fonds YWC - York Waterworks Company Archive

Identity area

Reference code



York Waterworks Company Archive


  • 1752-c 1999 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

5.02 cubic metres

193 boxes, 34 rolls, and oversized volumes and files.

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

A waterworks company was first formed in York in 1779 to take over pre-existing works at Lendal. In 1677 a lease of Lendal Tower had been granted to Mr Henry Whistler in order to provide a “Waterhouse or Waterworks for the service and accommodation of the inhabitants” and in 1682 a pump was placed in the tower forcing water through wooden pipes for two hours on alternate days, omitting Sundays. This continued until 1769, when the waterworks passed into the ownership of a Colonel Thornton, who had a steam engine and pump fixed along with other improvements, although he made no attempt to alter the quality of the water.

A decade later a company was formed, by John Smeaton and several others, to take over the works. They also made improvements, installing a new steam engine and pump and preparing the tower’s roof as a reservoir. It was now possible to pump 17,000 gallons of water through the pipes into the main streets of York, serving about one thousand homes, although these pipes often became blocked and had to be cleared by hand pumps.

In 1846 the York New Waterworks Company was formed under an Act of Parliament (9 and 10 Vic. c. 17) for 'better supplying with water the city and neighbourhood of York' and, on the advice of engineers, new works were established at Acomb Landing. The works included large engine and boiler houses, three filter beds, two subsiding reservoirs and a high service reservoir at Severus Hill (Lendal Tower remained part of the Company’s property however, and contained the Company’s Board Room from 1932). A complete system of pipes was also laid to serve the entire city.

In 1868 these facilities were joined by a filter bed near the Railway Company’s main line to provide an extra supply of filtered water, and seven years later, powerful new engines and pumps were installed to cope with increased demand and a new main was laid to Severus Hill. Additional plant was also added in 1886 and in 1895 and in 1905 the pumping capacity was also increased whilst new condensing engines and pumps were installed in No 4 Engine House. The waterworks could now pump 13, 000, 000 gallons of water in twenty-four hours.

In 1914 a new water tower of reinforced concrete was built at Severus Tower to replace the reservoir there: at the time this was the largest such tower in Great Britain, holding 300, 000 gallons of water. Sixteen years later, electrically drawn pumps were also installed and the next year, 1931, the final steam plant at last ceased to be used.

Also in 1930, the raw water began to be chemically treated and in 1937 the No 3 Treatment Plant began to be used. The Second World War delayed any further improvements to the works, which suffered from bomb damage in 1940, 1941 and 1942.

With the return of peace work began to increase the Works’ capacity and to extend its distribution system. In the 1950s new mains were laid out to improve supplies to Acomb, Dringhouses and Fulford and a new water tower was built at Siward’s Howe, used from 1956. As the Company’s supply area increased through the 1960s, and the water undertakings of the Derwent, Flaxton and Tadcaster Rural District Councils were purchased, a new treatment work, the No 4 Treatment Plant was built and came into service in 1967. During the 1970s and 1980s the treatment plants were extensively modernised.

York Waterworks continued to serve the City as an independent company until 2000, when it became part of Yorkshire Water and its boardroom at Lendal Tower was closed.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was deposited at the Borthwick Institute by Yorkshire Water in 2000. Further additions were made to the archive in 2003 and 2004.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

General administrative records, including Proprietors’ minutes, 1779-1794, provisional committee minutes, 1845-1846, Directors’ minutes, 1846-1965, with index, 1854-1945, finance committee minutes, 1846-1948, general committee minutes, 1846-1965, minutes of the ordinary and extraordinary meetings of shareholders, 1846-1963, and manager’s memorandum books, 1851-1862; papers relating to parliamentary acts and statutory orders, 1846-1999; deeds, 1752-1999; contracts, 1846-1980; company solicitor’s papers, 1886-1926; financial records, including balance sheets and directors’ reports, 1847-1999, revenue accounts, 1846-1956, construction accounts, 1845-1964, water rents collection books, 1795-1847, cash books, 1846-1859, bought ledger balance book, 1951-1964, meter ledger, 1898-1901, bad and doubtful debts book, 1898-1964, records of capital expenditure, 1846-1946, papers relating to employees and finance, 1897-1902, 1945-1951, and records relating to stocks and shares, 1846-1988; records relating to Works, including reports, analyses, pumping records, correspondence and other papers, 1845-1979; plans and drawings, 1781-1928; photographs, c.1872-c.1939; printed works, including brochures, addresses and speeches, 1871-1990s.

Unlisted material, including schedules, engineering reports, plans, and correspondence.


Further accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. 24 hours' notice is required to access photographic material.

Conditions governing reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers subject to the access restrictions outlined above. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute for Archives' terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A typescript finding aid, to file level, is available for consultation in the searchroom of the Borthwick Institute. This includes all material received in 2000. Later material has not yet been catalogued, please contact the Borthwick Institute for more information.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For related material held by the Borthwick Institute, see the parish records of York, St Cuthbert which include plans of line of pipes and conduits in the parishes of St Cuthbert and St Helen on the Walls by the York Waterworks Company, 1877.

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

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Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

GB 193

Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

2015-08-28, 2016-07-09


  • English



Accession area

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