A History of the County of Essex: Volume 9, the Borough of Colchester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1994.
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In the Middle Ages wells and springs in use included Stockwell, Stanwell, St. Helen's well, Childwell near Magdalen Street, and one in Chiswell meadow. Water was frequently polluted by the washing of clothes, vessels, or wool, and other noxious things; in 1406 a leprous woman allegedly contaminated Stanwell by washing there. (fn. 1) In 1279 the Friars Minor built a conduit to bring water from Coningswell to their house. (fn. 2)
Most townspeople shared access to pumps or wells, (fn. 3) but by the 16th century some wealthy burgesses piped water directly to their properties. In the mid 16th century water was conveyed in lead or wooden pipes from East mill stream to one or more clothiers' premises in East Street to be used for dyeing or washing wool. (fn. 4) By 1537 spring water from Chiswell meadow on the west side of North Hill ran, probably through pipes, to a house in North Hill near North gate. (fn. 5) There was a conduit at the Hythe by 1539. (fn. 6) Ralph Finch, by will dated 1552, left money to pipe water from a cistern, presumably near North Street, to a washing place near the foot of Balkerne hill, to ensure a purer supply. A reservoir probably existed in Chiswell meadow by the late 16th century when there may have been more than one cistern near North Street. (fn. 7)
In 1620 Thomas Thurston raised water from Chiswell meadow to a town reservoir in the highest part of the adjoining Windmill field west of the town, to provide piped water for some houses. (fn. 8) In 1626 the tenant of the Three Crowns nearby was to maintain the waterworks. (fn. 9) Thomas Lucas allowed the waterworks' pipes to cross his land in St. Mary's parish, but his son John, later Lord Lucas, frequently disputed the arrangement, and in 1633 cut off the supply. (fn. 10)
By 1687, after the disruption of the Civil War and especially of the siege when the parliamentary troops cut the water pipes, John Wheeley the younger obtained from the town assembly the lease of Windmill field and a licence to lay pipes in the streets. In partnership with John Potter and Timothy Cook he aimed to restore the supply of spring water from Chiswell meadow. The first scheme failed because of Wheeley's financial difficulties and because the reservoir, probably on the same site as Thurston's, was too far west of the town and not high enough. (fn. 11) Eventually Potter decided on a higher storage point nearer the town. In 1707, in return for connecting the rectory house to the supply, (fn. 12) he was allowed to build two cisterns in the north-west corner of St. Mary's parsonage field. He was then able to take the spring water by underground pipes from Chiswell meadow through one of the Balkerne gate arches into the garden of the Three Crowns inn and thence to the two cisterns to supply the central part of the town. The waterworks functioned well initially, but were so badly neglected in 1738 that the rector of St. Mary's, for a small payment, used bricks from the cisterns to repair his house. (fn. 13) The direct piped supply from the Chiswell meadow spring continued to serve houses at the bottom of North Hill. In the higher part of the town residents reverted to the use of public and private wells and pumps; King Coel's pump, near the Exchange in the High Street, was a brightly decorated landmark in the 18th century. (fn. 14) The conduit in St. Leonard's parish on the east side of the town was maintained. (fn. 15)
In 1808 Ralph Dodd, a civil engineer, obtained an Act granting powers to a new private Colchester Waterworks Co. to supply the town including East Street and the Hythe. After some initial difficulties he was able to collect water from Chiswell meadow and the Balkerne springs in two large reservoirs at the foot of Balkerne hill, where he built a pumping house to raise water by steam engine to a large reservoir built on the site of Potter's cisterns. (fn. 16)
The needs of a growing population, the greater risk of fire, and the practice of watering the dusty streets increased the demand for water, but by the mid 19th century the waterworks company provided piped water to less than a fifth of the households in the borough, and those not all the time, the remainder relying on traditional communal sources. (fn. 17) In 1849 only 12 of the 22 existing town wells, springs, and pumps were open, of which five were in private hands. Some were available only to certain businesses or tenants, others were contaminated by practices such as washing fish baskets. Elsewhere water was wasted, notably at Nicholls' brewery well where 50,000 gallons were lost every day. (fn. 18) In 1850 in the poorer north and east parts of the town almost half the people had no water on their premises and many were forced to carry water of dubious quality long distances. (fn. 19)
