Water Tower

Hamilton Road, Cambridge

  • Water tower, Cambridge.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Kathryn Mercer. Date: 11/07/2009.
  • Detail of top of south side of the Water Tower.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Kathryn Mercer. Date: 1/07/2009.
  • Entrance on north side of Water Tower.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Kathryn Mercer. Date: 1/07/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 753 Date Entered 19th February 2010 Date of Effect 19th February 2010


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Allot 6, Cambridge Town Belt, Recreation Reserve (NZ Gazette 1984, p.3529), SO 44982 (RT SA451548), South Auckland Land District, and the structure known as the Cambridge Water Tower thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Waipa District


Waikato Region

Legal description

Pt Allot 6, Cambridge Town Belt, Recreation Reserve (NZ Gazette 1984, p.3529), SO 44982 (RT SA451548), South Auckland Land District.

Location description

In Payne Park, on the corner of Hamilton Road (State Highway 1) and Vogel Street.


The Cambridge Water Tower is a rare example of a brick water tower designed to provide a high pressure town water supply. There had been public meetings about developing a municipal water supply as far back as 1881, but a combination of problems around the sourcing of supply, cost, and the lack of resident voting support meant the project did not get underway until the following century; by which time the town's population was over 1000. Built in 1902,1903, providing water supplied from Moon's Spring (as first suggested in 1882), the Water Tower is also a rare example of the civil engineer Ashley John Hunter's design work, being both decorative and functional. The water supply was quickly followed by the formation of the much needed Cambridge Fire Brigade, which in turn lowered insurance premiums in the town. The supply opened up greater opportunities for those involved in the plumbing business, softened the impact of drought and is likely to have improved public health.

Despite involving a large number of suppliers and construction workers from all over the Auckland province, the water supply project went very smoothly under Hunter's direction. Constructed with handmade bricks, the 21 meter circular structure dwarfs other buildings in the town at a height of 24 metres supported by a lower wall over half a metre thick. The bricks were laid in the English bond pattern, renowned for its strength, with decorative features that included a regular pattern of bluestone topped ventilation windows and several horizontal rows of brick dentil pattern. The tower is topped by a brick-lined metal tank topped by a lead roof that held 90922 litres (20,000 gallons): a volume intended to cater for the town's growth.

The growth of the town and its associated pressures for improved services infrastructure resulted in the tower being operative for only a short period (20-23 years). It was decommissioned c1926 when it was found that the springs it drew from were being polluted as the town's population grew. Despite it no longer having a practical purpose, the Water Tower had in its relatively short life, already become a local icon and landmark, it is a tribute to its community and Council that it has survived.

Little appears to have been done to the tower since, apart from the lead roof being repaired before the Second World War. A risk assessment report was compiled in 1997 by the Hamilton architecture and engineering firm Stiles and Hooker. By 2009 it appears to be suffering from benign neglect, having lost the tank's roof and almost the entire outer walkway around the top of the tower. Nonetheless, it is an impressive landmark greeting those arriving in Cambridge from the north west on State Highway One and it has been incorporated into the logo of the Resthaven retirement complex next door.

Internationally, Water Towers are being increasingly recognised as important heritage landmarks that are rapidly disappearing. The only other registered example of a brick municipal water tower in the online Register is in Invercargill (Record No. 394, Category I). The Cambridge Water Tower is featured in a number of heritage trails, was featured in a Waipa Heritage Inventory and is listed in the Waipa District Plan as a Category A building. The tower was a significant step forward in Mayor Buckland's determined efforts to set Cambridge up with the amenities of a prosperous and growing town. Hunter took part in many engineering projects in the upper North Island, including supervising the construction of the Hamilton Railway Bridge (Record. No. 4201, Category II), the construction of new railway and road routes as well as coal mining developments. The tower is the most eye catching example of Hunter's design and supervisory work identified at this time. Cambridge remains a rural support town and its buildings do not rise above two stories, making the 24 metre Water Tower a strong local landmark. It's location on a Payne Park recreation reserve and rest area alongside a busy section of State Highway One provides an excellent opportunity to educate about the tower's construction, the people behind it and its use.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Cambridge Water Tower is a monument to early efforts to provide Cambridge with a good standard of amenities. It was part of a wide ranging effort, particularly by Mayor Buckland, to provide Cambridge with public utilities to encourage Cambridge's growth and reputation in the early twentieth century. The Water Tower, as an integral part of the first public water supply facilitated improved public health, provided a constant water supply to soften the impact of drought, saw the establishment of the local fire brigade to provide improved protection for buildings from fire, and thus insurance cover at a lower rate, all of which attracted further private investment in the town.

