Limited. The
water that supplied the wells was derived from the gravel beds which
extended under the greater part of the then town, particularly in a
westerly and northerly direction. In addition, water was obtained
from the Glamorganshire Canal and the River Taff.
The opening of the West Bute Dock in 1839 and the construction
of the Taff Vale Railway to supply that dock, did much to increase the
trade of the town and the population, so that the need of having a
proper and adequate water supply became most urgent.
Upon reference to the Statute Book for 1850, we find that a
Company secured Parliamentary sanction to construct works to supply
water to "the whole of the town and port of Cardiff and the parishes
or places within and adjoining to such town in the county of
After spending £20,000, the Company found that sum insufficient
for the purposes of the Act, so they again went to Parliament, and on
the 14th June, 1853, Royal Assent was given to an Act repealing the
Cardiff Waterworks Act 1850 and granting further powers for carrying
out the objects contemplated in the first instance.
The charges for water supply are governed by this Act and are
exceedingly reasonable, the supply for domestic purposes including
water for baths and water closets.
The works first constructed consisted of a pumping station at
Ely, three miles from the centre of the town, the water being taken
from the river into a depositing pool and roughly filtered. Later a
collecting culvert was constructed on the southern side of the river,
which was fed by springs and the water-bearing strata adjoining.
The water was then forced into a service reservoir at Penhill, Llandaff,
and gravitation mains were laid from thence to and through the streets
of the town and docks.
The construction of the Rhymney Railway in 1858, and the Bute
East Dock in 1859, shewed that Cardiff continued to make progress,
and in order more efficiently to meet the increased and increasing
demand for water the Company obtained in 1860 Parliamentary
authority for a gravitation scheme at Lisvane, four miles to the northeast of the town.
The scheme propounded by the Act of 1860, included a storeage
reservoir and filter beds at Lisvane with a catchment area of 2,200
acres, including the waters of the Llanishen, Nant Mawr, Nant Draw,
Nant Felin and Nant Dulas. Intakes were constructed on these
streams and the water conveyed therefrom in lines of conduit to the
The following additional works were constructed, viz:—
A low level service reservoir at Cogan, and a high level service
reservoir at Llandough, situate 170 feet above the level of Cogan
Reservoir, with pumping engines at the latter place for forcing the
water up to Llandough Reservoir, from whence it could flow by
gravitation to and for the supply of Penarth.
By the Act of 1860, the limits within which the Company could
supply water were extended, and included the following parishes and
places, to wit:— "The parishes of Saint John the Baptist, Cardiff;
Saint Mary, Cardiff; Roath, Lisvane, Llanishen, Lanedarn, otherwise
Lanedern, Whitchurch, Llandaff, Leckwith, Llandough, Cogan and
Penarth, and so much of the parishes of Michaelstone-le-pit and
Saint Andrews as lies on the eastern side of the Dinas Powis Brook, all
in the county of Glamorgan." The total area of supply being 26,787
In connection with the river Ely, the Company were prohibited
from taking therefrom more than three million gallons in any one day
of 24 hours.
The pumping well and collecting culvert at Ely and the reservoir
at Lisvane remained the only sources of water supply up to the year
In 1875 the Cardiff Corporation obtained Statutory authority to
purchase the Water Undertaking of the Company, but, being unable to
come to terms, nothing definite was done in this direction until the
year 1878, when the Waterworks Company again went to Parliament
for powers to make further works at Ely and Llanishen; the new
proposed works at Llanishen being designed partly to supply the outlying districts of Llandaff and Whitchurch as well as to provide
additional reservoir storage for supplying Cardiff.
At this time the Cardiff Corporation made another effort to
secure the Waterworks Undertaking, but again the negotiations were
of no avail, with the result that the Corporation decided to oppose the
Bill, and the grounds upon which the Corporation determined to do so
were: "that the new works were not designed on a sufficiently
comprehensive scale to meet future requirements."
On the eve of appearing before the House of Commons Committee
an agreement was entered into whereby the Company agreed to
transfer the Works to the Corporation for the sum of £300,000. This
sum was arrived at on a basis of 25 years' purchase of the net annual
revenue, which was shewn to be £12,000. The Corporation allowed
the Company to proceed with their Bill, agreeing at the same time to
pay the cost of the same and to take over the Company's Debenture
Bonds, amounting to £20,450.
