If the Edgbaston Waterworks were the key to the industrialisation of Birmingham then the Elan Valley Aqueduct (nicknamed the EVA) was the lock that was opened.
The EVA was the vision of Birmingham City Council , known then as the Birmingham Corporation and led by Joseph Chamberlain. Their concern for the health of Birmingham’s rapidly expanding population was the driving ideology behind the awe inspiring civil engineering scheme.
Elan Valley, a picturesque rural region near the Welsh town of Rhayadar, was identified by the Corporation in 1892 as a potential source of clean water to feed into the city for its inhabitants and industry. Through an act of Parliament the Corporation were able to make a compulsory purchase of the water catchment and start the ambitious plans for the EVA, with James Mansergh appointed as the project engineer.
By 1897 work was underway, with the Birmingham Corporation Waterworks Department constructing housing, recreational centres, pubs and shops for the workers who moved to Wales to work on the project.
The first phase of work was completed by 1904, however work has been continuous since then with improvements and repairs. Today Severn Trent are undertaking an incredible civil engineering project to create a new 16 mile pipeline for Birmingham.
The maintenance tunnels and waterways seen in the photos are a strange mixture of the old and new, cabelling, lights and plastic piping are housed within passages of hundred year old brick. Externally, the weathered stones, moss and lichen licked , stand like goliaths in the idyllic valley. The importance of the EVA within Birmingham’s history can’t be understated, it provided health for the people and economic advancement for the city.
It’s a prime example of Victorian ingenuity and awe inspiring engineering.
By Jack Tasker and Steve Townsend