Seething Wells Water - Surbiton’s Hidden Heritage


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Why Seething Wells?

It was the Lambeth Water Company, not Chelsea, who first decided on moving their water supply to outside of London. The same engineer, James Simpson, now worked for Lambeth to find a suitable location for new water filter beds.


“In compliance with their desire” James Simpson presented his recommendations on the extending and improving of water supply to the Directors of Lambeth Waterworks in November 1848.


In searching for a site he wanted to ensure:

abundant and pure current and future supplies of clean water

that existing head reservoirs and distribution mains and pipes remained in tact

any new works would be restricted to improved supplies to existing reservoirs and extension of mains

a favourable direct route for the clean water from source to reservoirs at Brixton, avoiding hilly land

a source above highest range of tide at Teddington Lock, sufficiently remote from influence of disturbance


For Simpson, Seething Wells, at Thames Ditton, uniquely met these requirements.


I feel confident that no other site or source can be found, which combines so many advantages, and from which so pure, constant, and abundant a supply can be obtained with so small an expenditure

(Simpson, Report to Lambeth Board 1848)


The water being “usually very clear”, would be pass from the river by conduit pipes to filters. From them to the wells of the pumping engines, and then through a main pipe to reservoirs 10 miles away in Brixton and Streatham, and onto existing works and pipes.


The filtering apparatus will be erected on such a principle, that the water must of necessity pass at all times through the filtering medium before it can reach the pump-well of the steam-engines.

The Ordnance Atlas of Suburban London in 1888 shows the location of the Lambeth Waterworks Company, thirty-six years after it relocated the intake in 1852 to supply cleaner River Thames water to the people of London. 


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