09 March 2019

9th March 1961 - Water Tower Speech


Enoch Powell made his famous Water Tower Speech on Thursday 9th March 1961.

He had become Minister of Health and was planning the end of large mental hospitals, something he wanted to happen by the 1970s and started to set out his plans in the speech. It was called 'Water Tower' because of his eloquent description of the old asylums he wanted to see closed and replaced by smaller functional places ...

'... There they stand, isolated, majestic, imperious, brooded over by the gigantic water-tower and chimney combined, rising unmistakable and daunting out of the countryside - the asylums which our forefathers built with such immense solidity to express the notions of their day. Do not for a moment underestimate their powers of resistance to our assault ...'

The full speech is Enoch Powell's Water Tower Speech 1961.

The picture is based on the Water Tower at Netherne Hospital. The asylum and tower was built in 1909. The tower was 120 feet high to ensure constant water pressure for all the buildings, and to provide a force of water from hydrants in case of any outbreak of fire. The tower is still there in the residential village of Netherne on The Hill. It has been turned into flats.

Thankyou to the Mental Health History Timeline, by Andrew Roberts, for the date.

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