Review of ‘Howden and Derwent: Building the Upper Dams of the Derwent Valley’, by Brian Robinson

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 18th October 2004, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

The Building of the Upper Dams of the Derwent Valley Water Board

by Brian Robinson
Designed and published by Northend
ISBN 0-901100-49-8 (2004)

Author Brian Robinson has the enviable skill of illustrating his books with rare and historically important photographs, a feature shared by both this new title and its forerunner, Memories of Tin Town.

Professor Robinson has close family links with 'Tin Town' (Birchinlee) and the story of the navvies who lived there during construction of the upper Derwent dams. Howden and Derwent is dedicated to his maternal grandfather, 'Long' George Green, one of those navvies.

The story of the dams began in the 1890s when Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham and Leicester turned their attention to the ample water resources of the upper Derwent Valley. In Howden and Derwent we can see work in progress on a gargantuan scale, marvel at the rearrangement of the landscape and witness the harnessing of pretty moorland rivers, at no little cost to the local inhabitants. Nature sometimes fought back, offering unexpected geological 'wrinkles' and rocks far from watertight. The genius of the engineers was matched by the toil of more than 2,700 navvies who laboured to the point of exhaustion.

No present-day visitor can fail to be impressed by the Derwent dams but this collection of contemporary photographs, minutes and engineering plans puts the whole undertaking into a different perspective. One stunning picture shows what lies at the heart of a dam wall and it involves the careful washing of six-ton 'plums'.

If you have ever visited our magnificent dams, read this book. Otherwise, go along and take the book with you, bearing in mind Professor Robinson's humbling words: 'Although the visible section of the dam is, without doubt, an imposing castellated structure, the majority of it ... is forever hidden from view.'

Review by Julie Bunting

Media and Book Reviews © their Authors.
URL of this page:
Logos by courtesy of the Open Clip Art Library