Did you catch Jumbo being discussed on Saturday Live this weekend on Radio 4? Judging by the number of #Colchester based tweets that were flying around shortly after 9:30am, then the five minutes or so of fame on the Sunny Colch icon certainly generated a great deal of interest.
In case you missed it, HERE’s the link on Listen Again. Fast forward past the usual Radio 4 twaddle to catch Colchester being showcased, of sorts, around about the 25-minute mark.
Nat Bocking, the Secretary of the British Water Tower Appreciation Society [blimey] did a delightful job in both celebrating, and also mourning the rise and fall of our civic pride:
“When you visit Colchester there are three things that stick out: the Castle, the theatre and the water tower. You really can’t miss the water tower.”
The doom from Nat was observed during the site visit:
“It’s in a terrible state. It’s falling to pieces. There are pigeon droppings everywhere.”
But the concluding part of the interview found some scope for optimism:
“Standing underneath and it never fails to impress. There is no better symbol for the water towers in Britain than Jumbo.”
It REALLY IS worth a listen again at 25 mins.
And so that has hopefully put everyone’s favourite Grade II listed largest surviving Victorian water tower back on the national agenda.
Well, for five minutes of Radio 4 / twitterati fame anyway.
But what next for Jumbo?
Same as it ever was?
Here’s hoping not.
If you are reading this hyperlocal blog for Britain’s Oldest Recorded [and thank you] then you don’t need the history lesson. But the brief backstory is one of being built in 1893 out of 1,200,000 bricks and 819 tons of stone; the water capacity was 1,069 cubic metres.
Jumbo served the water needs for 90% of the town back in the day. It was finally sold off by Anglian Water in 1987. It changed hands with a steady succession of owners / speculators before being bought at auction for £300,000 by George Braithwaite in 2006.
A planning application for two flats, two restaurants and office space across ten floors was turned down 7 to 5 by the Colchester Borough Council Planning Committee in September of 2011. The apolitical Officer’s report recommended it to be approved.
Jumbo remains the Big Red Elephant of Sunny Colch. It is a symbol of our civic decay and the long-term decline of the town. Sadly this seems to have accelerated at an increasing pace over recent years…
As a footnote, further detail to the Radio 4 visit has appeared in a blog post by Nat. It is honest, but sadly doesn’t raise any optimism:
“On the misty November day I met the BBC, Jumbo was looking more dilapidated than when I last saw it. The years of neglect and the forces of wind and water have not been kind and there were obvious signs of forced entry as we walked around its massive feet. It seemed to us like walking around a massive elephantine sculpture in Babylon or amongst the columns of the Acropolis.”
Even less appealing:
“We were told by Brian Light of the Balkerne Tower Trust that the owner has now been told to remove the wooden hoarding around the base which has been hiding all kinds of sins being carried on behind it and which also blocked what had been planned to be open space, so it would probably be replaced with wire fencing.”
Speeding [sorta] through the Lexden with a full head of steam towards North Station, Jumbo remains the landmark for any commuters returning to Sunny Colch. You see the four proud pillars standing strong as a beacon for the town. You know that you are almost home.
But iconography and symbolism can be misleading. Especially so when it comes to civic pride Vs hard cash.
What can be done to save Jumbo before it becomes too late?