Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: August 02, 2018
Webpage updated: August 10, 2018




Strictly speaking, the Hartley Reservoir was not on the Plymouth Leat at all.

The site, near Hartley House, Compton Gifford, was bought by Plymouth Corporation from the Court of Chancery for about 250 and work started on constructing the reservoir in November 1859.  The contractor was Mr Blinkhorne and the work was supervised by the Town Surveyor, Mr Robert Hodge.  It cost 8,000 to build and the work was completed in May 1861.

When the Mayor of Plymouth, Mr W Luscombe, officially opened the Reservoir, it was announced that the Reservoir measured 305 feet in length, and was 22 feet deep.  The width varied, being 270 feet at one end, 185 feet in the middle, and 90 feet at the other end.  It was 23 feet under the level of the adjacent Tavistock Road and 163 feet above the Drake's Place Reservoir, which it fed.  The bottom of the Reservoir, which would hold 8,000,000 gallons of fresh water, was composed of 6 inches of concrete, 1 foot of puddle, and then bricks.  The curved walls were between 1 foot 6 inches to 2 feet in thickness.  The whole site was enclosed within a  10 feet high stone wall.

The Reservoir was fed by means of a 12-inch diameter pipe from the Knackersknowle Reservoir.  At the north-west corner was a well, to allow stones, etc., to settle, the water flowing into the Reservoir.  At the south-west corner were gratings to prevent any stones or other articles getting in to the 12-inch diameter pipe to the Drake's Place Reservoir.  The pipes were coated with Mr Smith's anti-corrosive varnish.

At the opening ceremony, the Mayor and officials had a walk around the base of the Reservoir before gathering at the inlet tap, which was covered with red cloth.  After Mr Evens, the deputy chairman of the Water Committee, and Mr R W Stevens, who had been involved with the purchase of the land, had spoken, the Mayor then turned on the supply.  The Western Morning News reported that 'The exact time when the flow commenced was 16 minutes to three o'clock'.  One of the workmen then filled the "loving cup" with fresh water, from which a Councillor Mr Thomas Pollard was the first to taste the water, the Mayor having wandered off.  Naturally, the ceremony was followed by a private luncheon for the members of the Corporation, provided by the Mayor, who lived close by.

The Plymouth Leat, meanwhile, continued its merry way from Knackersknowle Reservoir, through Manadon Woods, Pennycross, and Stoke Damerel before coming back in to the Borough at Mutley, completely independent of the pipe from Hartley Reservoir.

But over the years the Reservoir had become greatly contaminated, with all kinds of rubbish being thrown in the water, including a motor car, apparently.  In 1932 it was emptied and cleared of six inches of mud and in 1945 the City Water Engineer, Mr Norman Elliott, recommended that it be covered over.  The estimated cost at that time was 12,000; by the time the work was actually carried out it was 763,000.  Draining the Reservoir began in around February 1981 and a concrete roof supported on 165 concrete pillars was installed and grassed over, the work being completed in March 1982.