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09 September 21

History of Affinity Water: Mural Sculpture, Pumping Station, Reservoir

In the second of our podcast series the History of Affinity Water in 12 Objects, Steve Baker, visits an unusual giant sculpture, a pumping station, and a reservoir.

The William Mitchell Mural concrete sculpture is Grade 2 listed in acknowledgement of its innovative design and importance. It is approximately 24ft high and 18ft wide and it was the largest single cast sculpture in the World. It was made on site and the office building was built around it.

It took 16 hours to pour the concrete between the shuttering and the polystyrene. It was poured at two-foot intervals to allow each layer to dry and used to be situated INSIDE the Lee Valley Water Company Offices in Hatfield. When the site was sold for housing development, it was moved outside and now it sits at the end of a road nestled in between trees and grasses.

Mitchell. Born in 1925, died in January 2020 and is best known for his large-scale concrete murals and public works of art from the 1960s and 1970s. His work is of an abstract nature with its roots in the tradition of craft and buildability for predominantly concrete and glass reinforced concrete sculptures.

It also has a ‘baby sister’ which is smaller and was cast as a test piece to show what the finished sculpture would look like. The test piece sits nearby and was always in the open air.

“It’s a miracle it’s still here, it does look to me better than it ever did, and I am not going to leave it so long before I look at it again,” said Steve.

The Pumping Station, now not in use, shouts water company and was built in 1939 the same year as the Reservoir was, which is 4,642 cubic metres. Both are near to the sculpture.

Steve recalls colleagues sitting on grass on top of the Reservoir after taking part in a company fun run.

In the first of this series Steve told us about Maps, Logos and Tankers.

Listen out for Part Three, coming soon.

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