Life-saving landmark Somerset tower in Rockwell Green features on The Victorian Society’s Top Ten Endangered Buildings list 2023 | The Victorian Society

Rockwell Green Water Tower in Somerset is on The Victorian Society’s Top Ten Endangered buildings list 2023. The Victorian Tower now requires a new owner – it would make a unique residential conversion. The Society urges the present owner to sell so the Tower can be sensitively re-used.

Photo credit: Marie Clements for The Victorian Society 18/06/2023

Griff Rhys Jones, The Victorian Society President said: “These are beacons. Titans. These water towers are tremendous. In the glorious Somerset countryside, with views towards an area of natural beauty, they would make a special home, or an unusual holiday let. This has been achieved with similar structures in many other places. Conversion is far greener than building something new. We can’t throw away our industrial history.”

The distinctive, conically capped, red brick Victorian water tower has stunning views towards the Wellington Monument and the Blackdown Hills AONB. The tower is a wonder of Victorian engineering that created an organised, safe public water supply to protect public health. Following an early 1870s epidemic of typhoid fever in Wellington, the Local Board of Health commissioned architect Edward Pritchard of Birmingham and London, whose initials appear on the cockerel weathervane at the top of the tower, to build the tower.Water was pumped from local springs and stored in the tower’s 44,000 gallon tank. This replaced the 286 local wells which had become polluted. A second tower was added in the 20th-century.

Wessex Water refurbished both towers around 2009. Both were sold at auction to a developer in 2013 but they have remained vacant and neglected ever since. Somerset West and Taunton Council issued the owner with a Section 215 order to clear the site of overgrown plants and rubbish, and to mend the fence. The towers have been left to deteriorate for 13 years and there seems to be no plan on the horizon.

Joe O’Donnell, Director, The Victorian Society said: “A common factor with most buildings on our list this year is responsible ownership. Despite all these buildings being Grade II listed they have been neglected for years. Regular, appropriate, maintenance is vital for older buildings. The owners of the buildings on our list should be responsible stewards of these nationally significant buildings.If they can’t or won’t, be that they should sell them so someone else can try and secure their futures before it is too late.”

The full Top Ten list can be read here and includes an earl’s mansion in Devon that became a hostel for the homeless, a church where the congregation can’t hold services, two engineering marvels that saved lives through improving sanitation, and a club where newly enfranchised voters could meet.

The list is based on public nominations from across England and Wales, and the buildings selected represent industrial, religious, domestic, and civic architecture from across the nation with unique historical and community significance and value. Nominated buildings must be dated between 1837 and 1914. The Victorian Society has announced its Top Ten of Endangered buildings thirteen times.


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