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Your guide to the district of Maldon and its history Langford Pumping Station


An illustrated description of the
works at Langford, Maldon

As written in 1948

The Southend Waterworks Company was founded as a private undertaking in 1865, the original works for the supply of the little town consisting of a well and pumping station in Milton Road and a reservoir in Cambridge Road, Southend. In 1871 the works were taken over by the Southend Waterworks Company Limited and in 1879 the Company was incorporated as a Statutory Undertaking.

Progressive developments resulted in extensions of the area of supply which by 1924 had attained its present total of 160 square miles bounded on the north by the River Crouch, on the south by the River Thames and extending westward as far as the outskirts of Shenfield. In addition bulk supplies are provided to neighbouring districts on the northern fringe of the statutory area so that the inhabitants of some 200 square miles of Essex are now dependant upon the Company for their water.

Increases in demand were met by sinking additional wells and boreholes so that "ultimately thirty-six such sources were spaced over the area of supply. They were sunk through the London Clay to draw upon the water contained in the sands of the Lower London Tertiary Deposits. Many of the borings were made deeper than the Tertiaries and penetrate a considerable distance into the chalk. The yields generally were poor having regard to the capital expenditure involved and the prolonged and increasing draught upon the strata over the whole area resulted in gradual reductions from the initial yields.

The increasing difficulty of obtaining sufficient water in this area, from underground local sources resulted in consideration being given to a project for abstracting water from some of the Essex rivers.

In 1921 a joint scheme with the South Essex Waterworks Company to take water from the River Stour did not obtain the approval of Parliament, therefore the River Chelmer with its tributary the Ter and the River Blackwater were selected by the Southend Company as being capable of meeting the anticipated water demands for many years ahead.

A Bill was lodged in Parliament in the Session of 1924 and received the Royal Assent in August of that year. The construction of the Langford Works, which are described in detail hereafter, was sufficiently advanced by August 1927 for water derived from the River Chelmer to be pumped into supply. From that date until 1945 ninety-six per cent of the water supplied was pumped from Langford.

Most of the wells and boreholes have been maintained as reserve sources. They were of considerable potential value during the war and have provided useful additional supplies during the periods of high peak demand experienced each summer. Since the requirements of the area are nearing the capacity of the present river works advantage has been taken of the electrical power now available to modernise eight of the stations by the installation of automatically operated submersible borehole pumps and the conversion of others is in progress.

Distribution works in the area of supply include nine service reservoirs, five towers and five re-pumping or booster stations raising water from lower to higher zones of pressure. Five hundred and ninety miles of trunk and service mains varying from 30" in diameter downwards convey water to the consumers.

Pumping Engines
In the engine house are three similar steam driven vertical triple expansion rotative pumping engines manufactured by the Lilleshall Company Ltd. each with a maximum pumping capacity of 4.4 million gallons per day. The engines are worked in pairs when the combined maximum pumping rate is 8 million gallons per day.

Each engine operates three high lift pump plungers which are placed immediately below the steam cylinders and has an extended crankshaft carrying a triple ram low lift pump.

The low lift pumps, fed by gravity from the sedimentation reservoirs, force untreated water to the treatment plant against a head of 30 ft. These pumps have a capacity of 10% in excess of that of the high lift pumps and a byepass is used to reduce the quantity to that required.

The high lift pumps are fed by gravity from a pure water storage reservoir which receives the fully treated water from the treatment plant. They operate against heads varying between 240 ft. and 300 ft. delivering into a. 28` diameter cast iron main which conveys the water to Southend for storage or distribution. The main passes under the River Crouch at Hullbridge by means of a tunnel and shafts formed of cast iron segments. Within the tunnel steel tubes are used instead of cast iron piping.

Steam is provided at a pressure of 210 Ibs. per square inch, superheated 150'F, by three Babcock & Wilcox boilers. Two, which are in one nest, each have a steaming capacity of 5,500 Ibs. per hour, while the larger single boiler has a capacity of 10,100 lbs. of steam per hour.

An economiser is incorporated in the flue structure and the steam from both the pumping engines and the steam engines driving the electrical generators is condensed, the condensate passing through a de-oiling process and a de-aerating plant, is again used in the boiler, the make-up water being provided through a base exchange water softening plant.

Mechanical handling gear is provided for feeding coal to the chain grate stokers of the boilers.

Natural draught is obtained from a brick chimney 150 ft. high supplemented under special load conditions by an induced draught fan.

Electrical Power
Electricity for power and lighting of the Pumping Station, Purification Works, and Lime Recovery Plant, and for running the Blackwater pumps is generated by three 80kw steam driven direct coupled 480 volt D.C. generators. The engines were manufactured by Messrs. Belliss & Morcom and the generators by Messrs. Laurence Scott.

Practically all repair and maintenance work can be carried out in the machine shop.

Details of the treatment plant from the booklet will be added in the near future


Under the Southend Waterworks Act, 1924, the Company was authorised to abstract water by separate intakes from the rivers Clielmer, Ter and Blackwater, and to utilise such water for supply after it had been purified and softened.

The three rivers flow through sparsely populated agricultural districts where the average annual rainfall over the catchment area is approximately 21 inches.

Water from the Ter is taken to the intake on the Chelmer above Rushes Lock and the intake works are so arranged that water from either or both of these rivers can be delivered by gravitation along a 33" dia. concrete pipeline, two and a half miles long, to the Sedimentation Reservoirs.

The Blackwater Intake is at Langford Mill, water from this river being pumped by electrically driven pumps into the reservoirs.

Chelmsford, the County town, and Witham are situated on the Chelmer and Blackwater respectively above the intakes. In each case the effluent from the sewage works is piped down to the reach of the canalised river below that on which the intake is situated.

Entry into the Reservoirs of water of poor quality (such as occurs in time of heavy rain or during flood) is to a large extent avoided by shutting off intakes whenever the clarity of the river waters falls below a certain standard.


There are two sedimentation reservoirs, each of 30 million gallons capacity, with a surface area of 10-1 acres and a depth when full of 22ft. 6ins. The walls are of mass concrete founded on the London Clay which lies beneath the surface gravel and the floors are concreted. The wall section at the eastern end differs from the rest, the variation being necessitated by the fact that a deep ravine filled with sand and gravel crosses this portion of the site.

The raw water, which can be drawn off from various depths, gravitates from these reservoirs to the pumping station.

This account was published in 1948. In 1963 the steam pumps were shut down and replaced by electric pumps elsewhere on the works site. Two of the huge steam engines were removed along with the boilers but the buildings and the remaining engine became Scheduled Ancient Monuments in 1986 and
are now preserved by the Museum of Power which is housed in the pumping station and open to the public
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