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Blithfield Reservoir History

The land before Blithfield Reservoir

Prior to the development of Blithfield Reservoir, the landscape consisted largely of fields with small areas of woodland, and was formed in the shape of a wide flat valley with a floor of alluvial sand and gravel; the land was used mainly by farmers for growing crops and grazing their animals. The River Blithe meandered for three miles through these woods and fields, with the small Kitty Fisher Brook winding alongside. The Tad Brook, slightly larger than the Kitty Fisher Brook, flowed into the north eastern part of the area.

There were two buildings within the area that would eventually be flooded. In Yeatsall Hollow, at the foot of the valley, there was a small thatched cottage called Blithmoor Lodge. This was demolished to make way for the causeway that now allows vehicles to cross the Reservoir. The second building was an old mill called Blithfield Mill, positioned on the western bank of the River Blithe, and having an adjacent millpond; the mill's water wheel was driven by the flowing water of the River Blithe. Although some maps show the mill as having been demolished, the foundation stones and the brick wall around the millpond remain. At times when the level of the Reservoir becomes low enough these remains become visible.

During the 1930s and 1940s, The South Staffordshire Waterworks Company, as it was then known, purchased 952 hectares, (2,350 acres) of land, of which 642 hectares, (1,585 acres) was purchased from Lord Bagot. In addition to the land itself, the company acquired a number of buildings. One of these was the magnificent Blithfield Hall which at the time was in need of significant restoration. The Hall was later sold back to the Bagot family along with about 12.15 hectares, (30 acres) of garden and following this and sales of land during the 1950s and 60s to local farmers, the estate now extends to around 1,300 acres. Another was the Stansley Wood Sawmill complex, part of which has since been redeveloped into our very successful Blithfield Education Centre.

Not all of this land was destined to be flooded. In fact, the reservoir would only ever cover around 320 hectares, (790 acres) of the company's new land. One of the main reasons that the company purchased such an excess of land was so that it could minimise the risk of pollution by exercising control over the farming activity in the fields around the reservoir's perimeter. Hence, the land of six farms was acquired and control agreements were developed.

The opening of Blithfield Reservoir

The need for the reservoir arose for people to have a clean drinking water supply to their homes. The project was originally planned to commence in 1939 but the onset of World War 2, meant the work was shelved until 1947. Nearly 500 people spent six years building the reservoir and dam, with the Queen Mother declaring it open in October 1953.

The storm of 1962

In 1962 a severe storm at Blithfield Reservoir saw huge waves on the water; this blew over both the causeway and the dam and, as there was no top wall along the length of the dam, across to the far bank.

The result was that the ground became water logged and began to slip downwards, creating large cracks in the side of the grass bank. In addition, the storm also managed to dislodge some of the large concrete flagstones that face the water-bearing side of the dam wall. In order to avoid severe damage to the dam wall, water company employees had to position sandbags to block the holes where the flagstones had been lifted.

Following the storm, the grass bank on the side of the dam was reinstated and the flagstones were repositioned. In addition, a wall was built along the length of the dam, which, in the event of such a severe storm occurring again, would deflect the water back into the reservoir and prevent it from blowing over the road onto the grass bank.

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