The Story of Scar House Reservoir, the pop up village of Scar and the lost village of Lodge
Deep in the heart of Nidderdale’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) towards the top of the Nidd Valley and in the shadow of Great Whernside lies Scar House Reservoir. The reservoir dam wall itself is a wonderful engineering feat and the design with its crenallations makes the structure a thing of great beauty.
I’ve walked the area many times as there are is a great path around the reservoir maintained by Yorkshire Water and I have always been fascinated by some of the interpretive boards explaining the stories behind the massive project to construct the reservoir. In this blog I will try and shed some light on this interesting story.Thanks to Nidderdale Museum for the use of some of the old photographs.
The need for clean water
During the 1800’s Bradford was growing quickly as a result of the industrial revolution and its thriving textile industry. People flocked to the city which started to become overcrowded and disease was rife. The water supply from the local rivers had become polluted with industrial waste, so there were problems with drinking water supply as well as a worry about water supply to feed the growing number of mills.
The Bradford Corporation realised they needed to create a new clean supply of water for the city and the Nidd Valley in Nidderdale was chosen as the best place to build two new reservoirs – Angram and Scar House.
In the late 1800’s Gouthwaite Reservoir lower down the valley had already been constructed as a compensation reservoir to make sure that water driven textile mills lower down in the valley always had sufficient water to power the machinery. It still plays this role controlling the flow of the River Nidd to this day.
Angram and Scar House were built for the supply of clean drinking water and were to be built further up the valley with work starting on Angram in 1904. A small settlement had been built at Angram for workers and a railway line to transport workers up the valley.
On Angram’s completion work began on the much larger engineering project of Scar House. The plan was for Scar House Reservoir to supply water to the Bradford Area via the Nidd Aqueduct without any pumping and just using gravity alone.
Work began on Nidd Valley’s final reservoir on 5th October 1921 and the project took 15 years to complete.
Some of the living accommodation for workers at Angram was deconstructed and re-assembled at Scar House, but the Scar House project required a much bigger workforce. This led to a temporary village being established not just for the workers but their families too.
The temporary village of Scar
The remote village of Scar eventually became home to more than 2,000 people living in relative luxury for the time in spacious living conditions. All the properties had hot and cold running water as well as flushing toilets, which was unusual for the working classes of the day. Even the nearby town of Pateley Bridge didn’t have these sort of luxuries!
The village consisted of 10 large hostels for single workmen (board was £1 a week and included 3 meals a day), each able to house 60 workers, 43 semi-detached bungalows and 28 houses in 5 blocks for families. There were many other buildings including a school for 90 pupils, a number of shops, a laundry, a hairdresser, post office, bank, library and a village hall.
The village also had a fire brigade with a team of 18 firemen and a police constable. There was a hospital with resident doctor and nurse to care for the health needs of the workers and their families. The workers also had their own football team and created tennis courts and a limited golf course!
There is not much left of the village as it was abandoned once the reservoir was completed and much has now disappeared. But there is still evidence of the village from the concrete foundations of some of the wooden houses and a structure which was originally built as an extension to the village hall as a projection room to allow the village hall to double up as a 600 seat cinema!
The working conditions were hard, and the working day was from 7.30am until dusk to make the most of daylight hours with just half an hour for lunch. They were paid 6p an hour.
Rock and Rail
The huge dam built across the valley required a vast amount of stone. The local gritstone was quarried on both sides of the valley at Scar House and over 1 million tonnes of stone was used in the dam wall building project. From the reservoir dam wall you can make out the remains of the quarry where the stone was hewn out. Steam excavators were used for this along with hand drills and explosives and at least one man was killed during the process.
6 standard gauge steam locomotives were used to then transport the quarried stone down the hillside to the site in wagons. You can still see the route of the inclined route to this day.
The dam construction was complex and two fixed aerial cableways spanned the valley carrying stone and concrete across the embankment.
As well as the locomotives for carrying stone, the project as mentioned earlier had a railway line – The Nidd Valley Light Railway which was built up the valley from Pateley Bridge to Angram at a cost of £40,000 at the time.
As well as carrying materials and machinery, the line was open to the general public all the way to Lofthouse. It allowed the workers families to visit the local amenities in what living in such a remote place would have seemed to be the metropolis of Pateley Bridge!
The lost village of Lodge
When the reservoir dam wall was complete and the valley ready to be flooded behind it there was one casualty. The village of Lodge on the edge of the valley had originally been established around a grange farm as part of the Cistercian Byland Abbey in medieval times.
This small agricultural settlement was occupied up until the early 1900’s but whilst it would have not been flooded by the water, The Bradford Waterworks Corporation were worried about the settlement contaminating the water and the residents were bought off and persuaded to move away from the site.
Now if you walk past the settlement, the remains of the five buildings can still be seen and the ruined houses, with their stone flagged floors and old kitchen range provide a stark reminder as to a past remote living.
In 2016 Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership conducted a community archaeological excavation called The Big Dig which provided a wealth of information about the history of the site which had been occupied since Saxon times.
Another farmstead called Haden Carr was purchased by the Waterworks Corporation but was submerged when the reservoir was filled.
The reservoir wall was complete by 1936 with a height of 71meters (at the time the highest reservoir wall in Britain) and a length of 600m. Once the reservoir was filled it is estimated a capacity of 2,200 million gallons of water were stored with a surface area of 70 hectares.
More recently, High Woodale Farm which is owned by Yorkshire Water, became part of the Beyond Nature Project. Here Yorkshire Water work closely with the tenant farmer to take a more holistic approach to farming by managing habitats to encourage bio diversity, increase carbon storage and provide greater social and recreational opportunities.
What I would recommend is that if you do head out to explore Scar House, if you aren’t bothered by heights, take a look down the valley from one of the viewing points. Not only the scale of the 71m drop and the work involved in building it, but the stunning views down the Nidd Valley makes it one of the iconic Yorkshire Views.