In 1851 William Hawkins and Peter Bruff bought the waterworks company as an investment, given the growing concern about public health and water supply. The following year Bruff, believing that Colchester's existing springs had run low, sank an artesian well on the premises of the old waterworks to the west of the town, which within a few years doubled the waterworks' output. (fn. 20) Nevertheless in 1858 the most densely populated areas of the town, including much of the east side, still had no water supply. (fn. 21) About 1860 Bruff discovered a strong spring just south of Sheepen farm and brought water from there to the Balkerne hill works, thus further increasing the supply, (fn. 22) but the private waterworks company was still unable to provide an adequate water supply for all inhabitants. (fn. 23) Some of the commissioners advocated a water tower at the top of Balkerne hill to increase the water pressure and thus improve the supply to the east of the town. (fn. 24)
In 1880 the corporation, assuming the commissioners' responsibility for public health and ensuring a satisfactory water supply, bought the waterworks. (fn. 25) Bruff's Sheepen well was abandoned in 1880, but a new one was sunk close by. (fn. 26) Loans from the Local Government Board enabled the corporation to build a 130-ft. water tower on Balkerne hill, despite vociferous local opposition on economic and aesthetic grounds. The tower, nicknamed Jumbo, which was built by Messrs. Everett with the tank and other ironwork supplied by Mumford's, was opened in 1883. (fn. 27) Water from Clark's meadow near the waterworks yard and from Sheepen springs was, for health reasons, not supplied for domestic consumption after 1890. (fn. 28) New waterworks were completed in 1894 at the foot of Balkerne hill, with a new pumping plant. By 1899 the borough council supplied water to 34,500 inhabitants, but 3,750 still relied on private sources. (fn. 29)
Lexden springs were acquired in 1906 and a further pumping plant installed there. (fn. 30) By 1949 Colchester's water supply was obtained from boreholes at Balkerne, Cooks Mill, and Aldham, and from springs at Lexden, and at Sheepen and Clark's meadows; c. 1 per cent came from the River Colne. (fn. 31) Colchester borough, Lexden and Winstree rural district, and West Mersea urban district councils united in 1960 to form the Colchester and District Water Board; Braintree urban district and Halstead rural district councils were included in 1969. The Colchester and District Water Board became part of the Anglian Water authority in 1974 and in 1978 the Colchester and Ipswich divisions were merged to form a new Stour Water division. Colchester's water supply in the 1980s came from boreholes in the Colne and Stour valleys from which water was pumped into Lexden and Horkesley reservoirs respectively; water from the river Colne was treated and stored at Ardleigh reservoir. The Jumbo water tower was used to balance the water distribution system of the town until 1988 when it was bought by Net Work Trust, an Evangelical Christian organization, to use as a place of worship. (fn. 32)
In the early 19th century the improvement commissioners were not obliged to provide drainage and sewerage from private houses and at first had no power to raise money to repair or alter communal drains, such responsibilities resting with individual property owners and parishes. (fn. 33) The commissioners did, however, investigate problems and suggest remedies, sometimes subsidizing the cost. (fn. 34) They frequently ordered the extension of drains, as in 1822, following complaints from householders, when they ordered the construction of a 255-ft. barrel drain to carry sewage and excess water into the sewer at the entrance of Castle inn yard. (fn. 35) A cholera epidemic in 1834 prompted an investigation by the commissioners which found a positive correlation between neglected drains and the incidence of disease, though the nature of the relationship between them was still imperfectly understood. Areas particularly badly affected included Stanwell Street, Duck Lane, Pelham's Lane, part of Eld Lane, and St. John Street. Dung heaps were an added nuisance, but provided a living for some inhabitants. (fn. 36) The investigation led to further improvements in drainage, concentrated where the need seemed greatest, but progress was dependent on the availability of funds raised from the commissioners' limited rating powers and from private subscriptions. In 1834, for example, the owners of property in Pelham's Lane contributed towards the cost of a barrel drain there, and in 1837 the owners or occupiers in West Stockwell Street had to pay to have their property connected to the new sewer there. (fn. 37) In 1847 a committee to inquire into the sanitary condition of the town reported that the south side remained very filthy and noxious from defective drainage. (fn. 38) A new Improvement Act of 1847 conferred on the commissioners greater powers, albeit still permissive ones, to intervene. (fn. 39) Between 1847 and 1854 they constructed a network of sewers and drains in the central area and reaching as far as Harwich Road, Greenstead Road, Military Road, and Maldon Road. (fn. 40) However, deficiencies in the water supply and the continuing inadequacy of the commissioners' finances limited sanitary advance. (fn. 41) The rapid growth of the barracks exacerbated the problems. (fn. 42)
