Her­itage con­sul­tant Ann Mcewan peeks be­hind the fa­cades of the area’s old­est build­ings.

Waikato Times - - OUT & ABOUT -

It rained for the first time in weeks on the day the Cam­bridge wa­ter tower was of­fi­cially opened on March 11, 1903. But as the mayor pro­vided cham­pagne to mark the oc­ca­sion, it is pos­si­ble no-one minded. Peo­ple drank to the scheme’s suc­cess and to the health of the of­fi­cers, con­trac­tor, etc; and Mr Ash­ley Hunter, the engi­neer, said it was the cheap­est wa­ter sup­ply in the colony.

Mr J J Hol­lands’ ten­der of £1077 to build the tower was ac­cepted in May 1902.

The lo­cal bor­ough coun­cil had ear­lier raised a to­tal loan of £6000 to pay for the tower, pump and en­gine house, hav­ing re­jected W Souter & Co’s pro­posal for a cheaper Amer­i­can steel tower that was not con­sid­ered tall enough to do the job.

Per­haps cheap­est is not al­ways bet­ter, as it was re­ported in Fe­bru­ary 1913 that Cam­bridge’s wa­ter sup­ply re­quired ex­tra pres­sure for fire­fight­ing pur­poses. Coun­cil­lor Wells told a coun­cil meet­ing that it was not pos­si­ble to raise a loan of £30,000 to pay for a grav­i­ta­tional scheme, but that £4000 might be raised to pay for an­other wa­ter tower in the cen­tre of town.

By Septem­ber 1913, the coun­cil had re­solved to bor­row £8000 for a new wa­ter tower, which would not only in­crease pres­sure for fire­fight­ing but also ex­tend mains cov­er­age to most Cam­bridge res­i­dents.

Te Papa holds a lovely coloured post­card of the 1903 wa­ter tower, coin­ci­den­tally show­ing the tower from the same an­gle as the pho­to­graph in­cluded here. The tower has been un­used since 1926, when it was de­com­mis­sioned, partly be­cause the spring that fed the tower had be­come pol­luted.

To­day it is sim­ply a his­toric land­mark set within Payne Park and ad­ja­cent to the Cam­bridge Resthaven rest home. Its hand­some brick­work con­veys some­thing of a me­dieval keep and its her­itage val­ues are recog­nised by both Waipa District Coun­cil and the NZ His­toric Places Trust.

Cheap­est wa­ter sup­ply: Cam­bridge Wa­ter Tower, Payne Park, Cam­bridge. Photo: Ann McEwan

Ann Mcewan

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