What: Covered reservoir
Where: Itchingfield, Sussex
Architect: Possibly Aston Webb & Ingress Bell partners.
Last Known Condition: Being converted.
Page Updated: August 2020
Until recently, the top of Sharpenhurst hill was crowned by a squat, scrub-covered mound into which led a bricked-up doorway surrounded by a weatherbeaten brick facade. The Ordnance Survey identifies this as Reservoir (Covered), an underground water tank which once supplied Christ's Hospital School.
A battered fence ran around the base, but a large hole allowed access and the adventurous could climb to the top. From here there were panoramic views of the Weald and the Downs. There are also two brick access hatches: I am not one for heights and it took me some years to summon up the courage to take the rickety ladder down into the unknown darkness. My mind was set however, when I saw that the soil had been removed from the structure, leaving a great white concrete dome; I knew that time was running out and I might not have another chance. One evening I climbed to the top of the mound, mounted the top of the access hatch and began my shaky descent into the reservoir chamber. On reaching solid ground, the first thing I noticed was the echo. Every footfall or pebble dislodged was amplified and echoed, rolling about the walls several times over; even the most ordinary sounds took on an almost magical quality. The chamber was appropriately cathedral-like, with a central "nave" flanked by two arcaded aisles. In the light of my torch the scale was hard to measure. The size of a house? A tennis court? A football pitch? Stalactites of lime mortar dripped from the vaulted ceiling, tide-marks and scale created strange patterns on the walls and curious arrangements of pipes criss-crossed overhead.
The reservoir is believed to have been fed by a nearby artesian well. The level was kept constant by a ballcock valve with a similar arrangement in the water tower down at the school - this was about 6' below the level of the reservoir outflow (which was about 300' above O.D.) so that the tanks were filled by gravity except in times of low flow when a small steam engine would be used to power a pump. The water level in the reservoir could be determined at a glance from the tower by means of a large black and white gauging board on Sharpenhurst Hill.
To supply the school, water was released from the tower under gravity to ensure a good head of pressure to all of the school buildings. This system continued in use until the 1980s when the school was connected to the mains supply and water towers were largely superseded by local pumping stations.
It is believed that the reservoir is being converted into a recording studio.
Christ's Hospital forum, various.