FOULING THE RIVER CHURNET: THE CASE OF TATTON V THE STAFFORDSHIRE POTTERIES WATERWORKS COMPANY  

 

Part 1

The Bednall Archive 

Last updated 04/05/2004



The Leek Times,   Saturday July 26, 1879    

 

At the Staffordshire Summer Assizes on Saturday before Lord Chief Baron Kelly the cause Tatton v the Staffordshire Potteries Waterworks Company came on for trial.   Mr Stavely Hill, QC, MP and Mr Young instructed by Messrs  Blagg and Son, Cheadle were for the plaintiff, and Mr Matthews, QC., and Mr Jelf  (instructed  by Mr Knight, of Newcastle), for the defendant company. The  action was to recover £2000 for alleged damages caused by the fouling of River Churnet.

 

The Plaintiff’s Case

hencroftdyewks.jpg (153188 bytes)In opening the case for the plaintiff, Mr Hill said:   In 1847 the plaintiff bought some land on the embankment of the River Churnet, and erected two works thereon for the purpose of carrying on the dyeing trade.  He paid between £5000 and £6000 for the land, the buildings, and the requisite plant. The Hencroft Works, the smaller of the two, was situate somewhat higher up the stream than the Mill Street Works, which were of a more extensive nature. The plaintiff carried on  his business successfully for several years.  During that period his silks, which were of a high class character, were, after being steeped in the dye, washed in the Churnet —a river offering must favourable advantages to his trade. It was then  uncontaminated, and free from  mud of any kind.    

In 1853 the defendants, for the purpose of supplying water to towns about ten miles from Leek, erected a reservoir at Tittesworth.  The water being taken from the mill owners along the Churnet in order to supply the Pottery towns.  It became necessary to supply the mills lower down the stream with what was called compensation water, and a clause was inserted in the Company’s Act of Parliament compelling them to send water to the mill owners.  For some short time the reservoir did not do much damage to the water, and the dyers were not affected by the alterations.  Subsequently the river became muddy, owing, as Mr. Hill alleged, to the erection of the reservoir; and in 1872 according to the case for the plaintiff, it had got into such a bad state that the water was almost worthless for the purpose of washing silks.

 

 To show that there was no need to call scientific evidence, Mr. Hill read the following admissions from the solicitor of the defendant’s company:    “ I admit that the construction of the reservoir by the defendants has injuriously affected the water of the River Churnet for the purpose of dyeing and washing of silk by rendering the state of the water more muddy and impure than was the case prior to the construction of the reservoir”.   “I admit that the case of Clowes v Staffordshire Potteries Waterworks Company was rightly decided by the Court of Appeal”. 

The plaintiff was ultimately compelled to give up business, and he disposed of his property in 1872, for £3000, to Mr. Wardle.  Mr Hill said that the writ in the action was dated January 8,1878.  He admitted that the plaintiff could not recover any­thing in respect of which the full and complete causes of action arose before January 8, 1872; but in respect of every injury which arose after that date he was entitled to recover.  He reminded the jury that the damage after having commenced was continued, increased, and it culminated in the disposal of the plaintiff’s business. He pointed out that the plaintiff, in disposing of the property, had lost £1,500 as compared with its original value.

 

In the event of the Counsel for the defendants successfully contending that the plaintiff was debarred by the Statute of limitations from recovering on the first loss, he the plaintiff, would be thrown back upon the loss he sustained at the Mill Street works, between the 8th of January and the 27th of April 1872. During that period of fifteen weeks Mr Tatton estimated his loss at £l0 a week which ,would amount to £150.  In addition to that, the plaintiff had sustained a loss of £312 at the Hencroft Works after he had  disposed of the business to Mr Wardle, he rented the Hencroft Works for three years and during this period he estimated his loss at £2 weekly, Under these circumstances the learned counsel contended that the plaintiff was entitled to damages.


