Portadown and Banbridge Waterworks

Vol. 1 No. 1 - 1969

Portadown and Banbridge Regional Waterworks

Foffany Catchment Area

by S.C.Lutton

At the beginning of the century and after Portadown had been raised to Urban status, the water supply for this town of 10,000 inhabitants was obtained from wells and springs, supplemented by rainwater stored in barrels and tanks.

In 1902 a joint Board with Banbridge was formed to investigate the possibility of a piped water supply for the two towns. The first proposal was to take water from the river Bann above the point of Whitecote, but owing to considerable opposition from the townspeople, led by Dr. David Hadden and others, this proposition was dropped in favour of obtaining a supply from the Mourne Mountains.

In October 1902, the engineers appointed by the Joint Board prepared a draft scheme for obtaining waters from the Rivers Shimna and Alt in the Mourne Mountains. These waters were to be impounded in a storage reservoir by building a dam across the valley at Fofanny. The waters were to be piped to Banbridge and Portadown by gravity feed through 10" and 9" cast iron pipes. This scheme was approved and received Royal Assent on 11th August, 1903. Contracts were finally placed in March 1904. The contract for the service reservoir pipework, etc., amounting to some £36,000 was awarded to Messrs. Collen Bros., Portadown and the dam and impounding reservoir at Fofanny to Messrs John Graham of Dromore at £12,726. The total cost of the works including Engineers' fees, compensation etc. was approximately £80,000.


On the 5th July, 1906 the works were completed, the waters from Fofanny being fed into storage reservoir at Drumnahare for Banbridge and Drumclougher for Portadown. The distribution of a piped supply throughout Portadown was not complete until 1909.

Over the years the consumption of water (expressed as gallons per day) in the two towns increased as follows:

gals per day
gals per day
1916 348,000 120,000
1920 444,000 144,000
1936 516,000 160,000

By 1940 it was apparent that additional supplies of water would have to be obtained but the war prevented any work being put in hand.

In 1946, a new water board was formed which was called Portadown and Banbridge Regional Waterworks Joint Board. This board represented Portadown Borough Council, Banbridge Urban District Council, Banbridge Rural District Council and Dromore Urban District Council. The Ministry of Health promised to give a grant towards the proposed new scheme.

The work envisaged for the new scheme was as follows:

  • The construction of a dam at the Deer's Meadow source of the River Bann, together with the necessary road diversions.
  • Improvements at Fofanny so that the catchment area could be fully used, also diverting the waters of the Slievemael river into Fofanny .
  • The combined Fofanny and Spelga schemes to provide an out-put of six million gallons per day.
  • A trunk main to Portadown of some 34 miles to be constructed and a trunk main of 13 miles to Newry.

The total cost of this scheme was £1,500,000 and the work of the board was put in hand under the Chairmanship of R.J. Magowan of Portadown.

By 1952 the new 34 miles of piping was in operation and water was fed into a new square covered Service Reservoir at Drumclougher on the opposite side of the road from the original circular reservoir.

New reservoir

The new reservoir was built on Martin's land. The original circular one was built on Macdonald's land, and was uncovered until 1955. The feed water entered through a vertical pipe with a bell mouth. This pipe was situated in a circular recess off the main reservoir. To those of us who can remember this system in operation, the rather eerie booming sound of the water welling out and over the bell-mouthed pipe, will always remain with us.

In 1967, work was started on a further new reservoir on Martin's land, and completed in 1968.

Since 1906, there have been three Caretaker/Water Inspectors resident at Ballyhannon. The first was Mr. Moses Thompson, who resigned in December 1913. He was succeeded by Mr. Thomas Coulter who retired in 1953 and was followed by Mr. E. Jones, the present Inspector who was already in the Board's employment, in another capacity, when appointed.