The river Colne received all the town's sewage, and a report by the Registrar General in 1866 showed that, although no deaths were recorded in Colchester during the cholera epidemic that year, fever was usually found beside the river. (fn. 43) In 1871 only one house in ten in Colchester had water closets, and many of those drained into cesspits, not sewers. There was increasing concern about the pollution of the river, but the improvement commissioners were short of funds, having spent large sums on improving the navigation. (fn. 44)
In 1874 the commissioners surrendered their powers to Colchester corporation, anticipating the Public Health Act of 1875 which made borough councils into the local sanitary authorities with clearly defined statutory duties. Repeated promptings from the Local Government Board, to which the council was now responsible, together with pressure from two influential millers, Wilson Marriage and Ezekiel Chopping, led the council to investigate possible sewerage schemes. (fn. 45) Eventually in 1880 members of the council agreed to buy land at the Hythe from the coal merchant T. Moy to build a sewage works, which was opened in 1884, despite the fears of F. J. Manning, rector of St. Leonard's, about its harmful effects on his parishioners. (fn. 46)
The system was greatly extended and many of the old sewers were reconstructed over succeeding decades. Work begun in the 1930s on an important scheme to improve sewerage in the south of the borough had to be abandoned during the Second World War. (fn. 47) Major extensions to the sewage treatment works at the Hythe were opened in 1971. (fn. 48) Additional sewers were built in the 1970s. (fn. 49) Sewerage was taken over by the Anglian Water Authority in 1974. (fn. 50)
STREET PAVING, CLEANING, AND LIGHTING.
Early attempts to keep the streets in good condition were uncoordinated and often ineffective. Colchester had some paving by 1417 or 1418 when the town council chose two wardens to investigate defective paving and ensure its repair. (fn. 51) In the 15th century bequests were sometimes made for street cleaning and repair. (fn. 52) An Act of 1623 compelling owners to pave and repair the streets in front of their own property proved unenforceable. (fn. 53) Wandering pigs were a perennial problem, and in 1627 two to four free burgesses from each ward were appointed to keep the town free of them, but such a measure was only a limited attempt at improvement. (fn. 54) The town assembly did not make sufficient use of its enabling power to raise occasional rates for the maintenance of streets. (fn. 55) An order of 1647, obliging householders to sweep their own street frontage and clear their own refuse on pain of fines, had to be repeated in 1682 and 1689. (fn. 56) Free burgesses enrolled from 1670 had to pay 4s. towards paving the street in front of the moot hall and adjoining houses. (fn. 57) In the early 18th century paving was the responsibility of parish officials round churches and other parish buildings, of the workhouse corporation round their poorhouses, and of the chamberlain in the market and beside the town wall. (fn. 58)
Colchester's main streets, Head Street, North Hill, and High Street, described as wide and spacious in the mid 18th century, were compared favourably with those of other towns, (fn. 59) but the streets in general were considered ruinous and dangerous. An Act of 1750 consolidated previous legislation and obliged householders to repair and pave the street in front of their houses if it had been paved already. Parish surveyors, reimbursed by the justices for cleaning and paving public places, employed scavengers to help sweep the streets and remove refuse. (fn. 60)
It was not until the 19th century that street improvement was approached more systematically through the efforts of the improvement commissioners and from 1874 of the borough council. Despite some opposition the borough procured a further Act in 1811 for the better paving, lighting, and watching of Colchester, after which the commissioners raised rates regularly for such purposes. (fn. 61) The town was divided into nine districts for street cleaning and repair, which were contracted out, sometimes to the overseers of the appropriate parishes. (fn. 62) A sweeping machine was used in 1849 but soon returned to its owner for fear of depriving scavengers of their employment; hand road scrapers were in use by 1875. (fn. 63) Gradually more streets were paved and kerbed, beginning with the central district, and attempts were made to keep them clear of obstruction. (fn. 64) Some houses were purchased for road widening, as in Magdalen