Aesthetic Significance or Value:

The most recognised symbol in Cambridge for more than a century, the Cambridge Water Tower is an iconic landscape feature and reference point that at 24 metres stands sentinel over Cambridge, soaring to the height of a ten story building, in a town where nothing else rises above two stories. It can be seen from a great distance in all directions and is held in high regard the people of Cambridge and of the wider Waipa district. Located on a grassy reserve near the entrance to the town from the Hamilton side, on busy State Highway One, it welcomes those arriving supported by a 'Welcome to Cambridge' sign. The tower is a unique architectural landmark and monument of civil engineering that has announced arrival at Cambridge to travellers for over one hundred years, becoming synonymous with Cambridge. It has featured on post cards and in travel publications; even being incorporated into the logo of the adjacent community owned Resthaven retirement home.

Architectural Significance or Value:

The Water Tower is an early and substantial engineering project in Waipa district and although a functional tower considerable concession has been given to decorative elements. It is a notable example of the work of the civil engineer Ashley John Hunter. It is architecturally important as an example of an increasingly rare number of water towers surviving both in New Zealand and internationally, as such water supply systems are replaced by pumps alone. The cylindrical tower is built of brick placing it into another subcategory of extant water towers in New Zealand. Of the nine other Water Towers registered four of these are brick. Its particular decorative brick patterning would have been primarily chosen for its robust structural qualities, but contributes to the Tower's overall decorative elements, along with the dentils that frame the upper section and the tall slim recessed panels that emphasise the structure's height; as do the bluestone capped ventilation slots. These decorative features are a manifest example of how water towers were invariably decorated, with their designers being very much aware that the imposing height of such structures ensured landmark qualities from day one.

Technological Significance or Value:

The building of this 24 metre tall, cylindrical brick Water Tower in 1902, was a civil engineering feat in itself, most such Towers were built on high ground to assist the gravity pressure, but the main settlement area of the town of Cambridge did not offer such options.

It is an unusual example both in the Waikato and nationally, of a brick water tower for town supply. The only other brick water tower in the Waikato on the Register is much smaller and relates to supplying railway steam engines, not drinking water. The tower is both decorative as well as functional, and the site represents the work of a large team of craftsmen under the guidance of professional engineers. The plans provide information about the technology and materials of the time and the published accounts of those involved in the project provide an insight into the size of the project and the variety of skills and technologies and materials employed. The innovative water mains pipes used may still lead out from the tower, providing further insights into the technology of the time.

Cultural Significance or Value:

The building is Cambridge's most dominant landmark and is included in a Cambridge historic walking trail, Ruth Wilkinson, Just Roaming- in the Steps of Our Pioneers; in a list of significant local buildings and heritage walks on the Cambridge Museum web site; in one of the heritage walks on the Cambridge Museum's web site; in Dinah Holman's Waipa District Plan Heritage Inventory and in the Waipa District Council Plan scheduled as category A.

Social Significance or Value:

The Water Tower provided an important community service and was a milestone in the development of the town. Strong community attachment to the place is indicated by its very survival as it has been decommissioned for 83 years; by it being listed on the District Plan; being the location of welcome signs to the town; as part of the logo for the adjacent rest home that it dwarfs and is included on several local heritage walks as well as in national travel guides.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

The Water Tower was part of Cambridge's early utilities and is a physical dem-onstration of confidence in the town's prosperity and future by the early twenti-eth century residents. The place provides a now rare example of an early twen-tieth century municipal water tower.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

This place is associated with Cambridge Mayor William F. Buckland, with his powerful personality that 'got things done', including many of Cambridge's early infrastructural projects.

