Eccup Reservoir: The Yorkshire beauty spot which was borne out of a cholera epidemic

In 1832 a large scale cholera epidemic in the growing industrial city of Leeds claimed 700 lives.

In the previous half century the population had shot up from 17,000 to 70,000 and most people lived in cramped, insanitary housing.

Much of the drinking water at that time came directly from the badly polluted River Aire and a report in 1834 stated that only 12,000 residents had access to clean water.

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This led to the creation of the Leeds Waterworks Company, which purchased 35 acres of land from the Earl of Harewood and began the construction of 250 million gallon Eccup Reservoir.

Wigeon dot the surface of Eccup Reservoir, owned by Yorkshire Water and designated an SSSI becauce of its winter roosts of Wigeon and Goosander.Wigeon dot the surface of Eccup Reservoir, owned by Yorkshire Water and designated an SSSI becauce of its winter roosts of Wigeon and Goosander.
Wigeon dot the surface of Eccup Reservoir, owned by Yorkshire Water and designated an SSSI becauce of its winter roosts of Wigeon and Goosander.

It would involve taking water through a tunnel to Adel Beck and an aqueduct, then to holding tanks at Weetwood before piping it to Leeds houses. The supply was fully on stream by the end of 1843.

By the 1870s, however, Eccup could not cope with the demands of an ever-thirsty rising population as well as increased standards in hygiene, the introduction of flush toilets and expanding industries.

It was necessary to greatly increase the capacity.

The work, completed by 1897, formed the reservoir that is seen today and allowed Leeds to be supplied with 16 million gallons of water a day, two-thirds of which was for domestic consumption.

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Covering 91 acres, it is the largest sheet of open water in West Yorkshire.

Over the next century the city expanded northwards to within half a mile, providing a popular area for outdoor recreation close to the suburbs. Footpaths provide access to much of the shore.

Besides its primary role as a reservoir, Eccup is an important refuge for wintering wildfowl from Greenland and Siberia and designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Numbers of ducks, geese and swans increase when the weather is severe on the other side of the North Sea.

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