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Talla Reservoir, Aqueduct

Aqueduct (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Talla Reservoir, Aqueduct

Classification Aqueduct (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Edinburgh, Liberton Waterworks; Alnwickhill Waterworks

Canmore ID 276399

Site Number NT12SW 38

NGR NT 10648 23099

NGR Description NT 10648 23099 to NT c. 271 690

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Scottish Borders, The
  • Parish Tweedsmuir
  • Former Region Borders
  • Former District Tweeddale
  • Former County Peebles-shire

Archaeology Notes

NT12SW 38 10648 23099 to c. 271 690

For Talla Reservoir (centred NT 1200 2140), see NT12SW 17.00.

The Talla aqueduct carries drinking water from the measuring house (NT12SW 17.06) at the Talla Reservoir to the Alnwickhill Filters (Edinburgh, Liberton, Alnwickhill Waterworks: NT28NE 87.00). It measures about 35 miles (56km) in length; this figure includes 9 miles (14.5km) of tunnel and about 12 miles (19.3km) of cut-and-cover, the remainder being bridges or cast-iron piping. As constructed, the aqueduct has a typical gradient of 1-in-4000, and is sufficiently large to carry the water not only from Talla, but also from the adjoining watershed of Menzion. Only a single line of pipes was laid, but provision was made for duplication if desired, ease of extension being a prime consideration in the design of the scheme.

There are 21 tunnels in all, the shortest being about 133 yards (121.7m) in length and the longest 1 1/3 miles (2.14km). They are driven through material of various types, ranging between hard rock (specifically greywacke) in the case of those between Broughton and the reservoir, and sand and gravel, in the case of those near Penicuik. One of the latter was driven by compressed air, without the use of a shield. Several were dug by both night and day shifts, the best progress achieved in driving those through hard rock being about 48 yards (43.9m) per month. Between Broughton and the dam, rock drills (driven by air compressors) were situated at convenient places alongside the construction railway (NT12NW 57.00, NT12SW 37 and NT13SW 85.00), where they were readily supplied with coal; the compressed air was then piped into the headings. It was originally intended to leave considerable portions of the tunnels unlined, but in the event they were all lined, either with cement concrete or with brickwork in cement. The least dimensions within the tunnels are 6ft (1.83m) in width by 7ft 6ins (2.3m) in height. Exceptionally, a brick section was used in heavy ground near Penicuik.

Cast iron pipes were used for the siphons across the valleys. These range in diameter between 27ins (0.69m) and 36ins (0.91m), according to the available fall. An automatic valve was provided at the beginning of each siphon, and set to close in the event of a burst within it.

[No map of route provided: fig. 1 names locations traversed, and notes syphons].

W A Tait 1905.


Publication Account (2007)

The aqueduct between the reservoir measuring-house and Alnwickhill filters in Edinburgh is approximately 35

miles long, including nine miles of tunnel and 12 miles of cut-and-cover work, the remainder being bridges or castiron pipes in the open. There are altogether 21 lengths of tunnel, the shortest being 399 ft and the longest some 1.33 miles. The longitudinal section shows the positions of some of the tunnels and other works in the first five miles. The tunnels are either concrete, or of four-ring brickwork in heavy ground.

The aqueduct is laid on a gradient, mainly of 1 in 4000, and was made sufficiently large when constructed in

1901–05 to carry not only the water from Talla, but also from the adjoining watershed of Fruid–Menzion, developed in the 1950s and 1960s. The least dimension inside the aqueduct tunnels is 6 ft wide by 7 ft 6 in. high.

Some of the valleys on the route are crossed by inverted siphons for which cast-iron pipes, varying in diameter

from 27 in. to 36 in., were used. Only one line of pipes was required for the original supply from Talla, but

provision was made for duplication of the pipes in later years should this be required. The passage of time and

the development of the Fruid–Menzion scheme has shown the far-sightedness of this decision.

R Paxton and J Shipway 2007

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders' with kind permission from Thomas Telford Publishers.


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