Red brick interior with dark wood floor timbers and iron girders. Many semi-circular windows can be seen.
Interior of the Jumbo Water Tower in Colchester © North Essex Heritage
Interior of the Jumbo Water Tower in Colchester © North Essex Heritage

Repairs Completed to England's Tallest Municipal Water Tower

The Grade II* listed Balkerne (‘Jumbo’) Water Tower in Colchester, Essex has been saved from the elements thanks to recently completed structural roof repairs.

The urgent repair work to save the Grade II* listed building was made possible by grant funding of £48,500 from Historic England.

Colchester Borough Council approved the use of £10,000 from the Colchester Town's Fund, adding to the funding from Historic England for these works.

A locally-loved landmark

The locally-loved landmark, dated 1882 and opened in 1883, brought a reliable source of clean water to the local population for the first time. It remained in operation until 1984.

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

Historic England’s recent grant funding also enabled further surveys of the water tank and the building’s structural iron plates and beams. This followed a project development grant of £20,000 awarded by Historic England in 2020 for in-depth structural surveys of the tower.


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.