Following the mid nineteenth century cholera outbreaks in Bilston (1832, 1849 and 1857), the provision of pure drinking water became a legal requirement (Public Health Act 1848). After an unsuccessful start by using water pumped from mines, Bilston allowed neighbouring Wolverhampton to supply its water, both domestically and to industry. However, following a legal dispute with Wolverhampton Corporation over the costs of water supply, the Bratch Pumping Station was built in 1895 by Bilston Urban District Council to ensure an independent supply. The best site for water extraction was recommended to be from the underlying Bunter sand beds in the Bratch area, near Wombourne, some 6 or 7 miles from Bilston.

The details of  
  · the method and costs of drilling for water,
· the extraction rates,
· the decision to build,
· the legislative process including petitions by aggrieved parties against the Parliamentary Bill,
· the construction and costs of the 3 ¼ mile long rising main and of the high level covered reservoir,
. together with boiler efficiency,
· coaling rates
· and the cost per gallon of supplying water
  are shown in minute detail in a report by the resident engineer, a transcript of which is held by The Friends.
The water pumping station was formally opened in 1897, using two engines, called Alexandra and Victoria. Victoria is now restored to full working condition.
For some 60 years, from 1897 to 1960, the twin vertical triple expansion steam engines pumped water through brick-lined wells from the Bunter sandstone about 160 feet below ground. It was then pumped to a purpose built reservoir some 3 ¾ miles away and 345 feet higher on the Wolverhampton/Bilston border whence it was distributed by gravity to Bilston. The total lift was therefore in the region of 505 feet. It was normal practice to run only one engine at a time, and each was capable of raising 1 million gallons (4464 tons) of water over any 20-hour period.
Steam pumping ceased in 1960, as electric pumps, backed up by emergency diesel engines, were introduced to continue the work.The elegant, ornate Italianate square section chimney stack was demolished around the same time. Water is still extracted from the site by Severn Trent and pumped along the same pipes to the Wolverhampton Reservoir at Goldthorn Hill.
Web design by Stephen and Mike Caddick © 2005 - 2006 content © Friends of the Bratch
This web-site has been funded by a generous grant from
The Wombourne Community Association.