 

Samuel Tatton’s Evidence

Samuel Tatton was then called, and examined by Mr. Young. He said  he was a silk dyer and also postmaster at Leek.  In 1847 he purchased some land on the banks of the Churnet and afterwards erected the Hencroft dyeworks on the east aide of the river. In carrying on the business of a silk dyer he required a supply of pure, soft, water, and this he obtained from the River Churnet by means of a pipe under the road.  He continued using the water till 1872, when he sold the works, and three years after he occupied the same as tenant. In 1853 he purchased other lands on the banks of the Churnet, and erected the Mill Street dyeworks close up to the river.   He furnished the works with the necessary plant for carrying on the work and used the water of the river up to the time he sold the works to Mr Wardle.  The works altogether, cost between £5000 and £6000.  He carried on successfully up to the time of the construction of the Tittesworth reservoir by the defendants, which was finished in 1858.  That was about a mile higher up the river than his works.  Before the construction of the reservoir the water was pure and suitable for dyeing purposes.  After a storm, the river, prior to that time ran clear in a few hours.   

 Part of the process of dyeing consisted in washing the, silk in the running stream. Soon after the reservoir was made the water became muddy and discoloured and by degrees it got worse till in 1872 it got very when there was no storm or rain and this very much interfered with his business.   It injured the silk and gave it a dirty colour.  He tried to remedy the evil in every way.  He obtained some water from the Leek Commissioners which came from the Blackshaw Moor reservoir, and was independent of the Churnet.   But his work was not equal to that of other dyers, and he consequently lost custom. One kind of silk was the raven black and another was the jet black.  (Specimens  of each type, properly dyed and improperly dyed were then handed in, the former having been washed in clean water and the other in the unclean water of the Churnet).  The silk which was improperly dyed had been returned to him by a customer, and he had had to pay for it.  (Other specimens were then put in) and the witness said he had had complaints from other customers, commencing in 1868 and ending in 1875.  In 1872 he sold the works  for £3550. At that time the works would have been worth £6000 to £7000  if the water had been as pure as it was in 1847; but the water being bad nobody would give more than £3550.  His trade loss between the 8th of January when the Writ was issued and the 27th  of Apri1 when he sold the works to Mr Wardle, amounted to £10 or £12 weekly, owing to the bad water.  On the 27th of April he became tenant of the Hencroft works, and remained so till April 1875, during which  time the water was muddy, causing a loss of at least £200 or £300 in the three years. He did not bring the action earlier for want of money.  

 Cross examined  by Mr Matthews: he gave £500 for the land on which he built the Hencroft works.  He spent £400 in putting up the works.  Six or seven years after he added a  reservoir at a cost of about £100. For the land on which he built the other works he gave £255.  The Abbey Green road under which he placed a pipe to convey  the water from the Churnet to the works was a public road. There was a strip of land between the river and the road near the Hencroft works which  did not belong to Miss Clowes.  

 

He never paid Lord Macclesfield’s agent ( Mr Brealey) any money for permission to take the pipe through the road to convey water from the river; but in 1843 he paid money to Lord Macclesfield for permission to place a plank across the river. 

 

He did not recollect telling Mr Challinor or Mr John Brealey. One of Lord Macclesfield’s agents, that he had paid an acknowledgement to Mr Brealey of 6d a year for the passage of water through the pipe. If he spoke to Mr Challinor at all it was with regard to the 6d a year for placing the plank on the Earl of Macclesfield’s land.

 He did not remember agreeing to pay 10s. a year for the placing of the plank there for washing silk. Perhaps however, It was 10s. a year. 

 

The water was muddy for several years after the construc­tion of the reservoir, but it got worse from about 1868, when alterations were made, and became quite unfit for the dyeing of first-class silks. He had appliances for dyeing raven and jet at the Hencroft. His trade began to fall off in 1864 and 1865; it became worse in 1868, and by the time he sold the works it had pretty well gone.  Hammersley‘s works did not injure him their refuse ran past, but the quantity was not sufficient to prevent him washing as usual. His son William used to manage the business in a great measure but they quarrelled in 1866, and he left.  Com­plaints of badly dyed silk had been made before that time.  He could not say that the bad state of the river had ever stopped the works for an hour, but they did not go to the river when it was muddy.  The Leek Commissioners brought water to the works in 1866. 

