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Springs, pipes, reservoirs and rates: historical water management in the city of Bath

This talk on historical water management in the city of Bath was provided by Bath Record Office on 24 June 2020.


In 1921, Alderman Harry Hatt attested that, “there were few things .. giving … more anxious thought than the water supply.” Despite Bath’s reputation among visitors for its spa and fresh water supplies, the archives held by Bath Record Office reveal centuries of endeavour to provide the city with sufficient water. From a time when clean water was a luxury for the affluent to its acceptance as a basic right, the council – and private companies – navigated disease and disagreement, through parliament and the columns of newspapers towards safe supplies for all. Issues facing Bath in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries parallel those in some parts of the world today; the council had to develop a water supply infrastructure to meet the needs of a quickly-expanding city, moving from limited and part-time supplies to providing constant clean water. Extensive administrative and operational archives documenting the city’s historic water management are currently being catalogued, making them easily accessible for the first time. This talk will provide a tour of the city’s water supply records and their potential for research.

You can watch a recording of this talk here.

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