Street in 1811 and at North bridge in 1818, and compensation was paid to owners, who were often active commissioners. (fn. 65) House fronts were occasionally set back to widen the pavement, and St. Botolph's gate was demolished in 1813 in the cause of street improvement. (fn. 66) The steep descent of East Hill was made safer c. 1817 by widening the road, the turnpike trustees agreeing to contribute towards the costs. (fn. 67) Between 1825 and 1840 most of the main streets were macadamized, replacing cobblestones in the central streets, and other roads were treated in the following two decades. (fn. 68) Street watering, begun in 1827, was gradually extended, funded partly from the rates and partly by private subscription. (fn. 69) From 1880, because of complaints about the horrid stench of fish in St. Nicholas Street, the fish market was washed down after trading on Saturdays. (fn. 70)
In the 20th century the borough council replaced horse-drawn with mechanical transport for cleaning the streets and removing the house refuse. The use of concrete and tar for roads and pavements obviated the need for watering, (fn. 71) but between the wars the streets were still soiled by the passage of horses and cattle. (fn. 72)
The borough first provided public lamps in 1783, following an Act which empowered the corporation to use duties collected on the channel towards the costs of lighting the town. (fn. 73) In the winter of 1812-13, from September to March, 360 oil lamps were in use, provided by private contractors. (fn. 74) From 1819 gas lamps gradually replaced them. (fn. 75) Until the later 19th century lighting was financed both publicly and privately, (fn. 76) and was only slowly extended beyond the town centre; for example, it was not until 1877-8 that Greenstead Road from Hythe bridge to Harwich Road was lit. (fn. 77) Electricity was first used for street lighting in 1901. (fn. 78)
In 1605 the borough assembly provided for firefighting a long ladder, 2 iron hooks, and 20 leather buckets, kept in the moot hall. The 12 town parishes each kept 2-10 buckets in their churches, and from 1614 also ladders, stakes, and iron hooks. (fn. 79) By the early 18th century there were borough water engines, (fn. 80) for whose maintenance and deployment the 12 town and 4 outlying parishes combined to raise £10 10s. a year from 1733; the fire service was provided by a keeper or repairer of the engines and 12 firemen from different parishes, who were to be available when needed. (fn. 81) All Saints', St. Peter's, St. James's, and Holy Trinity parishes each had their own manual fire engines, the responsibility of the churchwardens. All Saints' engine was financed partly by contributions from the Essex Equitable insurance company and kept in a special house. In 1804 the company, by then called the Essex and Suffolk Equitable insurance society, undertook the maintenance of the four parish engines. It bought a carriage engine with 40 leather buckets in 1812, (fn. 82) and in 1819 paid for boards to show the position of hydrants in the town. (fn. 83) St. James's vestry agreed in 1829 to sell its fire engine, no longer considered of use. (fn. 84)
A series of fires in the 19th century drew attention to the problem of water supply for firefighting. In 1842, although the insurance society had 3 engines and 20 part-time firemen in Colchester, a fire at Wallis's, the ironmongers in High Street, spread to and destroyed St. Peter's vicarage house because the society's fire keys were lost and water could not be obtained quickly. (fn. 85) The interests of the improvement commissioners, who were statutorily responsible for supplying sufficient water in case of fire but were also concerned with providing water for general domestic and public use, conflicted with those of the insurance directors, concerned only with protection from fire. (fn. 86)
In 1878 the Colchester fire brigade was formed, a uniformed volunteer force of 14 men under the control of the local chief constable; a steam fire engine was bought by voluntary subscription and the council provided an additional 20 hydrants. The voluntary brigade was disbanded in 1886, and the insurance society's brigade in 1902. Colchester corporation fire brigade was formed in 1896, taking over the steam engine, (fn. 87) and was based in Stockwell Street until it moved to Stanwell Street in 1898. (fn. 88) A horse-drawn steam engine was used until 1921, when it was replaced with a petroldriven motor engine which was used until 1934 when superior equipment was supplied. In 1936 there were 4 officers, 2 drivers, and 14 men, and in 1938 a new fire station in Cowdray Avenue replaced the old one. (fn. 89) Between 1938 and 1941 part-time volunteers were used in an auxiliary fire brigade as directed by the central government, and appliances were kept at times at St. Peter's Street, Maldon Road, East Street, and at the old Stanwell Street station. The fire services were transferred to the Home Office in 1941 under wartime legislation.
