Poet adds voice to campaign to save Victorian spillway from ‘demolition’

The Butterley Spillway at Marsden Reservoir.
The Butterley Spillway at Marsden Reservoir.
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POET Simon Armitage has put pen to paper to help preserve a Yorkshire reservoir’s stone-built overflow structure.

The writer has added his name to a campaign to save the Butterley Reservoir spillway at Marsden, near Huddersfield.

Owner Yorkshire Water has applied for permission to upgrade the Grade II listed spillway which would involve using concrete and a “masonry effect” finish which locals say would amount to its “effective demolition”.

Mr Armitage said: “Like a growing number of other people I’m very concerned about proposed changes to the Butterley Spillway in Marsden, where I was born and grew up.

“The spillway isn’t just a functional device but a feat of engineering brilliance, a thing of great beauty and a monument to those people who worked on its construction.

“At the time it was built there was little in the way of mechanisation, and the spillway represents the efforts of hundreds of workers and hundreds of thousands of hours’ labour, not to mention a craft and technique unique to the period.

“The fact that it has been neglected by its owners over recent decades is sad and annoying, but to contemplate its replacement with something concrete and ugly would be a tragedy.

“Standing at the gateway of Wessenden Valley and on the cusp of the Pennine watershed, the spillway resembles a great sweeping staircase, a magnificent cascade, announcing a river system that flows eventually through the Humber Bridge and into the North Sea. Along with the reservoir bank and the stone steps on either flank, it forms an iconic tableau and superb backdrop to the village.”

Mr Armitage, who is professor of poetry at Sheffield University, said “water is Marsden’s great theme” and the spillway its “great landmark”, adding: “To begin dismantling the village’s past would be to jeopardise its future as a tourist destination, a site of cultural importance and a place to live.”

Yorkshire Water said it has tried hard to mitigate the visual impact of the work, which a spokesman said was essential to make the structure safe.

Comments on the proposals can be submitted to Kirklees Council’s planning department up until August 14.