The structure also provides a rare example of the design work of Ashley John Hunter, Civil Engineer, who was also involved in many key infrastructural works (generally of a less visually appealing nature than the Tower) in the upper North Island, including railway, road and coal mining developments.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:

Buckland's detailed account of the people and companies involved in the tower's construction combined with plans and archival material with the largely unaltered structure provides a large number of research leads suitable for a thesis project.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:

Press coverage of the opening showed that despite rainy weather a good crowd turned out, indicating the level of public interest in the tower at the time.

The property is listed on the Waipa District Plan as Category A, in a list of significant local buildings on the Cambridge Museum web site, in Dinah Holman's Waipa District Plan Heritage Inventory. The site is also a stop in a Cambridge historic walking trail by Ruth Wilkinson, Just Roaming- in the Steps of Our Pioneers, and in one of the heritage walks on the Cambridge Museum's web site and in at least one of the AA travel guides. It is considered important and attractive enough to be featured in Cambridge's Resthaven's logo and on a website of images of the Waikato. Its very survival some 83 years after de-commissioning is the strongest indicator of the community affection for and recognition of this historic Water Tower.

(f) The potential of the place for public education:

There is currently no information panel at the sight, but the location of the struc-ture on State Highway One between Auckland and major tourist routes such as to Rotorua provides an excellent opportunity to provide educational information about the tower's construction, use and people associated with the site. Some public education already takes place through the various heritage walk books and web pages. Water Towers overseas are being restored and creatively adapted to new uses ranging from restaurants to penthouse living. The Cam-bridge Water Tower has significant potential as a tourist attraction if restored and visitors able to access the viewing platform at the top of the Tower. Being the equivalent height of a ten story building it will provide stunning, panoramic views of the Waipa hinterland that encircles Cambridge township.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:

In developed countries Water Towers are steadily disappearing, replaced by technology that uses pumps only. Those surviving are ones that have been recognised as heritage treasures and promoted as tourist attractions, or adaptively reused e.g. restaurants/penthouses. This tower is a rare example of a very early twentieth century municipal brick water tower in the Waikato and New Zealand. The only other example of a brick municipal water tower in the online Register is one in Invercargill (Record Number 394, Category I).


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Hunter, Ashley.J

Hunter was born and educated in England, migrating to New Zealand in 1872 where he took up an engineering cadetship with the Public Works Department in Wellington. He carried out significant Waikato infrastructure work in 1872-79 and 1881-1882, such as supervising the construction of the Hamilton Railway Bridge (Record. No. 4201, Category II), work on constructing the Ngaruawahia and Cambridge railways and work on the Kaniwhaniwha deviation. In 1882 he relocated to Auckland to take up private practice in partnership with another civil engineer, James Stewart. They worked predominantly on a Public Works contract for the Hamilton-Rotorua railway, but also worked on the Miranda Coal and Iron Company development (1883). In 1883 Hunter was made an Associate Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers. He became engineer to the Westport Coal Company 1894-1897, before returning to private practice in Auckland as an architect and consulting engineer. In 1900 Hunter worked on the 'reinstatement and alterations' of the Auckland Club, with his office in Shortland Street (as was Stewart). Both he and Stewart did work for the Whareora Coal Company, Northland in 1902: however Hunter had shifted into the Halyday's Buildings in Auckland while Stewart remained in Shortland Street. Hunter's wife, Lillie, was the second daughter of James Halyday, suggesting the relocation was made with family support. The 1903 Buckland Water Tower accounts make no mention of Stewart. From 1906 Hunter again took up engineering positions with various coal mining companies, being elected a Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1908. 'An erudite and keen observer', he served on a number of government commissions and was president of the New Zealand Society of Civil Engineers from 1922-1923.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Cambridge was originally a colonial military outpost established in 1864 on a crook in the Waikato River by the 3rd Waikato Militia, on what was part of the Ngati Raukawa tribal area, part of the Tainui confederation. Much of the town that grew up around the redoubt was built on a flat area above the Waikato River valley. By at least 1880 it was surrounded by a town green belt, predominantly leased for grazing stock.

