Nunhead Reservoir – An Asset of Community Value

As London’s population expanded in Victorian times the need for clean water was paramount and the passing of the Metropolis Water Act in 1852 made provision for this. Various private companies developed the infrastructure and in 1875 The Southwark & Vauxhall Water Company constructed the Nunhead covered reservoirs next to Nunhead Cemetery.

Thames Water took over London’s supply in the 1980s and rebuilt the reservoirs. Although there was a perimeter fence, open access was tolerated, if not officially allowed, for many years and locals used it as a kind of public space or park. The main attraction is of course the view.

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Photo: Andy Worthington

A couple of years ago we wrote about the Top 5 views in south London, but we didn’t include this one, mainly because it wasn’t officially open to the public. The recent Nunhead Reservoir Open Day was my first visit and I have to say the view from the top of the reservoir trumps all the others in our list – it’s simply the best view over London I’ve seen.

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Photo: Jude Woodhead

Now here’s the issue – Thames Water, due to security concerns, erected a new fence in 2014 and now have security guards with dogs patrolling to keep the public out. Public access to the site was effectively ended and what was regarded as a local park suddenly became private land.

Local resident Rosanna Thompson decided to do something about this and founded The Friends of Nunhead Reservoir. The aim was to campaign for regular access to the site and a petition was launched and contacts with Thames Water were opened.  I spoke to Rosanna at the Open Day along with a representative of Thames Water and both sides are hopeful that a solution can be found. There are various hatches to the reservoir (see photo) which need to be secured; if this issue can be resolved then more open access may be negotiated.

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Access hatches to reservoir

Nunhead Reservoir gives amazing views over London and is a place that deserves to be open to the public – it should be, in our opinion, an Asset of Community Value and a Protected View or Vista.  You can help Rosanna and the Friends by signing their petition here and if you’re a local resident, why not become a member.

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