John Frederick Bateman

The “dam” fine reservoir builder of Brighouse

On the 30th May 1810, John Frederick Bateman was born at Lower Wyke. His mother was the daughter of a Moravian missionary and John spent his childhood living on a Moravian settlement. At 15 he was apprenticed to a firm of mining engineers in Manchester.

John became a very successful engineer and travelled extensively visiting South America and Egypt. He designed the waterworks for the cities of Glasgow, Dublin and Belfast, often completing designs and surveys at his own expense.

In 1851 the population of Halifax was increasing and the need for a reliable water supply was becoming increasingly important. The Council called upon Bateman to prepare a scheme for supplying water to the town. His idea was to build a series of reservoirs on the moors above the town, using gravity to bring water to the houses.

Ogden Water

Ogden Water reservoir was the first one to be constructed. The stone laying ceremony took place on the 11th August 1854. A large crowd watched the Mayor’s procession to the ceremony. The keystone on the arch of the culvert featured the town’s coat of arms. More reservoirs followed, including Widdop, Fly Flatts, Dean Head, Ramsden Wood, Albert and Mixenden. His travels abroad, especially to Egypt, influenced his design work.

John was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and was the Society’s representative at the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. He was in demand as a speaker and wrote on subjects such as the Manchester water supply and the drainage of Oxford.

Bateman became a very wealthy man. He bought the Moor Park estate at Farnham in Surrey. Six years before his death, John assumed the prefix of La Trobe to his name as a compliment to his maternal grandfather Benjamin. The La Trobes were a well renowned American family and John always remembered the education he had received from the Moravians.

John Bateman died on the 10th of June 1889, but over a hundred years later, many of the reservoirs still remain and their locations have become a favourite haunt for local ramblers and visitors alike.

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