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Built in 1872 to supply water to the rapidly growing steam railway network at St Pancras, the Waterpoint is an extremely significant Grade II listed building.
It was designed by the office of Sir George Gilbert Scott, the architect responsible for the magnificent Midland Grand Hotel. The ornate brickwork and elaborate detailing is an indication of the importance of engineering in the Victorian era.
At around 9m x 6m and three stories high, it is an impressive presence. The top floor contains a vast 2,400 cubic foot capacity cast iron water tank which supplied the increasing number of steam engines visiting St Pancras station.
In 2001, the development of the new Channel Tunnel Rail Link terminus meant the Waterpoint was threatened with demolition. As the building was of such architectural and engineering importance, English Heritage intervened and an agreement was reached with London and Continental Rail to find a way to move it instead.
English Heritage recognised the historical singificance of the Waterpoint and the need to save it from demolition. Heritage of London Trust Operations responded to a request from English Heritage to investigate the feasibility of relocating the building and on completing this took responsibility for the move. The Morton Partnership was appointed to lead the technical assessment, provide structural engineering services and oversee the project, working with Abbey Pynford plc as specialist contractors in moving the building, with Jim Parkinson Ltd providing cranes and transporters and Universal Stone Ltd completing the repairs and refurbishment of the building and the site.
A new site was found 700 metres to the north east and the journey began.
Before moving the building a survey was undertaken to see how it could be moved. The strength of the original lime and cement mortar meant that dismantling and rebuilding the Waterpoint would have caused too much damage to the original materials. Instead, it was decided that the building would be separated into sections, hoisted onto a transporter and moved by road.
To prepare the building for this historic lift, internal and external concrete beams were cast to create a rigid lifting frame. Each section was estimated to weigh 120 tonnes.
Diamond toothed chain saws were used to cut through walls half a metre thick and operated through a 6mm wide course of mortar to keep damage to the bricks to a minimum. Water from the tank was used to keep the blades cool as they cut through the mortar.
The bottom section shared a wall with St Pancras Cellars and was in poor condition so could not be saved. Instead, a replica was constructed at the new site using specially manufactured bricks to match the originals, along with a proportion of stone salvaged from the original plinth.
The top two sections were lifted by one of the largest available mobile cranes in the UK and lowered in to their own specialist transporters for the painstaking 700 metre journey.
A second very large crane was in position at the reception site to lift them into their new position where a heavily reinforced concrete slab that spans between the two massive viaduct walls had been cast to receive the 350 tonne building.
The actual removal started on 25th November 2001 and, just three days later, the Waterpoint stood firm in its new home. It now has superb views over London from the viewing platform constructed in the old water tank.
Magnificent views over London can be enjoyed from the viewing platform accessed by a newly constructed staircase.
With generous financial assistance and support from:
The Heritage Lottery Fund
The Architectural Heritage Fund
The King’s Cross Partnership
Rail Link Countryside Initiative
Heritage of London Trust
London Borough of Camden