Cast iron water pipe taken from Water Street; probably dates from the late 1890s; extracted by United Utilities during water pipe replacement which took place in Manchester City Centre 2007-2009
Manchester’s rapidly growing population and industries in the nineteenth century desperately needed more clean water. The rivers running through the city were contaminated with human, household and industrial waste. In 1848 the Manchester Corporation began an ambitious scheme to provide the city with adequate clean water. They hired John Frederick LaTrobe Bateman as the chief engineer on a project to bring water first from the Peak District and then in 1885 from the Lake District. The Longdendale chain of reservoirs in the Peak District and Thirlmere reservoir in the Lake District still supply Manchester with water today.
Before these projects began, less than a quarter of the houses in Manchester had an internal water supply and half had no water supply at all. The water supply that did exist was patchy and could last only 4 hours a day. This meant many working class Mancunians had to turn to the polluted rivers for their water. By 1852 the corporation had laid 100 miles of water mains with pipes like this taking clean water to all the districts of the city. However, the supply was still not equal for all the city’s inhabitants. Middle class areas were prioritised for plumbing directly into homes while working class areas got shared standpipes, meaning people still had to queue for their water and then carry it back to their homes.