Large room with wooden floor, metal beams in the ceiling, two levels of arched windows and a large brick casing with door leading to stairwell.
Interior of Jumbo Water Tower in Colchester © North Essex Heritage
Interior of Jumbo Water Tower in Colchester © North Essex Heritage

Historic England Awards Funding for Investigations to England’s Tallest Water Tower

Historic England has awarded a project development grant of £20,000 to support investigative works to the Balkerne (‘Jumbo’) Water Tower in Colchester, Essex.

The Grade II* listed municipal water tower, dated 1882 and opened in 1883, brought a reliable source of clean water to the local population for the first time and remained in operation until 1984.

Empty and unused for over 35 years, the condition of the tower has significantly deteriorated, leading it to be placed on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register. Of particular concern, the cast iron water tank is showing signs of cracking, and roof leaks are causing timber decay.

This project development grant funding will enable digital and structural surveys, test repairs to the cast iron tank and essential temporary roof repairs.

Standing at 110 feet, ‘Jumbo’ is the tallest and most intact municipal water tower in England. A much-loved major landmark in Colchester, it dominates the townscape and is visible across local landscape views.

The construction of this immense tower required approximately 1.25 million bricks and 142 tons of iron to support the cast iron tank that can hold up to 230,000 gallons of water. The tower is built in Romanesque Revival ‘Campanile’ style, referencing the Grade I Roman ruins that lie at its feet.​

The ‘Jumbo’ Water Tower is a significant and much-loved local landmark in Colchester. As the tallest and most intact municipal water tower in England, it is a nationally important heritage site.

We’re pleased to support the project development phase for the building, enabling urgent temporary repairs and the first steps towards a long-term sustainable future for this remarkable structure.

Tony Calladine, Regional Director, East of England Historic England

North Essex Heritage, formally known as Colchester and North East Essex Building Preservation Trust, is working with partners including the building’s owner, towards preserving ‘Jumbo’ and bringing it back into sustainable use. Funding support from the Architectural Heritage Fund and Colchester Borough Council has also been given for this project.