The lack of a reliable water supply with good water pressure stood in the way of setting up a fire brigade at a time when many Cambridge houses had wooden shingle roofs and insurance companies were wary of covering buildings with a high fire risk. Sanitary conditions within the town and the occasional drought also highlighted the need for safe, reliable water. Since at least 1881 various proposals had been put forward for a Cambridge municipal water supply. In 1882 William Moon suggested the springs on the Domain Board land he leased, (known as Moon's Springs) as a source of clean water, with an engineers report estimating a flow of 604,000 gallons (2,745,900 litres) over 24 hours. The proposal was supported by the Mayor, Thomas (Tom) E. Wells. But ongoing difficulties with funding, and resident support, meant the project was delayed until the early twentieth century.

Incredibly simple devices that involve a tower, a tank and a pump, water towers utilise the pressure created by the height of the structure, As part of a system for town water supplies it gained popularity during the Industrial Revolution. Basically constructed as a water storage container holding a water supply at a height sufficient to pressurise a water distribution system. The pressurisation occurs through the elevation of the water. Every 10.2cm of elevation produces 1kilo pascal (0.145psi) of pressure. It was common for such imposing landmarks to be ornately covered such as with fancy brick work, (as in Cambridge) or other decorative elements. They are usually cylindrical, a shape recognised as being extremely strong for a tall slim structure.

The first decade of the 1900s was one of growth for Cambridge, with the population reaching 1000. The Water Tower was constructed during William F. Buckland's first period as Mayor (1898-1903). Remembered for his dogged determination that the borough would steadily progress, his watch saw the introduction of a sewerage system, drainage works, the construction of the Victoria high bridge, the introduction of gas lighting and the construction of a number of key public buildings. Buckland later claimed that while he was the originator of the water scheme, he initially opposed the Moon's Creek supply as he had observed it drying up periodically, but it was the best of the several sites the council had inspected.

In late November 1901 a sample of the Moon Spring water was sent to the Department of Public Health in Auckland for analysis. Mr J.A. Pond, the Colonial Analyst, responded: 'This is soft water of great purity, and will rightly be classed as first class potable water.' A brief enigmatic piece of gossip in The Observer of November 1902 suggests the Water Tower planning if not construction was well underway. The town belt land the tower was situated on had been leased and it was not until the 25th June 1903 allotments 2,3,4,5 and 6 were leased from the crown by the Borough of Cambridge.

The Water Tower cost £1077 to construct and it was thought it would supply 3000 people, sufficient for many years to come. The tank at the top of the Water Tower was used to increase water pressure rather than for water storage per se - reservoirs were built closer to the springs. The tower was paid for through Council taking out the Cambridge Waterways Loan of £6,000 amidst much speculation about how the money was spent. Thus, (the by then the ex-Mayor) Buckland published a list of the people and firms involved in the project along with the financial details. The cost of £5974 19s 9d included the tower, laying the mains pipes with 100 connections, associated structures and machinery.

Mr Ashley John Hunter (1854-1932), a civil engineer of Auckland, did surveying work (£22) and the engineering (approximately £220), overseeing the whole project. The tower appears to be his design, with the water supply reflecting 'much credit' on Hunter. Mr F.C. Bunyard, CE, is listed as working 21 weeks on the project for a total cost of £63.

Mr J.J. Holland of Auckland was responsible for building the Water Tower, the dam at the springs, the bed for the engine and extras for £1288 3 s 3d.

Mayor Buckland detailed records of the equipment suppliers and associated works have survived, along with the costs right down to the legal services and charges and advertising outlets and costs that provide a valuable insight into the type of materials used at the turn of the nineteenth century and costs at that time.

Several people commonly associated with the tower's construction are not mentioned in Buckland's list, namely: the bricklayer George Russell Fellows, Robert Morse and Bill Morse, who was training as a carpenter under his father Robert's tutelage. Other versions also include William (Bill) George Tucker, labourers Thomas Vickers and Arthur Davies. At least one source suggests the builder Robert Sanders was also involved. They may be what were simply referred to as 'outside labour' at a cost of £710s, or they may have been employees or subcontractors of someone on the list.

Morse had an old black horse appropriately named Darkie worked by Tucker to pull the bricks to the top of the wall. It was said that school children regularly visited the building site, slowing the work by feeding apples to Darkie, which was frustrating for Robert Morse. He regularly tendered for Council contracts: in 1887 alone Morse had tendered to re-roof Cambridge's public hall, for alterations at the Cambridge Saleyards, for the Cambridge Public Library additions and for building a wooden water table in Duke Street.

