THE GHOSTLY CHIMNEY - THE MYSTERIOUS WHISPERING CHIMINEY
You are now standing below the dam holding back up to 2.3 million tonnes of water in the Rhodeswood Reservoir. Construction of the dam took over six years to complete, being finished in June 1855. Water behind this dam may be up to 21 metres deep when full and, together with water from the Torside and Woodhead reservoirs further up the Longdendale Valley, is fed through the Mottram Tunnel and Longdendale Aqueduct before being treated for public consumption for the cities of Manchester and Salford.
This construction was a huge manual undertaking – in 1851 there were 117 lodgers at Woodhead Deep Clough and Torside - most of these would have been Stone Masons and manual labourers. Indeed, Manchester Corporation records tell us that there were more than a thousand men at work on the overall reservoir scheme in 1852.
When the reservoir in front of you was first filled, the chimney from Valehouse Mill (built c1790) in the valley bottom was left standing high above the water; and during strong winds made strange and ghostly noises similar to a wind instrument. For many years the “whispering chimney” attracted mass attention from passengers on the recently-completed Woodhead railway (completed c1870) on the far side of the valley, but had to be demolished in 1887 in the interests of passenger safety. The photographs here show Valehouse Mill before its demolition, and its solitary chimney in the middle of the reservoir following mill demolition. At times of low water in the reservoir, you may also see outlines of foundation stones in the silty bottom indicating where some of the old buildings at Valehouse used to stand.
Note: The Longdendale reservoirs and their catchment area are today managed by United Utilities for the public supply of water to North West England.