The Farlington Aqueduct

 Created 25-02-2002    Last update 22-03-2008


Farlington Aqueduct

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An Aqueduct is a man made channel or conduit, designed to transport water from one place to another. There have long been rumours of such a brick built structure which ran from somewhere in the Crookhorn area to Portsmouth in the south. The idea was to supply water to the Portsmouth area. Here is a map of the area and some documentary evidence:

Map of area


From contributor David Francis:

Supposedly dug by the Lord of the Manor, Peter Taylor c 1776. He sought a source of water by digging an immense well downwards
from the top of Portsdown, variously stated as being from Crookhorn Copse, or from behind the site of the later Farlington redoubt. One source says there were four such wells, the first at the copse, the fourth at the redoubt, and the others in between. [One of these shafts was rediscovered in 1862 - see below] The intention was then to tunnel horizontally into Portsdown from the south, and to meet the well(s), with the hope of striking enough water to provide a piped supply for Portsmouth.


Some sources say the work didn't get very far; others that the tunnel was at least partially brick-lined, and emerged either at the back of
the [St Andrew's] church-yard, or "80 yards SW by S of the church" - which would put it somewhere near the top of St Andrew's Road - and the author of this account claims to have actually seen it. Another story to appear in print is one of a horse and cart sinking into some sort of hole around where Rectory Avenue now is, which turned out to be brick lined, and was assumed to be part of the old tunnel.

From a post graduate thesis by Mrs. Margaret Rowe supplied by contributor Geoff Salter:

With the manorial rights was Thomas Smith' s Act of 1741 authorising him to provide a piped water supply to Portsmouth, and to this purpose he invested in a tunnel dug in the side of Portsdown Hill, supported by brickwork in anticipation of meeting with springs, but the speculation failed.


It must have cost him a lot of money, because a report of Henry Slight in 1850 stated that though Taylor had been led to believe that by digging a tunnel from a point 80 yards southwest by south from Farlington Church [St Andrew's] and carrying it through Portsdown Hill and across Crookhorn Copse, he would tap springs. Taylor tunnelled for seven years over one and a half miles without result.

From David Moore and Geoff Salter of the Palmerston Forts Society . It was taken from the Gosport/Portsmouth Letter Books in the Royal Engineers' Museum archives at Chatham, dated 21 March 1862.

With reference to Fort Purbrook and outworks, I have to report that a 
shaft has been discovered in Crookhorn Wood at the position marked B in accompanying sketch [not available here], which is supposed to be part of a scheme which is said to have been contemplated for supply of Portsmouth with water from this point by means of a tunnel carried through Portsdown Hill. [i.e. The Farlington Aqueducts c. 1776]


I have caused this shaft to be explored to the depth of 79ft and the 
workmen were enabled from this depth to force a wooden rod 10ft further into the loose soil and bricks with which it had been filled. The strata is chalk of which the first 12ft is friable, the remainder portion being rock chalk. At this depth of 19ft 6in there are 2 headings driven one about north the other south. They each extend 18ft 6in from the shaft and are 4ft high and 3ft broad.

I would propose to clear this shaft to carry the whole of the sewage 
from Fort Purbrook Farlington and Crookhorn Redoubts into it as shown by the black lines on on accompanying sketch. The other proposal be entertained, the present contractors might be called on to cut the necessary tunnels from Fort Purbrook to Crookhorn Redoubt and also from Farlington Redoubt to the shaft.


St Andrews Church

The west side of St Andrews Church Farlington. One account says that the aqueduct was 80 yards (74 metres) southwest by south  (214 degrees) from here.

Farlington Aqueduct map

80 yards southwest by south from the front centre of the church places the aqueduct portal as shown on the map, although this depends on which part of the Church you start the measurement from. I used the southwest corner.



During March 2008 I was contacted by Revd. Steve Summers of St Andrew's Church:


I thought I’d let you know that an underground curved brick entrance has opened up on the western boundary of St. Andrew’s churchyard – it may be just a tomb but it is not easy to tell and is quite unsafe.It may well be nothing of interest but I am aware of the stories about a tunnel that appears in the churchyard. Whilst the orientation of this opening is East-West rather than North-South it may be of interest to you.


The phrase 'may be of interest to you' was a slight understatement. Also the documentary evidence does suggest that the tunnel "emerged either at the back of  St Andrew's church-yard, or 80 yards SW by S of the church". I visited the site the next day.

site of the collapse

The taped off site of the collapse at the western boundary of the graveyard. Behind the boundary wall is a strip of overgrown land running north/south which is an old 'right of way'. (See above map)

Close up of collapse

The boundary wall behind the collapse is a recent addition, and is made up of fragments of old grave stones.



Farlington Aqueduct

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