The bricklayer George Russell Fellows migrated from England to Darlington Australia, to New Zealand, arriving 1882. By 1885 he was in Onehunga, Auckland, filing a series of patents related to the construction of furnaces used in metallurgy. Some of these furnaces are likely to have had imposing brick chimneys, similar in construction to towers.

The pumping machinery was next to the spring in an engine room at what would become the gas works, on the Domain Land on the Waikato River flats, forcing the water to the top of the Water Tower. The tank on the top of the Water Tower could hold 20,000 gallons [90922 litres] with an additional storage reservoir at Moon's springs holding a further 10,000 gallons [45461 litres]. The gas driven Tangye's Vertical Treble Ram Pump could handle at least 5,000 (22731 litres) gallons per hour, which could be supplemented by an oil driven pump produced by the same manufacturer, which handled a further 5,000 gallons (22731 litres) per hour, and capable of raising the water 200 feet (61 metres). The springs produced approximately 125,000 gallons (568262 litres) each day, on average.

Work on the tower proceeded quickly, without 'the slightest friction between the Council, the engineer, and the contractors', so that an irregular meeting of the local Domain Board was called on the 9 March 1903, to decide on the water supply to the domain to enable the engineer to arrange to have the pipes laid prior to the water being turned on. At this time the Cambridge Lake Reserve (part of the domain) was considered by the Undersecretary of Lands 'second to none of the Domains in the colony'.

The Water Tower was officially opened two days later on Wednesday 11 March 1903. Despite inclement weather, there was a good crowd assembled when Mayor Buckland started the pump before walking to the tower, where the water was turned on, then proceeding to Victoria Street where a hose was attached to a hydrant to demonstrate the water pressure: the water spouted 40 feet (12.2 metres) into the air: Buckland and Hunter were cheered by the crowd. The Mayor commented that the water was 'as pure as anything in the world,' and declared the water works 'a sign of civilization and a distinct advance in the affairs of the town.' At an impromptu gathering at the Criterion Hotel afterwards, champagne toasts were engaged in (some provided by Messrs Williams and Graydon). Hunter pointed out that despite having 10 miles (16 kilometres) of mains, it was one of the cheapest water supplies in the country, a fact he attributed to the pipes used; he had taken a risk recommending a make and variety of pipe not used anywhere else in New Zealand at the time. He also spoke very favourably of the capabilities of the Council's Engineer, Bunyard.

The construction of the tower created income for Waikato plumbing firms such as the Hardley Brothers and John E. Hammond, who advertised well in advance of the opening, encouraging households who wanted to be connected to the council supply to order pipes, taps, baths basins, etc. The Water Tower also paved the way for the formation of the Cambridge Fire Brigade in 1904.

In 1903 it was claimed that 'the spring is a never-failing one, there is not much probability [of] the inhabitants of Cambridge running short of water. Even should this supply not be sufficient, there is another spring, of equal capacity, within 100 yards [91 metres] that can be utilised at a few hours' notice.' In 1910 the Borough Council (led again by Mayor Buckland) intended to purchase a spring and water supply area that belonged to John Sharp, a nurseryman, at a cost of £200. A lively special Council meeting tried to have this rescinded, complaining that the decision had been sprung upon them. Councillors Lewis and Dickinson had since inspected the current water supply and while the pumps had been working hard all day there was plenty of water, so they did not think the purchase of more land prudent. Dickenson suggested building an extra storage tank for a lesser sum of £50. Buckland believed that the activities of the Drainage Board were affecting the water supply, that the current source of water was not as reliable, and that purchasing Sharp's springs would save the council £50 per year in the cost of running the plant, rather than the current situation of 'straining one pump 16 to 18 hours a day'. Councillor Fergusson also argued that the future was looking very bright for Cambridge and he expected they would soon need an additional water supply. To which Councillor Priestley 'pointed out that if the Borough springs went dry, Mr Sharp's would do also as they were practically from the same source.'

