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24 September 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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  Inside Out - East Midlands: Monday September 1, 2003


Ladybower reservoir
Ladybower reservoir flooded two Derbyshire villages

The man-made reservoirs of the Midlands have led to the destruction of local communities. Inside Out investigated.

Chris Packham took a helicopter flight over the East Midlands. One of the sights which stood out from above were the number of reservoirs built to supply the region with water.

But when the man made lakes were built, communities were destroyed.

Work began in the East Midlands in the late 19th century and has continued ever since with the creation most recently of Rutland Water in the 1970's and Carsington in Derbyshire in the eighties.

Flooded Villages

Close to the village of Melbourne in South Derbyshire lies Staunton Harold reservoir which was created in 1964 to supply the growing city of Leicester.

"It still brings a tear to my eye when I think about the farm."
Bill Bentley

But the flooding of the area changed the lives of the people who lived there forever.

Bill Bentley's family had farmed there for generations and lived in
a picture postcard watermill.

"People come up to me and say isn't it beautiful around here. But it's nothing to what it was. It's all man made now."
Morris Cottrill

Beneath the waters of Ladybower reservoir in Derbyshire lies an area which was once the villages of Derwent and Ashopton complete with small stone cottages, tree lined lanes, a seventeenth century church and an old mansion.

Lost Villages

Morris Cottrill whose family lived in the lost village of Derwent which was flooded in the 1940's still remembers his home and village life with affection and some sadness.

When the water level drops he's still able to see the remains of his village.

"People come up to me and say isn't it beautiful around here".

"But it's nothing to what it was. It's all man made now"

Morris Cottrill
Morris Cottrill whose family lived in the lost village of Derwent

The Upper Valley of the Derwent is a deep valley surrounded by gritstone edges and dominated by three great reservoirs, constructed by the Derwent Valley Water Board primarily to provide water for Sheffield.

The upper two dams, Howden and Derwent, were constructed between 1901 and 1916 and they were such a large undertaking that a village called Birchinlee was constructed in the upper valley to house the workers.

A a narrow-gauge railway was built between Howden Dam and the Midland Railway at Bamford.

Traces of both these may still be seen. The dams were opened by King George V in 1916.

Ladybower Dam

In 1935 an even larger project began downstream of the two earlier dams for the construction of Ladybower Dam, which flooded the area around the junction of the Derwent with the Ashopton.

Professional diver Peter Church
Professional diver Peter Church has explored the remains of the lost villages

This project, first put forward in the early 1920s, caused considerable controversy because it involved the flooding of two villages; Ashopton, which lay at the junction of the Ashop and the Derwent;

... and Derwent, which lay upstream on the Derwent river.

Despite protests the dam went ahead and was finished in 1943, though the reservoir took a further two years to fill.

At the time this was the largest reservoir in Britain.

The flooding of the two villages was the worst damage inflicted by the water authorities in their many projects around the Peak District, and highlighted the damage which these civil works projects can do to local communities.

Rutland Water

Rutland Water lies near Oakham in the county of Rutland and is the largest man-made lake in Western Europe.

Completed in 1977, the reservoir covers an area of 3,100 acres, and with a storage capacity of 124,000 million litres (27,000 million gallons), provides not only water for domestic and industrial consumption, but also a large expanse of water for recreational purposes.

The crest of the dam is 1,200 metres long, and the maximum depth of the reservoir is 34 metres.

Dam construction
Dam construction at Ladybower

Prior to completion of the reservoir, the floor level of Normanton church was raised, the masonry proofed against damp, and a causeway built to provide access to the church.

The church now houses a museum showing the history of the reservoir, including fossils from pre-historic reptiles, and a video of its construction.

The church is floodlit by night, making it a local landmark both night and day.


Carsington Reservoir, known as Carsington Water, was opened by the Queen in 1992.

It was formed by the damming of Scow Brook and in the winter months is filled by pumping water up from the river Derwent, about six and a half miles away near Whatstandwell.

During the summer months it provides water for the West Midlands.

See also ...

On the rest of the web
Rutland Water
Severn Trent Water

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