As it was not a county borough, Colchester did not regain control of its fire brigade in 1948. The Cowdray Avenue building became the Colchester station of the Essex county fire service, and also housed the divisional headquarters and divisional control; divisional headquarters moved to no. 2 Park Road in 1978, and control was centralized at county fire headquarters, Hutton. (fn. 90)
Before 1836 watch was kept by unpaid part-time parish constables and by borough sergeants at mace and ward constables. In 1836 the watch committee, set up under the Municipal Corporations Act, formed a full-time police force consisting of a superintendant and 19 men based at an office next to the moot hall. Three day-sergeants served the three borough wards. The remaining 16 men were divided into two consecutive night shifts covering 8 beats. Each night-constable, his number on both sleeves, carried a truncheon and rattle, and patrolled alone. (fn. 91) In 1837 steps were taken to reduce the numbers of constables, parishes being encouraged to revert to their former practice of electing their own part-time constables. By the end of the year the night watch was reduced to one shift of five men patrolling five reconstituted beats supervised by a watch sergeant, and 100 townsmen had been made special constables. Supernumeraries were appointed to be summoned as required. Complaints in 1838 about police inefficiency led to attempts to man the police office at all times and to make more use of supernumeraries; the beats were altered and a sixth one added. Representations by inhabitants of Lexden, Mile End, and Greenstead parishes in 1839 about the inadequacy of their policing resulted in two supernumerary constables being provided for weekend duties at Lexden, and one each for the other two parishes. (fn. 92) Two full-time officers were added to the force in 1841 and thereafter the outlying parishes were served by the full-time borough police. (fn. 93)
In 1844 the force was accused of failing to suppress prostitution and disorderly public houses, but specific evidence was not produced. (fn. 94) Constables were required to keep a watchful eye on public houses, but unfortunately the task frequently resulted in dismissals for drunkenness. The presence of the garrison and the growing numbers of troops from the 1850s, as well as rapid population growth, stretched police resources. In 1857 the Colchester force was increased to 22 men and remodelled. Incidents involving soldiers often caused friction between the police and the military authorities, but through co-operation between the parties in 1860 two rooms at the green market, by the entrance from Angel Lane (West Stockwell Street), were provided for a base for a military patrol to help keep the peace. Elections were other times of potential crisis when additional policing was necessary. In 1867 a plain clothes officer was employed for the first time to investigate robberies of corn from the granaries at the Hythe. (fn. 95)
In 1883, despite continuing problems caused by the presence of large numbers of soldiers, the acting head constable reported that relations with the military authorities were 'of the most cordial character'. Attendance at fires was an important police duty, and from 1884, with the agreement of the volunteer fire brigade and the Essex and Suffolk Equitable fire insurance society, the head constable officiated at outbreaks of fire. By 1886 the borough force consisted of 32 men, including two plain clothes officers. In 1890 a sergeant and three borough constables were appointed as river police to protect the Colne fishery; in 1892 four additional constables were provided and there were three boats. (fn. 96) The hospital ship was used as a river police station when it was not needed for isolating patients. (fn. 97) A tricyle, obtained in 1884 for police use, was apparently replaced by a bicycle in 1896. (fn. 98)
In the 20th century many new borough bylaws and the increasing volume of traffic multiplied police duties. In 1904 a 10 m.p.h. speed limit was introduced in the town centre, and policemen measured the speed of cars with two special stopwatches. By 1907 the strength of the borough force was 49 men. (fn. 99) A police matron was appointed in 1912 for searching female prisoners, and two women police officers were temporarily appointed in 1918, but from 1921 women were appointed on a permanent basis. In 1923 there were 58 police officers, including one sergeant and two constables on river duty; three additional constables were employed by the Fishery Board for the protection of the oyster fishery. (fn. 100) By 1926 there were police outstations at Mile End and Lexden. From 1929 a motorcycle was used for traffic control and in 1934 a car was bought. (fn. 101)
In 1845 the borough police moved to offices in the new town hall, then in 1896 to West Stockwell Street. From 1902 the force was accommodated in the succeeding new town hall, and additional offices in Culver Street were provided in 1920 and 1934. (fn. 102) In 1940 the borough police moved to a former soldiers' home in Queen Street.