In the year 1879, the Corporation obtained Parliamentary
authority to purchase the Undertaking and to borrow the sum of
On the 29th September, 1879, the Company's Undertaking came
into the possession of the Corporation, and on the 24th December,
1879, the Deed vesting the Undertaking in the Corporation was
It may be interesting to place on record the fact that in order
to complete the purchase on that day, the Town Clerk (Mr. J. L.
Wheatley) made arrangements with the Solicitors for the Cardiff
Waterworks Company to accept the purchase-money (£300,000) by
means of two cheques, one for £165,000, to be drawn upon the
National Provincial Bank of England, Limited, Cardiff Branch, and
the other for £135,000 upon the Brecon Old Bank, of which the late
Mr. Henry Jones Evans was then the Manager. (This Bank has been
within recent years absorbed by Lloyds Bank, Limited, who have built
a handsome structure upon the site formerly occupied by the Brecon
Two days previous to the time appointed for paying the purchase
money, the Solicitors for the Company objected to take the cheques,
although the banks had respectively undertaken to endorse each
cheque, that they had the moneys in hand, and were prepared to pay
these two amounts to the Company. The Town Clerk then said that
the purchase must be completed by the time named, and as the Company
had not adhered to the arrangement, he would cause the whole of the
money to be paid in gold. This was communicated to the Directors,
who became somewhat timid at the thought of counting such a vast
sum of money, and pressure was brought to bear upon the Town
Clerk by some members of the Corporation, who advised that some
other means should be taken to pay the purchase money, to which he
reluctantly agreed, with the result that each of the aboved-mentioned
banks requested the Bank of England to specially print two bank-notes
for the sums of £165,000 and £135,000.
The hour appointed for paying the money was three o'clock, at
the offices of the Old Waterworks Company, which were situate in
Charles Street, Cardiff; and when the following gentlemen, who had
been appointed by the Corporation to carry out the transaction on
their behalf, namely, the then Mayor (Alderman John McConnochie),
Alderman Daniel Jones, Alderman Henry Bowen, Councillor William
Sanders (afterwards Alderman Sanders, who was Mayor of Cardiff for
the year 1889-90), with the Town Clerk, attended at the National
Provincial Bank about two p.m. on that day, they received the
Bank of England note for £165,000, and subsequently proceeding
to the Brecon Old Bank, they were informed by Mr. H. J. Evans that
owing to the heavy delivery of letters all over the country the Bank of
England note for £135,000 had not reached him.
The deputation then told Mr. Evans that they could not leave the
Bank until they received it, and after waiting more than an hour the
Bank was closed, but the deputation still remained, and after the lapse
of another 30 minutes, the postman brought the letter containing the
Bank of England note, upon which the Deputation at once proceeded
to the offices of the Company and completed the purchase.
On the 12th January, 1880, the Corporation passed a special
resolution thanking these gentlemen for the valuable services they
had rendered to the Borough, in connection with the purchase of the
Undertaking of the Cardiff Waterworks Company, and for the highly
satisfactory manner in which they had negotiated the loans required
for paying the purchase money.
Mr. John Taylor, C.E., who acted as the Engineer of the Waterworks Company, and whose experience as one of the original promoters and directors of the Cardiff Waterworks Company was of
considerable value, was consulted as to an extension of the existing
works at Ely, and in a report, dated 23rd September, 1880, recommended an extension of the collecting culverts.
The Corporation had the advice and assistance of Mr. J. A. B.
Williams, M.Inst.C.E., &c. (who was appointed Borough Engineer of
Cardiff on the 14th August, 1876, and who resigned on the 11th June,
1883, on his being appointed Waterworks Engineer of the Corporation,
which latter appointment he held until his resignation on the 24th day
of June, 1895).
The Corporation proceeded with the construction of a new underground collecting culvert at Ely on the north side of the river "as the
easiest, quickest, and cheapest mode of increasing the water supply,
and as the best means of tiding over the difficulty of shortness of
supply until new works of a larger character could be constructed
elsewhere." These extensions cost £10,614, and resulted in a considerable increase in the quantity of water available at that source.
The yield was increased to 1,000,000 gallons per day in ordinary
seasons, and to about 900,000 gallons per day during the very dry
summers of 1884 and 1887, and was of great importance to the town.
