Water Rates & Rights
The reminiscences of Bob Grace . . .
The canal and local councils were always at loggerheads about drainage.  Drainage from the roads going into the canal was a nuisance at times, but sometimes they were glad of it.  However, it always caused friction.  Also, the coming of the canal brought in the first industrial rates.  An agricultural parish, like Marsworth, suddenly brought in a windfall in rateable value, which was paid over the years until the decline of the canals with the coming of the railway.  Various schemes were then made to ease the rates on the canal and the adjoining wards.  Tring eventually went to law with the old Grand Junction Canal Company over the question of water rate and water rights.  The case dragged on for some years and the only people who benefitted from it were the legal authorities and eventually the two sides had to reach an agreement to call it a day.

With the coming of the great reservoirs to Tring, they were not constructed in their present form in the first instance.  First of all, they were just ‘heads’ - the Ashwell Head at Wilstone and the Bulbourne Head at Marsworth, which were dammed up and small pumping engines put in to pump direct into the Wendover navigable feeder, one pump being halfway between the main arm and New Mill and the other pump being at the White House, above Wilstone reservoir.  These were the first engines of the neighbourhood and the men who came to work them were, of course, engineers, the first to come into this part of the world.

The engines were vacuum engines, which meant that they worked on very little steam pressure (about 5 psi, I think), from very simple boilers.  The engine was activated by the weight of the pump bucket drawing up the piston and the piston cylinder being filled with steam from this boiler, then a jet of water was squirted in condensing the steam.  The vacuum then formed drew up the bucket and brought up the water to the canal level.  These two engines were extremely inefficient, even by the standards of those days, and they were soon replaced by engines put in at the Tringford station.  These were two great beam engines.
Beam engine at Tringford pumping station.

[Biographic notes, c.1977] Bob Grace lived in Tring for most of his life.  He was born at Parsonage Farm, which formerly stood on the site of Bishop Wood School.  As a boy he attended the old National School at Tring.

He worked in Tring all his life and eventually joined the family’s corn and milling business which had been in existence for 250 years before it ceased in about 1977.