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Community invited to celebrate Plymouth's watery past, present and future

image depicting South West Water's Dr Stephen Bird with Chief Executive Chris Loughlin at last year's Fishing Feast ceremony
South West Water's Dr Stephen Bird with Chief Executive Chris Loughlin at last year's Fishing Feast ceremony
The role of water in the health of the city of Plymouth will be celebrated at a community event at Plymouth University on Friday 10 July.

Local people and visitors to the city are invited to enjoy entertainment including Elizabethan and Victorian strolling players, tours, storytelling, traditional games and creative activities at Drake's Place Gardens and Reservoir on the University campus from 12.30pm to 3.30pm.

There will be live music from Toute Ensemble, a group of nine musicians playing early instruments including recorders, windcaps (crumhorns, cornamusen, cortols), shawms, small pipes, sackbut, harp and lutes.

Artwork by Plymouth schoolchildren will be on display in Drake's Place colonnade, and the winners of a schools' competition - held at the Science and Technology Showcase at the University - will be presented with their prizes.

Sir Francis Drake (c.1540 - c.1596) is credited with bringing the first reliable supply of clean water to the city with the construction of Drake's Leat in 1591 - a 28km waterway which brought water to Plymouth from the River Meavy on Dartmoor for more than 300 years.

Drake's Reservoir, originally built in 1825, served as the main source of water for the city before Burrator Reservoir was officially opened in 1898.

Water from Burrator Reservoir is now treated at South West Water's Crownhill Water Treatment Works - soon to be replaced with a state-of-the-art new works to meet the needs of the city's growing population.

Every year, civic dignitaries and guests gather at Burrator Reservoir to mark the 'Traditional Survey of the Waterworks and Fishing Feast'. The historic ceremony, believed to be one of the oldest in the UK, is organised and hosted jointly by Plymouth City Council, South West Water and Plymouth University.

That event is taking place in the morning of Friday 10 July, and this is the first time it will be followed by a public celebration.

Dr Stephen Bird, South West Water's Chief Operating Officer, said: "This historic tradition is an opportunity to celebrate the past, present and future of Plymouth, its water supply and its reputation as a centre of enterprise and ingenuity. It is fantastic to be able to involve the local community in the celebrations for the first time."

Professor David Coslett, Interim Vice-Chancellor of Plymouth University, said: "We are delighted to continue our association with this traditional annual celebration, and particularly pleased to be hosting the community event in the Drake's Place Gardens and Reservoir. Completed a year ago, their ambitious restoration has created a wonderful venue for all kinds of events right in the heart of our city. It is a fitting tribute to Drake's spirit of innovation and ingenuity, and this is an opportunity for people to come on in and see why it is already being well used by staff, students and the wider community."

Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Dr John Mahony, said: "This has always been a really interesting event and I'm really pleased that we'll be celebrating in a new way which means everyone can join in. There'll be a lot going on and it promises to be a great day. "

For more information about the event, see https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/whats-on/the-traditional-survey-of-the-waterworks-fishing-feast.

Notes to editors

  • R N Worth, in his 'History of Plymouth', states that the Fishinge Feaste probably originated during the recordership of Sir Francis Drake (the second) 1669-1717. It was customary, however, for the Mayor and his company to ride forth and make an inspection of the leat and head weir each year
  • Under the Water Act, 1973, the functions of the Plymouth City Water Undertakings were transferred to the then newly created South West Water Authority. Under the provisions of the Water Act 1989, South West Water Limited was created and became responsible for the region's water supply.
  • Drake's Place Gardens and Reservoir reopened in June 2014, following a £1.4million restoration project completed with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Big Lottery Fund and the University. The work, led by Cornwall Environmental Consultants Ltd and principal contractor Ryearch, saw a new entrance and level access from North Hill created, and the fountains in the reservoir reinstated along with the cascade and stream which run through the gardens. Listed features, such as the watch house, were restored, and the gardens replanted according to the original 1910 design.

Published: 2 July 2015 

For further information please contact:

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South West Water
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