In March, 1881, the Engineer (Mr. J. A. B. Williams) was
instructed to prepare a report on every source yielding an abundant
supply of water available for Cardiff and within a reasonable distance
Very exhaustive reports were presented to the Corporation in
May and August, 1881, by Mr. Williams, dealing with the different
sources within a considerable radius of Cardiff, and clearly showing
that the Taff Fawr or Brecon Beacons scheme on the Old Red Sandstone formation was the best source that could fulfil all the requirements as to quantity, quality, and other essential conditions for the
supply of the town and district for about 40 years. The Engineer
further recommended that the large storage reservoir at Llanishen,
authorised by the Cardiff Waterworks Act of 1878, should be constructed as large as possible within the limits of deviation, thereby
increasing its capacity from 140 to 300 million gallons, and that
it should be proceeded with at once, in order to utilise the surplus
water from the Lisvane Watershed during the construction of the Taff
Fawr Works, and thereby to avert a probable water famine, and that
on the completion of those works the reservoir should be used for
storing water from the Taff Fawr Valley.
The Council were much exercised as to the best scheme to adopt,
and in December, 1881, Mr. John F. Bateman, C.E., was asked to
advise on the various proposals which had been made for obtaining
further water, and in June, 1882, he presented a report recommending
the Taff Fawr scheme as being that which, on the whole, would meet
the present and future demands most effectually at the least cost.
Mr. Thomas Evans, now of Assam House, Taff's Well, was then
a member of the Cardiff Corporation, and was one of the first to
recognise and espouse the advantages of the Taff Fawr scheme. This
was mentioned by him at a meeting of the Corporation held on the
14th October, 1882.
The Waterworks Committee, after considerable discussion, decided
to construct the Llanishen Works first, and afterwards proceed with
the Taff Fawr Works. The wisdom of this became apparent in 1887,
when, in consequence of a severe drought, only 14 days' supply was
at one time in store.
The plans and the Bill for the Taff Fawr scheme were duly
deposited in November, 1883. Sixteen influential petitions were presented against the Bill, which occupied the attention of the House of
Commons Committee from 1st to 20th May, 1884, and cost the
Corporation £3,652, strenuous opposition being given by the riparian
owners, during which the greatest water engineers of that time,
Mr. John Frederick Bateman, C.E., Mr. Thomas Hawksley, C.E., Mr.
James Mansergh, C.E., Mr. George H. Hill, C.E., and Mr. J. A. B.
Williams, C.E., together with Mr. George James Symonds, F.R.S., an
eminent meteorologist, rendered conspicuous and able aid, and ultimately the proposed works were sanctioned.
By the Cardiff Corporation Act of 1884 (Part 2) the Corporation
were empowered to collect and impound a part of the waters of the
River Taff Fawr and its tributaries, the catchment area being 10,400
acres. This watershed was divided into two portions, viz., the "upper
area," containing 4,000 acres, and the "lower area," comprising 6,400
The idea of this partition was to enable the development of the
"upper area" to be carried out first, thereby reducing the initial
capital outlay, and also to allow of compensation water being given in
respect of the "upper area" (see section 10 of the Act of 1884),
which is equal to 331 cubic feet per minute, or practically three million
gallons per 24 hours throughout the year, instead of giving the compensation water at once in respect of the entire watershed of 10,400
acres, which would have been 861 cubic feet per minute or 7¾ million
gallons per 24 hours.
It was proposed to construct three storage reservoirs with a total
capacity of 1,220 million gallons, two of these being designed on the
"upper area" and the third at the foot of the "lower area." Also
three balancing reservoirs at Cefn, Blackbrook, and Rhubina respectively, on the line of the conduit, and a "high level" service reservoir,
with a set of filter beds, also at Rhubina, for the supply by gravitation
of Penarth, Llandaff, Whitchurch, Maindy, and Penylan. In addition
to the foregoing, there was a 24 to 29 inch aqueduct or conduit
connecting the storage reservoirs and passing down the valley of the
Taff through the towns and villages of Merthyr Tydfil, Troedyrhiw,
Merthyr Vale, Quaker's Yard, Navigation, Pontypridd, Treforest,
Taff's Well, and Tongwynlais to Rhubina, and from thence to the two
storage reservoirs at Lisvane and Llanishen, a total distance of 32
On the 7th August, 1884, the Act received the Royal Assent, and
no time was lost in commencing the first portion of the work, viz.,
No. 2 Storage (Cantreff) Reservoir, the three balancing reservoirs, the
aqueduct or conduit, and the high level service reservoir and filter
beds at Rhubina.
