Building the reservoir

A link to Bradford

Scar House Reservoir was built by Bradford Corporation to supply water to the increasing Bradford population. Water is transferred via the Nidd aqueduct, a major engineering achievement as it transported without pumping. Work began on the 5th October 1921 with the Lord Mayor, Alderman A. Gadie, cutting the first sod. It took 15 years to complete.

Today, the reservoir provides 21 million gallons of water for Bradford each day.


Stone for the reservoir dam was quarried from two sites that can be seen either side of the valley at Scar House. Steam excavators were used to dig the trench for the dam, but when the digging became too hard for the machines they resorted to hand drilling and explosives. Standard gauge wagons hauled by steam locomotives carried the rubble to the spoil heaps that can be seen downstream of the dam. Two fixed aerial cableways spanned the valley carrying materials. One crossed the length of the embankment and the second between the stone crusher and the concrete mixer. The dam was built at about 10m per year.

The workmen were paid 1s 2d an hour (6p). Work was carried out during all available daylight hours with a half hour lunch break. One man was killed during the construction of the reservoir.

The Nidd light railway

This was built for transporting materials and plant from the railhead at Pateley Bridge. The line went from Pateley Bridge to Angram and cost of £40,000 to create. The line was open to the public between Pateley Bridge and Lofthouse.

The railway closed in 1929 a few years before the completion of the dam, and then was dismantled. The backs of the track can still be seen in some places along the route.


  • Capacity of water – 2,200 million gallons
  • Greatest depth of usable water  – 36.3m (120ft)
  • Surface area – 70 hectares
  • Dam height – 71m (233ft)
  • Dam length – 600m
  • Dam masonry – Over 1 million tonnes