Towering achievement in Castle Acre

A family hoping to go up in the world.  From left - son Harry Pederson, father Dennis, and partner Misia Godebska MLNF water tower ANL-150323-160145001

A family hoping to go up in the world. From left - son Harry Pederson, father Dennis, and partner Misia Godebska MLNF water tower ANL-150323-160145001

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A disused water tower in Castle Acre could become a hi-tech residence if Dennis Pederson gets his way.

“I saw it was up for auction last year and I bought it.

“I’ve had a fascination with water towers since I was a kid.”

Designs to convert the tower to a residence have been drawn up by architect Mike Tonkin of Tonkin Liu Architects and if he is successful he and his family will be living with their heads in the clouds.

It won’t be the first water tower to be converted in this way but as no more are being built – water is now brought into new homes by computer controlled pumps – these conversions have become an important way of preserving a structure that has dominated the British skyline since the early Victorian era.

For more than 2,000 years around the world - including in the Roman Empire - water towers provided people with a gravity-fed resource vital to life.

In this country they began to appear some 170 years or so ago when small private companies serving small populations started building them. Designs proliferated and today thousands of differently-shaped structures can be seen across the country.

At an open day at the weekend Nat Bocking, of the British Water Tower Appreciation Society, was on hand to explain the design of Dennis Pederson’s tower.

“This one is a Braithwaite type water tower,” he said.

“It’s a steel construction with the tank split into two so that when one was being cleaned a water supply could still be maintained”.

Water pumped into the tanks, being the highest point in the area, then fed, by force of gravity, all the taps and lavatories in the area.

The tank was built for the military in 1944 of a construction that could be dismantled and moved. In 1953 it was brought to its present site. “We hope to convert it into a two-bed roomed home. The tanks will become the lounge with a window all around providing a 360 degree view of the countryside,” said Mr Pederson. “We also intend to make it super energy efficient.”

Mike Tonkin has incorporated into his design solar photovoltaic panels, a ground source heat pump and a heat recovery unit.

One interesting feature is that the two bedrooms will be hung from hidden high tensile steel cables, obviating the need for new foundations.

The Appreciation Society archivist, Ferrers Young, said that collecting and preserving the records of the many towers across the country, especially the many grand and ornate structures designed by the Victorians, was no easy matter.

“A lot of archive material was disposed of after privatisation. A lot of records were reportedly dumped, for example, in skips. Any information is always welcome (bwtas@hotmail.co.uk).”

But one record that became so famous it made the national news has not been lost.

That was the threatened co-ordinated flush of lavatories more than thirty years ago at Castle Acre.

A planned new sewage works by Anglian Water, envisaged a soak away scheme based on the village’s water meadows that, when necessary, would overflow into the River Nar with the risk of pollution.

As a way of protest residents planned a synchronised lavatory flush.

When Anglian Water got wind of the scheme plans were quickly drawn up to extend the soak away so that any excess would not end up in the river.

And how will Dennis Pederson and his son, Harry, and partner, Misia Godebska, reach their dream home? “We’ll have both stairs and an elevator,” he said.