Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published June 2nd 2013
View From a Roof
Carshalton Water Tower
Carshalton Water Tower is an eighteenth century building undergoing an extensive restoration project that is run entirely by a voluntary trust. The estate includes the tower itself, as well as a hermitage and historic garden. Restoration has been going on since the early 1990s and has included everything from fixing bathroom tiles to raising the old water wheel.
The Trust raises funds by giving Sunday tours of the tower between 2.30pm - 5pm during the months between Easter and September, and tours of the hermitage on the first Sunday of the month. As entry to the water tower and hermitage are only a £1 each (25p for children), I thought it was worth a visit, but I was left feeling a little disappointed by the experience.
Bridgeman's Historic Garden
When I arrived at the tower, I was told that a group had just been taken over to the Hermitage, and the volunteer running the front of house pointed me in the direction of where to go. I found it odd that I wasn't asked to wait for the next tour, but started to make my way over none-the-less. The journey takes you through the historic garden, which was designed by Charles Bridgeman circa 1715. Bridgeman was a pioneer in landscaping informal gardens, which can be clearly seen by the naturalistic, if somewhat busy lake, which is swamped with reeds.
Although the Hermitage was not very far away, I got completely lost, and ended up on the grounds of St. Philomena's Catholic School. After wandering around for a good ten minutes, I finally spotted what looked like it could be the Hermitage hiding low amongst the trees. How to get down there was another matter entirely as there was no path.
Or rather I should say, there was no path to be seen. There was a path, but it was so overgrown with stinging nettles, it was almost invisible and practically inaccessible. I did manage to fight my way through, and saw a beautiful looking structure. There was no tour group or guide though. If they had been there, they were long gone by now.
A dark corridor was about all there was to see.
Not that this particularly mattered of course, because the Hermitage took all of thirty seconds to walk round, and although it was only a £1, I felt cheated. No one took me there, there was no guide, there was hardly anything to see. I could have gone there by myself without paying, and no one would have been any the wiser.
I went back to the water tower hoping that would be a bit more substantial. 'A bit' being the prominent words. When you first enter, there is a sign that says 'only thirty-seven steps to the roof'.' My ascent was accompanied by a series of caricature illustrations, which you can find out more about at reception.
View from the roof.
When I reached the roof, I was rather bemused as to what I was meant to be looking at. There were no displays or information up there. It was purely for the view. It was a lovely view, don't get me wrong, but I was expecting something more.
At first I thought I had paid a £1 just to go onto the roof, and was quite annoyed, but when I went back downstairs, I was relieved to see that there were a few rooms on the ground floor. This time I was offered a guided tour, but I actually preferred to walk around at my own pace.
The first room, where the reception is based, is called The Orangery, because it used to lookout onto an orange orchard. The next room was the Saloon, but the closest to anything western were a couple of pipes on display. They were discovered beneath the floorboards and had the initials W.F. They are believed to have belonged to William Ford of Guilford, who had been working there between 1715-1720.
The most impressive room was the bathroom, which unfortunately allowed no photography. It was called the 'Bagino' in 1721, and had a deep plunge bath made from Dutch tin-glazed tiles. There were 822 tiles in all , which were decorated with painted blue flowerpots containing carnations, tulips, roses, anemones, narcissi, and hyacinths.
The Final room was the Pump Champer, where the water wheel is located. Many of the original paddles and bolts had to be removed during restoration due to corrosion.
I can't say that the water tower is the most exciting historical place I've been too, but the volunteers have clearly work hard to maintain it.
Having visited this building a number of years ago I pop back on a seasonal basis to see what has changed.
The volunteers there also hold a number of unique events of which the documentary film shows have been especially interesting.
I find is surprising that you wouldn't get your Â£1's worth unless you have exceptionally high expections of a building restored by volunteers and only open on a Sunday.
I expect there are restrictions when there is a high school a junior school on keeping vegetation at bay but I would rather this than local history being left in disrepair or worse knocked down.
The small fee for a tour, walk round the gardens, and the beautiful view of Carshalton House from the roof of the tower is worth it on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
I assume the writer of the article must have got some money worth as the length and detail of what was written would not have been picked up in 10 minutes.
Why not look out for one of the free entry days across the year if Â£1 seems to much.