The construction of the aqueduct was entered upon in October,
1885, and completed in September, 1888. In December, 1887, the
three balancing reservoirs, together with the high level service reservoir and filters were commenced, and in November, 1888, were satisfactorily completed.
The Corporation were not, however, so fortunate as to get the
Cantreff (No. 2) Storage Reservoir expeditiously constructed, for
although this work was commenced in the spring of 1886, it was
not completed and opened for use until the 14th September, 1892, a
period of six years and six months. The delay was occasioned by
protracted and heavy litigation between the Corporation and the two
Contractors to whom the works were successively let, but on the 13th
June, 1891, the Corporation took possession of the works and completed the reservoir by their own men with gratifying results, under
the direction of their Waterworks Engineer (Mr. J. A. B. Williams).
The embankment of Cantreff Reservoir was formed at a point in
the valley immediately north of Nant Ddu, a shooting lodge belonging
to Lord Tredegar, where the valley is very narrow, the hills on each
side rising steeply.
The watershed above this reservoir has an area of 4,000 acres, and
consists almost entirely of mountain pasture, rising from an elevation
of 1,080 feet at the reservoir to 2,910 feet above ordnance datum at
the Brecon Beacons.
The Cantreff Reservoir was formally opened by the then mayor,
Alderman Thomas Rees, J.P., on the 14th September, 1892.
The height of the embankment from foundation to top is 120 feet,
height from bed of river 90 feet, and the greatest depth of water 73 feet.
The length of the lake is three-quarters of a mile, and its capacity
323 million gallons.
The maximum carrying capacity of the conduit or aqueduct
between the Taff Fawr Reservoirs and Cardiff, the water being taken
direct to Llanishen Reservoir, is 12 million gallons per day, but
when the water is taken through Rhubina Reservoir the maximum
carrying capacity does not exceed 10 million gallons per day.
In the month of April, 1893, the construction of No. 1 (Beacons)
Reservoir was started by the Corporation, who prudently decided not
to employ a Contractor.
When the design for this reservoir was being matured, the
Waterworks Engineer (Mr. J. A. B. Williams) found that the capacity
authorised by the 1884 Act could be more than doubled by placing
the embankment a little higher up the valley and this was also found
to be necessary to secure a solid watertight rock foundation.
Accordingly, by the Cardiff Corporation Act, 1894, the Corporation obtained the requisite power for that purpose, and on the 30th
September, 1897, the Beacons Reservoir was opened by the present
Chairman of the Waterworks Committee (Alderman David Jones, J.P.).
At the present time (February, 1905) the Corporation have not
commenced the construction of No. 3 Reservoir (although the lands
have been acquired), the lowest of the series of reservoirs authorised
by the 1884 Act, but when it is constructed, Cardiff will have a further
daily supply of three million gallons, making a total daily quantity of
10,500,000 gallons in ordinary dry seasons derived from the Taff
Fawr Valley, sufficient for a population of 420,000 at 25 gallons
per head per day.
When this reservoir is completed, the Corporation must give
further compensation water to the river of 4¾ million gallons per
If needs be, another storage reservoir could be constructed between
the Cantreff Reservoir and proposed Reservoir No. 3, which would
very considerably augment one of the finest supplies of water both as
to quantity and quality in the Kingdom.
The land acquired by the Corporation for the construction of No.
3 Reservoir amounts to about 280 acres. During the year 1902 the
Corporation were considering the desirability of making this reservoir
larger than was originally intended, and of purchasing about 25 acres
more land, so that it should have a capacity of 900,000,000 gallons
instead of 670,000,000, as designed in the Parliamentary Plans
authorised by the 1884 Act, in order to devote the waters of
the Cantreff and Beacons Reservoirs entirely to town supply, and to
make No. 3 Reservoir large enough so as to ensure the delivery of
the full quantity of the compensation water due to the entire drainage
area of 10,400 acres, which is nearly 7,750,000 gallons per day over
the longest drought.
In the year 1895 the Corporation instructed Mr. J. A. B. Williams
to prepare plans and references shewing the whole of the reservoirs,
lands and other property belonging to the Corporation in use, for the
purposes of their Undertaking. These plans were completed, and
have since been kept up to date as further purchases of land have
been made and works constructed. They have been placed among
the Records of the Corporation.