The Borough Engineer's report presented at the same meeting noted that 'the greatest daily consumption of water during the late dry weather was 95,000 gallons, [431,879 litres] which leaves 30,000 gallons [136383 litres] of the daily supply unused.' However, at the three daily peak periods more water was required for both pumps to work. This could be achieved by either increased storage capacity or Sharp's springs, 'which latter would allow the pumps, both working together, to go for the full 24 hours if required.' At the time, two pumps could be used for no more than two hours at a time, and he estimated a storage tank of the same capacity would allow the pumps to work a further two hours. A fire during peak periods could run the system short of water. The decision was postponed until after the next elections, but Sharp Springs was eventually approved, and a 10,000 gallon (45460.9 litres) storage reservoir was built.

The large National Hotel fire in 1912 showed the limitations of the water supply, with inadequate pressure to save the building, resulting in the fire spreading. In 1914 lawn sprinklers were made illegal in the borough, with Council workers tracking those who left the water running overnight by 1916. The same year the Town Clerk said that:

Pressure obtained [by the water supply was] about 30 lbs per sq in [2.112 kilograms per square centimetre]...General efficiency...satisfactory..the tank meets the need for domestic supply to the Borough and suburbs, but for emergencies, fires, etc, we get greatly increased pressure probably double the above, by direct pumping into the mains.

Mr T. Dix was the Council engineer from 1923-1937, and as such 'was in charge of the water supply. In the early 1920s it was discovered that the water was becoming contaminated, attributed to the growth of housing in the vicinity of the springs. So on the 16 August 1926 Mr Dix turned the first sod for laying pipes to a new water supply from Maungatautari, with the intention to turn the water on before Christmas. Costs were reduced by using day labour and the scheme was opened by Mayor T.F. Richards. Thus in c1926 the tower was decommissioned.

'Long before World War II' Moore and Hardy were contracted to make repairs to the lead roofing on the very top of the tower. Their young employee, Fred Morriss, carried out the work.

[He] found the inside stairway was no trouble, but to step to the outer edge of the wooden platform, slightly unsafe...and [to] climb the steel ladder and over the top was a bit hair raising. Even more so was the descent, creeping to the outside edge of the roof and feeling cautiously for the top rung on the shakily secured ladder.

In 1972 G. A. Hughes and Fred Morriss suggested that the Water Tower be developed into a viewing platform. The idea won some public support but was not actioned. In the mid-1970s the area was named Payne Park after Stan Payne who did much of the fundraising for establishing Resthaven (next door), and a joint Jaycees, Rotary and Lions project landscaped the park. Further landscaping was done in 1981.

Waipa District Council contracted Hamilton-based firm Stiles and Hooker, architects and engineers, to carry out an earthquake risk assessment in 1997. In 2009 there was some interest in buying the tower for reassembly on another site and conversion into a home.

The complex Cambridge water supply project involved around 28 companies, from local firms, to those from Auckland. The tower is a testament to the bloody-mindedness of the then Mayor, W. F. Buckland and to the design and coordination skills of the engineer, A. J. Hunter.

Physical Description

Located on State Highway One in Cambridge's town belt, in recreation reserve called Payne Park, the Water Tower is a strong signifier to travellers from the direction of Hamilton that they have arrived in Cambridge, particularly as it forms a backdrop to the 'Welcome to Cambridge' signage. The tower is approximately 1 metre in front (i.e. to the north) of a fence that surrounds the Resthaven retirement complex, which the tower dwarfs.

The brick tower has a cylindrical footprint and stands 20.73 metres (68 ft) high to the base of the tank, and approximately 24 meters in total. The base of the tower is approximately 21.4 meters in circumference. Plans indicate concrete foundations. There is a brick missing at ground level on the south side which provides a point of access for the pigeons, possibly other vermin and water. The exterior lower section has a greenish tinge from lichen, particularly on the south side. There is a desiccated remnant of a vine that used to partially cover the tower. There is one doorway at ground level on the north side. It has what appears to be the original villa style painted wooden door with a semi-circular toplight in modern reinforced glass. The door frame is made of painted concrete, with a simple column and arch decoration.

