RIVINGTON is a favourite haunt of many people, for walking and fishing, not least because of the beauty of the scenery -- scenery that has been greatly enhanced by the presence of the reservoirs.

Yet just over 150 years ago there were only fields, farms and rivers running through the valleys which were later flooded to provide water for Liverpool. In those days it was obviously vastly different to what it is today, sometimes described as "the little Lake District".

The change began with the growth of Liverpool in the early years of the 19th century and the resultant shortage of water. So in 1846, three prominent engineers, Hawksley, Cubbitt and Rondel, were engaged by the Liverpool Council to examine the position and propose schemes which would solve the problem.

Many thought that wells sunk in the sandstone rock under Liverpool could create an ample water supply. Other suggestions were to draw the water from Lake Bala in Wales, or the River Alt and other sources, but these were quickly discarded.

Thomas Hawksley proposed to impound the water of the Rivers Douglas and Roddlesworth, and form a reservoir in the valley between Rivington Pike an Heath Charnock. This scheme was agreed, and in 1847 and Act of Parliament passed to allow the work to go ahead. However, there was some opposition by a vociferous minority, and work was delayed for some time.

The Chorley Waterworks Company built their own reservoir -- about nine acres on Anglezarke Moor -- in 1850 to service the town's needs, but when the Rivington Pike Scheme, as it was known, began, Liverpool Corporation was allowed to buy Chorley reservoir on the condition that in future they also supplied Chorley with water.

So work began in earnest, and generally speaking, the main reservoir system at Rivington, comprising High Bullough (Chorley) Reservoir, the Upper and Lower Rivington Reservoirs, Anglezarke Reservoir, Rake or Red Bank Reservoir at Abbey Village, Lower Roddlesworth Reservoir, and the filter beds at the southern end of the Lower Rivington Reservoir near Horwich, was constructed between 1850 and 1857. In August, 1857, then first water from Rivington was delivered to Liverpool.

Even so, demand still exceeded supply, and another reservoir was built on the River Roddlesworth at Tockholes; still more water was needed, and a Bill was passed by Parliament in 1867 which allowed the building of a further reservoir in the Yarrow Valley to the east of Anglezarke Reservoir, and two more filter beds at Horwich. The principal streams supplying water to the Rivington Pike Scheme are the Roddlesworth, Flake, Yarrow and Douglas. From the Roddlesworth and Rake reservoirs, a channel had to be cut to carry the water to join the main system.

The scheme had been a massive undertaking, with a chain of reservoirs all decanting into the Lower Rivington Reservoir, from where the supply passes through the filter beds before being piped many miles to the holding reservoirs at Prescot.

The overall result was the greatest watertaking then in existence, and it served as a model for water works all over the world. It contained a number of unique features. For instance, it was the first scheme in which all the water supply was filtered and all stonework associated with various dams, connecting tunnels, washes and bridges was carried out to an unusually high standard.

Even though it was filtered, when the water was first delivered to Liverpool it was slightly discoloured because of the peat and vegetation from the sites and bottoms of the newly-filled reservoirs. This naturally caused unfavourable comment, but the condition soon passed and the Liverpudlians were agreeably surprised at the pure quality of the supply.

As you can imagine, the construction of the reservoirs brought a massive influx of workmen, most of them navvies, but also stonemasons and other experts. They lived in temporary wooden huts near their work, and as I am sure you can imagine, such a large workforce placed extra demands on the neighbourhood resources, resulting in local shopkeepers, tradesmen, and even quarry owners, enjoying an upturn in their fortunes.

The "Clog Inn" at Anglezarke was hard pressed to supply the needs of thirsty workmen, and many tales were told of unlicensed "beer vendors" taking to brewing ale and making large profits. There were also illicit stills in the hills, where a crude form of whisky was distilled for those who preferred spirits.

There has often been confusion, too, about the numbers of properties which were submerged beneath the waters of the new reservoirs -- after all, the Rivington watershed comprises of about 10,000 acres of land. The answer, surprisingly, is only three -- the Black Lad public house, Lady Hall (in medieval times the manor house of Anderton Park), and Turner's farm and house, which lie beneath the waters of the Upper Rivington, Lower Rivington and Yarrow reservoirs respectively. The owners of the properties were generously compensated by Liverpool Corporation, and were able to replace or make good their loss.

Incidentally, a second Black a' Moor's Head Inn (Black Lad) was built, near to Rivington Church, where the village club and bowling green now stand (the origin of the name is uncertain, but the coat of arms of the Andrews family, once owners of Rivington Manor, incorporated a Moor's head).

So Liverpool was getting its water, and everyone seemed to be happy. However, in 1898, Mr JW Crompton, of Rivington Hall, decided to sell his estate, and it was generally expected that Liverpool Corporation would be the purchaser. They turned down the offer, so Mr WH Lever (later Lord Leverhulme) stepped in and bought it, together with manorial rights, for £60,000 in 1900.

In 1901, Leverhulme offered a large part of Rivington to the people of Bolton as a country park. Despite the fact that three years previously Liverpool had said they had no interest in buying the Rivington watershed, they suddenly changed their minds under the new circumstances and applied to Parliament for a Bill to allow them to acquire Rivington, including the church, vicarage, Grammar School, Chapel and Manse, to protect their water supply.

Lever was having none of that, and to solve the dispute, a major Parliamentary battle took place. A settlement was eventually agreed, with Lever Park, the village, and other areas remaining as a free gift to the people of Bolton. The watershed land was to go to Liverpool, for a fee, of course.

They offered Lever £40,000, but he wanted £457,000. In the end, the matter went to arbitration, and Liverpool Corporation was told to pay Lever £138,499, together with costs of £10,000 (not a bad return on his £60,000 only a reasonably short time before!).

Now, of course, all that area is run by United Utilities (the new name for North West Water), and it gives massive recreational pleasure to many people.

Perhaps there is only one thing missing. As far as I am aware, there is no plaque in Rivington to Thomas Hawksley, the talented engineer whose imagination and foresight made Rivington what it is today; a plaque would be a just testimony to his considerable skills.