The High Level Service Reservoir and Water Tower at Penylan
for the supply of the outlying districts of Rumney and St. Mellons, in
addition to Penylan district and other high parts of the town, three
additional filter beds at the "Heath," and large extensions of mains in
the district of supply, have been constructed under the supervision of
Mr. C. H. Priestley, M.Inst.C.E., who was appointed Waterworks
Engineer to the Corporation on the 24th June, 1895.
By the Local Government Board's Provisional Orders (No. 11)
Act, 1902, the water limits were extended so as to include the Parish
of St. Fagans, and the Corporation, with the sanction of the Local
Government Board, were empowered to borrow such sums as might
be necessary for purposes of their Waterworks Undertaking, in addition to the monies authorised to be borrowed for those purposes by
their Acts of 1879, 1884 and 1894.
Money is now being borrowed for carrying out extensions to the
Waterworks at Rhubina, Cogan, and the "Heath"; also a service
reservoir at Leckwith, bye-pass main from Taff Fawr Conduit near
Llanishen Viaduct to the "Heath" Filters, relaying of the town mains
and extensions thereof, duplicate supply for sanitary purposes, and
other small extensions, the total estimated cost of these works being
£98,000. Several of the reservoirs and extensions are now complete
and others are being carried out.
The following table shews the existing reservoirs and works of
the Corporation in 1904:—
Reservoirs and Works in Operation.
||Top Water Area.
|| Taff Fawr
|Supply Conduit from Cantreff Reservoir to Llanishen
Reservoir (32 miles)
|Cefn Balancing Reservoir "en route"
|Blackbrook Balancing Reservoir "en route"
|Rhubina.—One open and two covered Service Reservoirs
and five Filter Beds for "High Level Supply"
|Heath. Filter Beds.—Six Filter Beds capable of filter-ing six million gallons per day. One covered ServiceReservoir containing
|Cogan Pumping Station.—Three Engines, two Boilers,for High Level for Penarth District.
Works in Reserve.
Ely Pumping Station.—Two Collecting Culverts and
Wells, two Engines, two Boilers.
Average yield per day, 1,000,000 gallons.
The aggregate population supplied with water at present is
205,000, and the consumption of water for all purposes during the
summer of 1904 has been at the rate of about 26 gallons per head
The water now available from the two storage reservoirs in the
Taff Fawr Valley (after giving 3,000,000 gallons per day for compensation to the river) and the two storage reservoirs at Llanishen and
Lisvane, is nearly seven million gallons per day in very dry years of
120 days' drought.
The expenditure hitherto incurred (31st March, 1904) on these
works amount to £1,264,374, but notwithstanding this fact, the cost
to the town up to the end of 1890 was nothing.
Since then, however, certain grants of money have been made
from the rates in aid of the expenditure, as follows:—
Year ending 31st March, 1891
One penny in the £ upon the net rateable value for District Rate
purposes of Cardiff produces about £4,076.
All the districts around Cardiff look to the Cardiff Corporation to
supply them with water, and the local governing bodies are thereby
relieved of the great responsibility resting upon public authorities in
respect thereof, the whole burden, as well as the cost and risk, falling
upon the Cardiff Council.
In consequence of the increase of the population of Cardiff and
surrounding districts, the Corporation have been obliged, as has been
shewn, to take great precautions to ensure an adequate supply for
many years. To do this has been a considerable task, entailing the
preparation of exhaustive reports and the making of numerous
Grave consideration has also been given to such a question as the
quality of water, with the result that with the construction of the
reservoirs and works in the Taff Fawr Valley, the districts surrounding
Cardiff, as well as the borough itself, are provided with water of the
purest quality in abundance by the Cardiff Corporation.
Since the Corporation acquired the undertaking of the Waterworks Company, the following gentlemen have held the responsible
position of Chairman of the Waterworks Committee:—
Date of Appointment.
23rd December, 1879.—Alderman Daniel Jones, J.P., who was Mayor
of Cardiff during the years 1874 and 1875,
and who died on the 26th day of October,
11th November, 1881.—Councillor (now Sir) Alfred Thomas, Mayor
of Cardiff 1881-2, who is the Member of
Parliament for East Glamorgan.
11th November, 1886.—Alderman David Jones, J.P., the present
chairman, who was Mayor of Cardiff for
the year ending 9th November, 1888-9.
1st February, 1905.
OLD COTTAGE AT PHILOG