 

 About 1850 he was prevented by the Messrs. Hammersley from washing in the river at the Hencroft,  but that was long before the reservoir was made.  His men did not complain that he often neglected his business while he was busy looking after the public affairs of Leek.  He brought an action against the defendant company in 1870, in the Leek County Court for £2 14s. 2d., for a month’s water, but the action remained for a long time undisposed of.  On October 3rd , he wrote to the secretary threatening that unless the matter was promised before the county court judge, he should press for judgement.  It had been his intention when that claim had been paid, to proceed with the action for the amount of his total losses.  Mr. Lichfield, his solicitor died, and hence there was a good deal of delay.  A decision was given in the Court of Appeal in 1872 in the case of Clowes v. The Waterworks Co. , the claim for damages at the Hencroft was made as soon as his (witness’s)  solicitor became aware that he had suffered losses there.  He thought he gave up possession of the Mill street works at the time the deed was signed, but was not sure. In addition to the £3,550, Mr. Wardle paid him interest from March 30th.  He (witness) became insolvent in 1855, and paid 5s~6d. in the pound.  If his property had not been depreciated by the defendant company, he thought the following a fair estimate of its value : — Mill Street Works; £3,000 Hencroft; £1,200; plant. £700; six cottages, £720; total. £5,620.  Stafford and Clowes certainly did take away some of his trade, because they could do it better.

 

Re-examined by Mr. Hill:  Never paid a penny for the right to water from the riser for Hencroft nor had he ever asked permission to put in the pipe.   No objection was ever made to his taking the water, and he abstained only after a neighbour from washing silk in the river because he would not foul the water for the dyers below. The defendant company, after the construction of the reservoir, gave to the Messrs. Hammersley a free supply of pure water from the Cartlidge Brook by means of a six inch pipe.  The length of the pipe was the good end of a mile, and. the company paid the cost They also paid £55 per annum as. compensation. 


  

Evidence From Others

Elisha Hammersley was the next witness. He said he was manager at Messrs. Hammersley’s Dyeworks which were situated on the bank of the River Churnet.   Before the reservoir was erected they could dye any fin or other colours.  There was great injury to the water and they felt it at their own works.  In 1872, if the water had been in its original pure state Mr. Tatton’s works would have been worth £5000.  The condition of the river became worse every day from 1859 to the present time.  His firm had had to have town water and a supply from the Cartlidge Brook. The 3” pipe was put in at the cost of the Waterworks Company and the same company allowed his firm £50 a year for  town water.  

By Mr. Matthews: They were obliged to finish all jets and ravens in town or Cartlidge water,  both of which would do quite well for either washing or dyeing. The pipe and £50 a year were given by the company in lieu of an injunction obtained in the Court of Chancery by Miss Clowes. Respecting the valuation of Mr Tatton’s works, if he had valued them on the 1st  January 1872 and then again on the 15th  of the same month, he should not have made any difference in the valuation. Summer floods and all made the water muddy, but a sudden storm while the reservoir was nearly empty was the worst. By Mr Hill The Company had provided no filter bed and, in his opinion, the omission caused the mischief.  If between the 1st  and 15th  the reservoir had been removed or filter beds constructed the original value would have returned to the works. The Messrs Hammersley had at the present time a suit in Chancery against the Company.  

 

By his Lordship : The river was worse during the first three months of 1872 than had been for ten years.


John Hill said he was manager at Messrs. Hammersley’s works over the lily whites.  He had not been able to use the river water for his department since the construction of the reservoir. The town water was efficient for the purpose. They used the Churnet water as long as it remained pure.  As to ravens and blacks be knew nothing and could say nothing.

 

William Saddington Watson said he had been engaged in the silk manufacturing business for 20 years.  His present firm had had dealings with Mr. Tatton.  From a statement he had made from his books, he found that on June 10th, 1873, he made a claim of  £3 5s. 6d, for damaged silk, i.e., badly dyed silk; in September of the same year, he also claimed 17s, 0d., in December 16s., and on several occasions other suns were also deducted.  In January, 1874, he closed the account became of the large quantity of badly dyed silk, but he reopened it in July of the same year.  It was the practice to return badly dyed work, Since Mr. Tatton had removed to Britannia Street he had renewed the account.  He could not identify the silk produced as part of that be had returned, but it was very badly dyed.

