Monday, 8 June 2020

Nuttalls Tunnel - The Rising Bridge Shaft to Brynbella for Manchester Corporation Waterworks



We are grateful to the family of the late Edna Kirby (nee Constantine) for allowing us to use these photos

We are grateful to the family of the late Edna Kirby (nee Constantine) for allowing us to use these photos

We are grateful to the family of the late Edna Kirby (nee Constantine) for allowing us to use these photos

We are grateful to the family of the late Edna Kirby (nee Constantine) for allowing us to use these photos


We are grateful to the family of the late Edna Kirby (nee Constantine) for allowing us to use these photos

*****


The tunnel approaches the river.  Eleven feet below the cover
in the foreground is the bottom of the Brynbella Drive.














Haslingden chaps worked on the Haweswater pipelines
(Great Harwood to Altham section)

It will have been about 1968 and I would have been 20 years old and enjoyed every day working on the 3rd pipeline (out of 4) which comes all the way from the Haweswater Aqueduct through to Newton (in Bowland) and then across via Great Harwood, Altham to Rising Bridge and across to Brynbella were it enters a very large tunnel which goes via Townsendfold and onward to Manchester.
It was great those days and you could get a start more or less immediate.  I was advised to go and see Mr Harry Taylor (Chris Howarth’s Grandad) who lived in a small cottage on Brook Street just off Hud Hey. He was the General Foreman on the pipeline and drove a large wheel based Land-Rover which had M.C.W.W. written on the side (Manchester Corporation Water Works) the right type of vehicle you needed for the terrain I was about to experience.  Told him I wanted a job, and a few details asked and then, when can you start lad? Whenever you say, OK the wages are about £18 a week and you start tomorrow.  Do you know Pete Tuck? yes I know Peter. Well catch our bus at top of Hud Hey at 7 o’clock in the morning along with Peter, and when you get on site go and see the foreman Eric, spindly guy with glasses and a flat cap. OK Mr Taylor, thank you, and that was that.
Remember getting on that bus and knew quite a few of the chaps on the bus, I’ll bet there were 20 or more from Haslingden.  Some were like me and just starting on that very day, Jack Bayes, John Breslin, John from Rising Bridge, big Tom Jones from Brig, Harry Warburton (a think Harry and Tom had been with the Waterworks for ages and had worked on the previous pipelines). We eventually pulled in down a country lane in Great Harwood and near to the local golf club and this is where we joined the pipeline whilst also putting in foundations to cross over the River etc.  I saw foreman Eric and my first job was laying the railway track. A steel track of about 2ft gauge, a couple of you would carry these tracks and then use fishplates with four bolts going through them to connect the track together, and you laid quite a fair bit of track over the day. It was anything but plain sailing, with humps and bumps to follow the contours of the dipping golf course and fields and you needed to shore up in places with timber to get it something like a reasonable level.
After a month or two on that job, I was offered the job to drive the small Rushden train and that was a great job, and you would transport either the large Steel pipes which were probably about 30ft long with a diameter of some 5ft on bogies to the place were the main pipe laying gang were working, or alternatively you would transport skips of concrete from accessible places to the main pipe laying gang.
To start these trains in a morning you had to use a starting handle and sometimes you could not get them out after starting so you quickly took your hand off (or you would have broken your wrist) and left it and ran away as fast as your legs would carry you to a safe distance whilst shouting to everyone nearby to watch out, soon the handle would come off and fly up into the air like a missile. At other times when it had been raining the train would go into a skid and you just had no control over them and again the plan was you shouted as loud as you could to anyone in the way whilst the train was gathering uncontrollable speed and jump off it and let it crash into another train or obstacle, that was all you could do.  This happened regular, sometimes it came off the tracks and you had to find the metal shoe which you placed at either side of the track and eased the train back on to the tracks.
Occasionally I was asked if I wanted to do overtime, yes please! This really brought your wages up and you then also got the pipe layers bonus and you could be going home with about £30+ which was really good money those days. The job I got was to be labourer to this chap who would come all the way from the North East to put a bitumen seal between the pipes after the welding had taken place from inside the pipe.  He would come along and only do one which would take a couple of hours and then said, that’s it you can go home now. 
The worst job I ever had was when the pipes were all joined together after welding and bitumen seals etc, you had to go inside the pipe with just a miners lamp and got down on your spread out knees whilst a small amount of water which had been put in the pipes which went between your legs and you had to clean the pipes in readiness for completion, it was so dark and you went along for what seemed ages before all of a sudden (maybe two hours later) you would see a chink of light In the distance, and that chink got bigger and bigger and eventually you had reached the next open manhole.  You got out and your eyes had to re-adjust to the brightness.  It was a little bit frightening that job, you always had in the back of your mind, what if someone really turned the tap on and 38,000 gallons per hour come through the pipe.
The were times when it was really boring and that was when you were rained off and cabined up all morning and eventually sent home at 2pm, you just drank coffee, played cards and tried to have the crack.
I’ll never forget on one occasion a few of us were approached by a local farmer near Altham, who did not have any water connection at his farmhouse and he said, Is there any chance of fixing me a pipe from your pipe so I can get water at my farmhouse and I will give you a few hundred pounds if this can be arranged.  Can you imagine that some of the guys literally thought this could have been achieved. You would need to use many reducing valves, but even then you would be struggling and probably if you had attempted it may well have flooded Accrington in the process…
Eventually we had landed with the pipes at the side of the Martholme Grange night club and that’s were me and M.C.W.W. parted company, but another interesting job along the way.

*****

Photo example of one of the 4 pipes





Photo shows the size of the pipes, which if you can imagine there are four running side by side.

This photo was taken from somewhere up near Kirby Lonsdale, but gives you an idea.
(Photo: United Utilities)




Slag heaps on Northfield Road, Rising Bridge

For years I wondered what those large piles of muck were which lie to the Accrington side of the childrens play area on Northfield Road!

I later found out - and it was all the soil and rock etc which they had removed whilst they were building the Nuttalls tunnel.