Part way up on opposite sides two metal pipes poke out, spilling out cut wires, presumably they were supplying electricity for the two pumps at one time. They are not on the plans and nor early photographs of the tower. The upper section of the tower is framed within dentil decoration. Within this, tall slim recessed panels emphasise the structure's height. In every alternate panel there is a pair of unglazed window slots that allow ventilation, capped with bluestone. Most have been covered with netting to prevent entry by the many pigeons that make this building their roost. However, some of the netting is missing, providing another point of egress. The netting may date from the late 1990s when the building was last opened by the Council.

The water tank is made of riveted metal and has a capacity of 90922 litres (20,000 gallons). It sits on a lattice of four girders by four girders approximately 6 metres (21 feet) across. The lip of the tank is showing signs of corrosion, as is the ladder leading from the top interior platform to what remains of the exterior walkway. The ladder from the exterior walkway to the top of the tank is no longer extant. The top of the tower was not inspected, but aerial photographs from 1990 onwards indicate that while the central cast iron column and the inlet/outlet pipe to one side remains, the lead on wooden tongue and groove roof is no longer extant nor are the beams it sat on. The thickness of the wall in the aerial photograph suggests that the 4 ½ inch (11.43 centimetres) brick lining is still in place. It is not clear how rainwater exits the tank other than by evaporation, but there appears to be some greenery growing in the tank.

Only a few wooden boards of the external walkway surrounding the tank remain, but the walkway supports in iron and the metal handrail still trace the framework of the walkway's original shape.

The bricks are predominantly laid in the English bond pattern, known for its strength. Several bricks had finger prints baked into them. One brick has the letters 'WT' in it in a serif font. The firing of the bricks was uneven, leading to a wide variation in colour, which suggests they may have been made using a clamp process where perhaps 20,000 bricks are air dried, then stacked with brushwood between the bricks and allowing enough space between them for air circulation. The stack was then covered with cinders, turf, reject bricks or clay to keep the heat in, and a fire was lit on one side of the clamp. The fire would be moved progressively around the clamp for twenty to thirty days. Because this process does not require a kiln, it was sometimes used on the site of construction if there was a suitable source of clay nearby. If the bricks were made locally, there is a chance that 'WT' could stand for 'water tower', to identify the consignment, or perhaps the letters were carved in a green brick by a mischievous young William Tucker, the only worker we know of on site with those initials. Who ever it was incised the letters they had a steady hand and good attention to detail to achieve the serifs on the letters.

The lower wall is approximately 0.54 meters thick. The floor is slightly below current ground level and covered in bird faeces, dead pigeons, egg and water and there is a strong smell of ammonia. The lower staircase is no longer extant and the wall of the lower section is discoloured due to splash from falling debris and damp. Two metal pipes, one in the centre, one towards the side, run from floor to (as far as could be seen) the ceiling, labeled on the drawings as inlet and outlet pipes.

Four pairs of steel horizontal I-beams support each wooden platform level up the tower, with wooden beams and stairs between. There are no floors, as such. The top level is also supported by a row of bricks jutting into the chamber, looking both elegant and functional: it forms the base of the doorway to the external metal ladder providing access to the walkway around the tank. The ceiling appears to be of wood. The plan indicates the ceiling beams cover metal I beams. They do not indicate what the base is made of, however it is likely to be reinforced concrete in order to bear the weight of the tank structure and a large volume of water.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1902 - 1903

1926 -

Construction Details

Brick, bluestone, wood, steel, concrete, lead, iron.

Completion Date

17th November 2009

Report Written By

Kathryn Mercer

Information Sources

Furkert, 1953

Frederick William Furkert, Early New Zealand Engineers, Wellington, 1953

Salmond, 1986

Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen

Thornton, 1982

Geoffrey G. Thornton, New Zealand's Industrial Heritage, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1982

Parker, 1986

S K Parker, Cambridge: An Illustrated History 1886-1986: The Centenary of Local Government in Cambridge, Cambridge 1986

Wilson, 1984

J Wilson (compiler), AA Book of New Zealand Historic Places, Lansdowner Press, Auckland 1984

Conservation Bulletin

Conservation Bulletin

Ian Bowman, Historic Brick Structures, New Zealand Historic Places Trust, 2, Wellington, c1992

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Lower Northern Area Office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.