When the Essex county police force was formed in 1839, the borough force had declined to amalgamate, but offered instead 'every assistance at the outskirts of the borough'. Colchester county division, one of 14 created in 1840, was responsible only for the area surrounding the borough and had its headquarters at Stanway. (fn. 103) Colchester borough continued to resist the union of its force with the county's until 1947 when its 77 officers amalgamated with the county force under the 1946 Police Act to become the Colchester division of the Essex Constabulary with headquarters at the Queen Street station. A new police headquarters, repeatedly postponed since 1967, was opened on Southway in 1989. (fn. 104)
Gas lighting was introduced to Colchester by Harris & Firmin, High Street chemists, who from 1817 manufactured coal gas to light their own and adjoining shops. (fn. 105) In 1819 the improvement commissioners accepted Harris & Firmin's tender to light High Street from the top of North Hill to St. Nicholas's church, and in the 1820s gas lighting gradually replaced oil lamps in Crouch Street, Moor Lane, East Hill, and North Hill. (fn. 106) Before 1825 the gasworks were moved from High Street to Duck Lane (later Northgate Street) near the river Colne. (fn. 107)
Following Harris's retirement the Colchester Gas, Light and Coke Co. was formed in 1826 with 31 shareholders. In 1838 new gasworks at the Hythe replaced the old ones which were sold in 1839. (fn. 108) Auxiliary gasworks were built in 1843 in Dead Lane (later St. Peter's Street), west of the silk factory, to improve the supply to the north and east sides of the town, but were moved to the Hythe in 1849. (fn. 109) In 1865 a small group of consumers formed the Gas Consumers' Co. and tried to obtain an Act of Parliament to supply gas in Colchester. Members of the existing company, under the chairmanship of J. B. Harvey, felt compelled to fight their potential rivals by securing in 1866 an Act of incorporation (fn. 110) so that they could raise additional capital and increase gas supplies, and the Gas Consumers abandoned their action. Prices were reduced under pressure from the improvement commissioners, but increased coal and labour costs prevented the payment of a dividend to shareholders in 1874 and reduced payment in 1875. The gas company, despite concerted opposition from Colchester corporation, its chief customer, eventually obtained an Act in 1875 which fixed a higher maximum price and increased its powers, enabling it to raise additional capital for improvements. (fn. 111) The favourable terms secured by the town corporation for street lighting meant that the gas company could not prevent street lighting from being subsidized by private consumers. In the following two or three years the gas plant was improved and enlarged, and a telescopic gas holder was built for storing 300,000 cu. ft. of gas. New income was derived from manufacturing sulphate of ammonia. (fn. 112)
In 1916 the gas company obtained a further Act to construct new gasworks, acquire lands, raise additional capital, and extend the limits of their supply to operate beyond Colchester. The corporation, still eager to take over the gas undertaking, had petitioned against the Bill, claiming that the company had exceeded its powers, and benefited its shareholders excessively instead of reducing the price of gas. (fn. 113) The gas company, by constructing a retort house and extending its plant at the Hythe in 1920, was able to withstand competition from electricity and remain profitable until the nationalization of gas in 1949. (fn. 114)
In 1964 additional plant at Hythe Quay enabled gas to be manufactured from oil as well as from coal. (fn. 115) The gasworks at the Hythe were closed in 1971, and gas was supplied from Chelmsford and Hitchin through the grid until 1973 when Colchester was converted to natural gas from the North Sea. The Hythe gasworks were demolished in 1973. (fn. 116)
Electricity was produced privately at Berechurch Hall for lighting the premises in 1882 by Crompton dynamoes driven by a Davey Paxman engine. (fn. 119) In 1882-3 Colchester corporation considered supplying electric lighting to the town's streets, (fn. 120) but it was the South Eastern (Brush) Electric Light and Power Co. Ltd. which obtained powers from the Board of Trade and began supplying electricity in 1884 to some firms and a few households in the town centre. The venture was unsuccessful and c. 1886 the company sold the plant in Culver Street. (fn. 121)
In 1893 the corporation secured an Act to provide electricity, (fn. 122) but made little progress because of lack of public support. Nevertheless in 1896 the corporation decided to construct electricity works, and installed a temporary plant to supply power to the military hospital. (fn. 123) The general supply began in 1898 from an electricity station in Osborne Street. By the end of 1899 the 141 consumers included businesses, chapels, and institutions. Local Government Board loans obtained for extending the supply were repaid from profits from supplying electricity. In 1901 electricity was first used for street lighting. (fn. 124) Between 1899 and 1935 Colchester corporation raised its output of electricity from 61,381 to 15,477,880 units a year and the number of its consumers increased from 137 to 22,745. In 1927 the Hythe generating station was