It was the eve of World War I and the mayor of Middlesbrough was worried. Specifically, Mayor Hugh Bell was worried that the war may cause a water shortage. So he came up with a solution. Bell hired the Arts and Crafts architect Walter Brierley to design a small water tower that would provide water to the towns of Ingleby Arncliffe and Rounton in the case of a shortage.
Brierley’s three-story sandstone tower has a front entrance fitted with oak double doors, wide enough to allow a vintage Victorian fire engine and an even older funeral bier to be stored inside. The tower is topped with four gargoyles at the eaves and a crenelated parapet. The inscription above the door records the fact that Sir Hugh Bell had the tower built in 1915 to supply water to Ingleby Arncliffe and Rounton, the village where Sir Hugh resided. In front of the door to the tower are some colored pebbles that spell out another inscription: “H&FB 1915.” These are the initials of Sir Hugh Bell and his wife Florence Bell.
The Bell family was heavily involved in the iron and steel manufacturing industry in Middlesbrough, about a 20-minute drive from Ingleby Arncliffe today. Hugh Bell served three times as Middlesbrough’s mayor and became the director of his family’s steelworks in Middlesbrough. He also was the chairman of the Tees Valley water board. Bell knew about water.
The natural spring supplying water to the Ingleby Arncliffe Water Tower is less than a mile away, 1,000 feet up in the nearby Cleveland Hills. The height of the spring forces the water to the top of the tower, via a pipe.
The tower is still used to supply water to a nearby cottage and some water troughs for cattle. There are certain days of the year when the tower is opened and the fire engine and bier roll out onto the grass, but you’ll need to ask a local to know when.
Know Before You Go
From the A192 take the exit to Ingleby Arncliffe. At the white village signpost, turn left. The tower is a few feet on the left.
There is some parking Immediately opposite. It is a residential area so please be considerate.