Recent work cutting back the undergrowth around the watercourses at The Basins has revealed what a complex network of streams and man-made channels there are. Thanks to the work of volunteers like Alf Binding,73, many more local people can now enjoy them.
“It’s amazing how many people you see out here with their dogs enjoying a walk,” said Alf. “We’re really getting stuck into it this year and the site is clearer than it’s been for a while. Hard work but better for you than an armchair.”
Like many local people who walk at The Basins, I fell to wondering what their history was. Carole Moore, Secretary of the. Wellington Museum & Local History Society has kindly provided some answers.
“When Thomas Fox took over the Tone Dale Mills he needed to have a reliable source of power,” writes Carole. “ The streams in the area sometimes ran very low in summertime and the water wheel he installed could not operate in these dry spells.
“He realised that a reservoir of water was the answer. The Basins were excavated in 1801 – 03 to store the water from 2 streams: Rockwell Green Stream and Westford Brook. These were diverted by a system of channels with weirs and sluices to control the water levels and maintain a steady flow of water down the leat to the waterwheel at Tonedale.
“Three full –time workers were needed to operate the sluices and overflows to keep the correct levels and flow rates at all seasons.
“The iron bridges which cross the streams at various points may well have been constructed at one of Wellington’s foundries, Bishop Bros in North Street or Ford Bros in Mantle Street, but there is no documentary evidence to support this.
“There is a picture which shows a Lifeboat floating on the Basins and offering the public short boat trips on the water to celebrate Lifeboat Day in 1908. Where the Life Boat came from is not recorded.
“After steam power came to the Fox factory in the 1840’s the sluices and weirs were still maintained and the Basins kept full of water, possibly as a fall back option or as a precaution should there be a serious fire at the mill.
“Later on, however, they became neglected and overgrown, until in 1978 the Basins Preservation Society was formed in order to clean up the area and provide a place where people could spend their outdoor leisure time.
“Volunteers cleared the undergrowth and dredged the silt out of the ponds to provide the attractive amenity area we see today.”
With thanks to Carole Moore
Please leave a message in the space below if you’d like to show your gratitude to Alf and his co-volunteers at The Basins