 

By Mr. Matthews: He had not claimed any deductions since 1875, and since that time he had done a good deal of business with Mr Tatton.  In 1877, he had paid him about £350; in 1878, £600, and in 1879, £152.  Had also claimed deductions from Messrs. Hammersley and William Tatton.  The goods entered as badly dyed would sometimes be short weight.  Badly dyed raven would be silk which ought to have been returned a certain weight, but came from the dyer less.  In answer to the question whether or not Mr Wardle had refused to deal with witness on account of his unwarrantable deductions, Mr. Watson appealed to the Judge for protection, and explained that Mr. Wardle and he had had a law-suit and were not even on speaking terms.

 

His Lordship asked Mr Matthews if the point was a material one, and Mr Matthews said he would waive the point as Mr Wardle would be put into the box. 

 

Mr. Matthew then told the witness that he should ask for the production of his books, as he did not deem the statistics he had given at all satisfactory. Mr, Hill promised that the books should he forthcoming on Monday

 

The Witness protested that the extracts were correct hat be would cause them to be produced if his Lordship wished.  His ‘Lordship: I wish nothing. 

 

Mr. Matthews: If you refuse to produce I shall at once serve you with a summons.  Witness: They shall be produced.

 

Henry Bagley said he was cashier to Messrs Worthington and Co., silk manufacturers, and produced their cash-book of 1871-2.

 

Mr. Matthews objected to such evidence, but his Lordship decided to take it.

 

Witness  then proved deductions of £4 ..16s, and other sums, for badly dyed black work; and also that Messrs. Worthington had closed the account in consequence of the general unsatisfactory work done by the plaintiff. 

 

Mr, Matthews refused to cross examine, and insisted upon his objection.

 

Charles Lynam said he was an architect and surveyor at Stoke upon Trent.  He was acquainted with the dye works in question. He had made a careful calculation of the amount of water required at the works, and of its value.  The necessary supply of clean water at 6d. per 1000  gall., would cost £37 10s and that sum calculated at 30 years purchase would amount to £1l25. At that sum he estimated the depreciation of the plaintiff’s property, independent of trade losses.

 

By Mr Matthews:  He fixed 6d per thousand after comparing the rates charged by water companies in the district, which varied from 6d to 8d.  He arrived at the quantity by ascertaining the present consumption of water at the plaintiff’s works in Britannia Street and by hearing from Mr Tatton and his manager (Bishop) that the former works were five times as large.  

Robert Farrow, sanitary inspector, said he had resided at Leek for nearly thirty years, and knew the Churnet well.  He saw Mr. Wilson, who constructed the reservoir, and visited the works pretty often. He also supplied the contractor with a copy of the rainfall.  He observed whilst the works were in progress that there was no provision for carrying off storm water.  He also noted that as a consequence of the severe gradients the accumulation of mud could not fail to he considerable and that the result would be that the river would be rendered unfit for dyeing silk. There was no adequate provision made to carry off the mud. He suggested  to Messrs. Hammersley and the plaintiff that rails should he placed between the river and the road, and afterwards insisted as sanitary inspector that the work should be done.  The plaintiff refused, and the rails were put up by the Commissioners for the benefit of the public.  

Mr, Matthews objected to the witness being called to prove what could only be in the mind of the Commissioners. In cross-examination, Mr Matthews asked the witness what his vocation was previous to 1853.  

Witness : A manager in a patent candle works.  

Mr. Matthews:  Oh, you did the dipping I suppose.  (Laughter).  Witness: Yes.  

Mr Matthews: And is there any necessary connection between the dipping of candles and the making of a reservoir? (Renewed laughter).    

Witness: No, But at the candle works I also looked after the engines and machinery.  

Mr Matthew : But you were never a civi1 engineer.  Witness : No.    

His Lordship: Really Mr Matthews, I don’t see what this has got to do with the case.    

Mr. Matthews: Neither do I; but you must not scold me, my lord; I did not call this learned tallow man. (Loud laughter).   

By Mr Hill:  From 1859, the water of the river was unfit for dyeing purposes.  

His Lordship then adjourned the Court until eleven ‘clock on Monday morning.  

The Court resumed at eleven o’clock on Monday morning, when Mr W. S. Watson was recalled and proved by his books the figures he had liven on Saturday.

James Gosling Smith, surveyor, proved the plans; and Charles John Blagg, the plaintiff’s solicitor, was called to prove that the omission of “trade books in his clients affidavit was at his suggestion, believing as he did that there was nothing in the books material to the cause.  


Continued in Part 2