You are now standing next to a dam holding back up to 1.6 million tonnes of water in Valehouse Reservoir. Together with Bottoms Reservoir in the distance, the water in these man-made lakes supplies ‘compensation water’ into the River Etherow flowing west from the Pennine watershed and towards Greater Manchester. When the Longdendale Valley was dammed in the mid-19th century, owners of existing cotton mills down-river would have been starved of water critical to their businesses and demanded that Manchester Corporation “compensate” them for their loss. Whilst filling the Etherow with around 46,000 tonnes of water every day, the reservoirs higher up the valley supply water to Manchester and Salford.

Valehouse Reservoir is over 12 metres deep when full, and took four years to construct, being completed in 1869. It has an earthen construction with an inner clay core making it impermeable to water. Here (above/below/right/left) you can see workers treading down the clay (or ‘puddling’) into the inner core of the dam which was hard manual labour, and dangerous too at the lower levels of the core. Such hard and dangerous work led to many labour disputes during the scheme - in the Spring of 1868 workers engaged on Valehouse and Bottoms reservoirs downed tools, having decided they had worked long enough for too little pay. With added pressure from the Glossop Branch of the Mason’s Society, the Manchester Corporation Waterworks Committee was persuaded to increase each man’s weekly wages to one pound and 13 shillings, in return for starting 20 minutes earlier each day except Mondays.

Local millstone grit for the dam and surrounding overflows was quarried at Tintwistle behind you, and brought to site on a miniature railway. The photo (below/above/right/left) shows two large “dressed” stones awaiting collection from the quarries.

Note: The Longdendale reservoirs and their catchment area are today managed by United Utilities for the public supply of water to North West England.

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