Haslar Heritage Group

The Water tower

Water is an essential commodity of life and the everyday requirement of us all, even more so for a hospital. In the early 1900’s the daily consumption of water for Royal Hospital Haslar was estimated at 51 gallons per head daily.

It is reported that in 1759 the hospital plumber had great difficulty in obtaining sufficient water from the single well in use to supply the hospital. A four-horse machine was drawing the water but the continued pounding of the horse hooves caused the well edge to collapse. In 1855 a steam engine and pump was installed.

A new well was sunk in 1859 to a reported depth of 340 feet with a spring being found at 212 feet and water was found at various levels ranging from 138 to 340 feet.

It is understood that we do not require to buy mineral water for use in the hospital as it is believed that the water supply drawn form the Haslar wells arise from a subterranean lake that supposedly stretches under the channel and France. Who knows it might well be the same supply that a well-known French mineral water company uses. The joke in the 19th century apparently was “we maybe at war with France but we are pinching their water!”

The hospital water tower was built in 1885 and is 120 feet high with two 125-ton water tanks each with the capacity to hold 50,000 gallons fed from the hospital wells. The water tower, whilst a well-known landmark, was known to have been used by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War as a direction finder for Portsmouth and the dockyards. This we know from a visit by a German Bomber pilot who visited the hospital in the 1980’s and asked to see the hospital.

It is reported that there are many shallow wells in the hospital grounds some only 20ft deep. There are also many underground holding tanks for storm water from the roofs of the hospital and it is reputed that there are some ten of these tanks in the quadrangle, although some must have disappeared when the crosslink was built.

Where might we ask did the 51 gallons a day go? we know that the waste water ran into huge brick built culverts running through the hospital grounds some as large as 6ft 3in by 3ft 4in which emptied into Haslar Creek.

It is through the sewers that patients were known to escape in the 18th Century and staff would return from Gosport Taverns smuggling gin in pig bladders into the hospital for patients. Prior to the Second World war skeletons were discovered in the sewers and these were believed to be French prisoners of war.

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