opened to provide increased capacity, and showrooms were opened in High Street. An area of 260 square miles around Colchester was added in 1928 by Special Order, and 11,000-volt power lines were built radiating out from Colchester to Tollesbury, Wakes Colne, Brantham (Suff.), Ramsey, Walton-on-Naze, and Jaywick. In 1931 the corporation obtained a further Special Order to cover Walton-on-Naze urban district, and bought undertakings at Wivenhoe and Walton. Profits were used to reduce prices or introduce low tariffs to attract new demand. The rapid advance of domestic electrification more than compensated for the loss of the custom of the tramways, important consumers between 1904 and 1930, and of several engineering works in the depression of 1931-2. In 1935 a new turbine and alternator of 3,500 kw. capacity was installed at the Hythe station which was then linked to the national grid and became a temporary generating point under the Central Electricity Board's control. (fn. 125)
When the electricity industry was nationalized in 1948 Colchester was included in the Suffolk sub-area of the Eastern Electricity Board. (fn. 126) The Colchester showrooms moved to nos. 36-8 Head Street in the early 1960s, and from there to a new building in Culver Street West in 1986. (fn. 127) Electricity offices built on the power station site in Osborne Street were converted into offices for the corporation bus service in 1974. (fn. 128)
From 1855 all cabs had to be licensed by the improvement commissioners who in 1859 approved two stands for cabs, one opposite the corn exchange and the other on the east side of St. Runwald's church. In 1880 the borough council provided a scale of cab fares. (fn. 129) In 1989 the borough, through its transportation committee, was still the licensing authority for hackney carriages. (fn. 130)
By 1848 a private horse-drawn omnibus ran between the Cups and Red Lion hotels and North railway station. (fn. 131) In the late 19th century another private horse bus operated between Lexden church and St. Nicholas's church on weekdays. In 1893 the borough council made bylaws controlling omnibuses. (fn. 132)
Horse buses were superseded by trams in the early 20th century. Preparations for steam trams were made by the Colchester Tramways Co. Ltd. in 1882, (fn. 133) but the scheme was abandoned for lack of funds. The corporation bought the remaining materials and removed the track already laid from North station to Middleborough, and in 1901, with its own electricity supply available, obtained an Act to provide its own trams. (fn. 134) A municipal electric tramway system was opened in 1904 with a fleet of 16 trams from the depot in Magdalen Street operating on double tracks from Colchester North railway station to High Street, and from there to Lexden, the Hythe, and East Street. (fn. 135) A new tram route to the recreation ground was added in 1906 and two more trams bought. (fn. 136) The trams ran at a loss, except during the First World War, but were maintained as a public service. (fn. 137)
In 1928-9 the corporation gradually replaced trams with 20-seater buses, and routes were extended from the tramway terminus at Lexden to the borough boundary and to Clairmont Road on Lexden Straight Road, and from North station to Mile End and to Bergholt Road. Additional bus routes were provided between Old Heath and St. Botolph's station and between Mersea Road and High Street in 1929, and between St. John's church Ipswich Road and Irvine Street off Shrub End Road in 1931. Bus services were reorganized in 1933 into seven routes with increased frequency. In 1939 diesel 52-seater buses were introduced and another garage was built next to the original tram depot. (fn. 138)
After the Second World War new services were gradually introduced to new residential areas. (fn. 139) The borough council had provided a central bus station in St. John's Street in 1925 for all operators, which was used until 1961 when a new bus station in Queen Street was opened, which was in turn replaced by one on East Hill in 1972. (fn. 140) In 1974 the council allowed the municipal buses to continue to run as a public service despite a large deficit in the accounts. (fn. 141) Twentyeight fully automated Atlantean buses replaced the existing fleet in 1975-6, and an additional fleet of five smaller buses was bought in 1988. (fn. 142) The administration headquarters moved in 1974 from Magdalen Street to larger premises in Osborne Street. (fn. 143) In 1989 they moved to no. 26 St. Botolph's Street. In 1986 the borough bus services were privatized but the borough council held all the shares. Various private companies provide bus services within the borough as part of long-distance routes. (fn. 144)
In 1854 the closure of all the town churchyards was ordered, except St. Mary Magdalen's where burials continued until 1892. Representatives of all eleven parishes formed a single burial board and bought from G. Tettrell 18 a. on the west side of Mersea Road, which in 1856 was consecrated as a burial ground. (fn. 145) Two chapels and a house for the superintendant were built. (fn. 146) In 1896 Colchester corporation assumed the duties of the burial board. (fn. 147) The cemetery, extended in 1895 by c. 12 a., had been enlarged to more than 57 a. by 1937. (fn. 148) The borough crematorium, south of the cemetery, was opened in 1957. (fn. 149)
BATHS AND PARKS.
