JULY 22ND 1909

“The ceremony of formally opening the Castle Carrock Reservoir was performed yesterday by the Mayor of Carlisle, Mr W B Maxwell. The event marked the completion of the greatest undertaking upon which the city of Carlisle has embarked.” So said the Carlisle Patriot newspaper on Friday July 23rd. “The necessity for providing the city with a water supply of the highest quality has occupied the attention of the citizens for nearly half a century. In deciding upon a suitable scheme, much controversy, some litigation and an immense amount of labour and of expense have been entailed. The scheme…has given Carlisle a water supply of high quality which will meet all likely needs for generations to come and which is free from any possibility of contamination. Those who, at the invitation of the Mayor, witnessed the opening ceremony yesterday, must have felt pleased that the city’s water should have been drawn from so free, open and bracing a countryside; and, as they gazed on the immense reservoir which has converted the Castle Carrock valley into a lake, they could rest assured as to the adequacy as well as to the purity of the supply.”

So what was the day like itself? Newspapers report that a chill breeze blew down the valley and across the reservoir but thankfully, no rain fell, even though it had been threatening (unlike the grand opening of the pipeline and filter beds in August 1906 when it had rained mercilessly). The party left Market Square in Carlisle at 11.30am, arriving in the village at 1 o’clock. A platform had been erected at the entrance to the girder bridge across to the Valve Tower and speeches were made there. The Carlisle Journal reports that there were strings of streamers alongside the road for the arrivals.

Events were presided over by Sir Benjamin Scott, the Chairman of the Geltsdale Water Committee, who had driven the whole project through, and who had also been in charge of the ceremonies of August 1906. The Mayor of Carlisle, Mr W B Maxwell, entered the Valve Tower and raised one of the valves to allow water to pass under the dam to one of the filters – newspapers report a great gushing took place, which was greeted by loud cheers. A flag was raised to signal success.

More than 150 guests were there – in other words, very much the great and the good of Carlisle civic society. A marquee had been erected nearby and catering had been “admirably” carried out by the management of the Silver Grill in Carlisle. The food included lobster patties, Italian sandwiches, chou paste fingers and French pastries, washed down by claret, whisky and soda and champagne. Castle Carrock had probably never seen anything like it.

Its inscription read: ”Carlisle Corporation Water Works, Geltsdale Scheme. Presented to Mr WB Maxwell Esq, Mayor of Carlisle, by the Engineers, Messrs Mansergh and Sons, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Castle Carrock Reservoir, July 22nd 1909.”

Two commemorative items were presented to the Mayor to mark the momentous occasion. A rosebowl, mounted on an ebony stand, was given on behalf of the Engineers.

A silver salver was presented to the Mayor by Mr Harold Arnold, the chief contractor. That salver is still in the Maxwell family, and is now held by the Mayor’s granddaughter, Margaret Carr, who lives in Scotby.

The engraving said: “Carlisle Water Works. Presented by the Contractors to W B Maxwell Esq, Mayor, on completion of Castle Carrock Reservoir, July 22 1909.”

Speeches then followed, from Sir Benjamin Scott, Chairman of the Geltsdale Water Committee, Mr W B Maxwell, the Mayor (whose father William had opened the last extension of the old Carlisle waterworks at Stoneyholme and who had also been Mayor then), Ernest Mansergh, the chief Engineer who had taken over as head of the firm from his father who had recently died and Mr F P Dixon, who had been Mayor when the Parliamentary Bill had been passed

A toast was then proposed to the Mayor’s health – which the papers report “was drunk with musical honours.” The Mayor then replied that he hoped a stone would be placed on the dam with an inscription bearing the names of all the key players who had made the scheme possible:

“I prophesise now that when generations of the citizens of Carlisle come up here for an outing, they will, when they read these names, take off their hats and thank God that Carlisle ever had such men.”

There is no evidence that that stone was ever laid. The party finally left the village, and returned to Carlisle by 4pm. It had been quite a day – both for the citizens of Carlisle, and for the people of Castle Carrock.