During the late 19th century there was a need to increase the water supply throughout the country previously small reservoirs had been built and these were used for modest crop irrigation and domestic youth relation industrial and food production, necessitated the construction of substantial water storage facilities.
Several reservoirs are sited in the Molesey and Walton area. One of the biggest serving London, and the most recent to be built is the Queen Elizabeth II, located between Walton and West Molesey. Managed by Thames Water, and authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1935, due to the outbreak of World War II, building work did not begin until 1957. The works were completed by W & C French and commissioned in 1962. It converts 317 acres and holds 4,300 million gallons of water. Following five years of planning, work began on March 2016 installing solar panels onto the water surface. More than 23,000 panels float, generating 6.3 MW of power (enough to supply 1,800 homes). The solar farm is expected to offset energy expenses used to power nearby water treatment and pumping stations. The farm covers 1/10 of the surface. Thames Water has pledged to support the objectives of the Paris Climate Change Agreement to limit the global temperature rise to 2C and the firm says this project will contribute to achieving that goal. This solar panel farm was for a time the largest in the world, but that record has been broken and has been overtaken by the Chinese city of Huainan, in Anhui province. Many other floating solar farms are likely to be built both in the UK and abroad.

Bessborough and the adjustment Knight reservoirs lie south of the River Thames, with the A3050 running to the north. Both were built by the Southwark and Vauxhall Waterworks Company. Building work began in 1898 and was completed in 1907 replacing an old mansion and its farmed estate. The combined area is 125.5 acres with a water capacity of 1,198 million gallons.

Built by Sir Robert McAlpine, the Island Barn reservoir has an area of 122 acres and a capacity of 992 million gallons. It was authorised by the Lambeth Water Act of 1900, and was opened in 1911. It is surrounded by the rivers Mole to the west and the Ember to the east. The Island Barn Reservoir Sailing Club hosts dingy sailing races and training at the reservoir, and the site is also used for bird watching.

The now disused Molesey reservoirs were adjacent to the Thames on the south side on the reach above Molesey Lock. They were established in 1872, and had pumping stations to lift the water from the river into the storage place. Taken out of use in 1999, the land was then used for the extraction of aggregates.
By area, Rutland water is the largest reservoir in this country, with an area of 4.86 square miles and a water volume of 124 million cubic metres.

When the wells dry, we know the worth of water.” – Benjamin Franklin

This article originally appeared in the Molesey Publication, June 2019.

Author: John Taylor

Image credit: Canva. The image is just a representation of the reservoir.