As early as 1774 John Sauvage, a physician, built a floating bath on the Colne at Colchester, to offer bathing for medicinal purposes. There was a charge of 2s. each for nobility and gentry and 1s. for others, with a warm bath also available for 3s. (fn. 150) From 1808 inhabitants of sufficient means could take a warm bath at the new waterworks for 2s. in water heated by the steam used for the engine, or a cold bath for 1s. (fn. 151) Two large tepid swimming baths and individual baths, privately owned, were opened in 1847 in Osborne Street. (fn. 152) In 1883 P. O. Papillon leased to the borough a piece of the river Colne and its north bank, c. 450 sq. m., south of Belle Vue Road, for a public open bathing place. It was extended in 1887 and 1896. (fn. 153) When the new bypass road bridged the river at the site in 1933, an open air swimming pool further north on the river was provided instead and was used until 1978 when it was turned into a water sports centre. (fn. 154) Private slipper baths in High Street, transferred to the council in 1922, were closed in 1934 when new ones were built in Culver Street. (fn. 155)
In the mid 19th century the botanical gardens, which had been established in 1823 behind Greyfriars, and 'Mr. Jenkin's Pleasure Grounds' in St. John's Street were open to the public, on payment of an admission charge. (fn. 156) The botanical gardens were sold for building in 1851. (fn. 157) The first public open space was the recreation ground south of the town centre, formerly the old drill field of the Napoleonic barracks, leased from the War Department from 1885 until it was bought by the borough council in 1958. (fn. 158) In 1890 part of Lexden park was opened as a public garden. (fn. 159) In 1892 Castle park was opened to the public, 10 a. having been bought from the trustees of Charles Gray Round with a legacy from Mr. R. Catchpool and an additional 7 a. being leased by the borough council. The castle itself was acquired in 1920, and in 1929 Viscount Cowdray added Hollytrees house and its gardens to the park. (fn. 160) Riverside walks along the Colne and two artificial lakes in Castle park were created in 1972-3. (fn. 161)
The directors of Marriage's mill presented East Bay meadow to the town as a recreation ground in 1934. (fn. 162) Various other open spaces and playing fields were acquired by the borough in the 20th century, including Old Heath recreation ground, West End sports ground, Mile End recreation ground, Mill Road playing field, and King George VI playing field at Lexden. (fn. 163)
A long-awaited indoor swimming pool, the first stage of Colchester sports centre, off Cowdray Avenue, was opened in 1975; other indoor and outdoor sports facilities were provided there soon afterwards. The centre was called Leisure World from 1991. Many schools and local organizations had previously hired the garrison's indoor pool. (fn. 164) An 8-lane athletics track, financed jointly by the army, the borough council, the education authority, and the National Sports Council, was opened at the garrison in 1983. (fn. 165) In 1989 Monkwick indoor sports centre was used by pupils during the school day and open to the public at other times, as was Highwoods sports and leisure centre at Gilberd school; privately owned sports facilities were also available to the public at Essex University and at Woods leisure centre, Braiswick. (fn. 166)