When we think of the water supply provided to the region, the mighty Kielder Water springs instantly to mind. However, a number of other reservoirs form part of the intricate network of watery connections that keep the North-East quenched – with three of the most important crowded into a few square miles of the Northumbrian countryside about eight miles north of Hexham.
Colt Crag, Little Swinburne and Hallington Reservoirs were all built a long time before the 1970s creation that is Kielder Water, being completed, as they were, in 1871 (East Hallington), 1884 (Colt Crag), 1886 (Little Swinburne) and 1889 (West Hallington). Their construction finally brought to an end centuries of struggle to feed an ever-thirsty Tyneside, all but banishing the threat, finally, of typhus – to say nothing of the needs of fire-fighting. Prior to this, glorified ponds on the Town Moor, Arthur’s Hill and at Carr Hill,
manfully against the booming populations either side of the Tyne.
Between the ‘heyday’ of the aforementioned ‘ponds’ and the new complex of 1871-89, Whittle Dene Reservoirs (completed 1848), a little to the SE, carried the responsibility of water supply for the area. And, when it was ready, the Hallington/Swinburne/Colt Crag supply was bolted onto the Whittle Dene system before being piped to
and Gateshead. The network was further
extended in 1904 when Catcleugh Reservoir near the Scottish border was brought
into use. And then, seventy years later, there was Kielder.
The really quite amazing (and largely hidden) system of tunnels, pipes and aqueducts that connect these large expanses of fresh water both to each other and their points of service was the result of the work of the Newcastle and Gateshead Water Company… and is one of the hidden wonders of the Great North-East.