Torwood Blue Pool Water Analysis

My last visit to the pool was 20 September 2009. The water was almost as clear as my previous visit on 31 August but there was no sign of the irregular round blue circle in the centre of the bottom — everything was the same kaki colour.

The image is slightly confused with some reflections of the trees overhead mixing with the hairy slime.

The image is slightly confused with some reflections of the trees overhead mixing with the hairy slime.

The polarising filter did not produce the clear photo I had hoped for so I did some gardening and clearing to improve access then I flattened a path to the manhole

I started clearing some debris from the manhole. After about twenty plastic bags, heavy with trapped water and some full of empty plastic bags for Forestry Commission Fertiliser, I gave up for the day — it will take a grappling hook and rope to get deeper.

Caroline Kerr from Aberdeen has been following the investigation with great interest and on a recent visit to the area, she and her two boys joined us on a pool-foray.

She took a water sample home and had it analysed. By coincidence she had recently obtained an analyses of her own domestic main’s tap water so we can use those results as a comparison.

Analysed by: Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectrometry
Elemental Concentration expressed as milligrams/litre

Al Aluminium 1.43 0.02
B Boron <0.2 <0.2
Ca Calcium 1.156 15.06
Fe Iron 0.033 0.0848
K Potassium 0.99 0.98
Mg Magnesium 0.85 1.95
Mn Manganese 0.14 0.01
Na Sodium 5.75 7.37
P Phosphorous 0.02 0.73
Si Silicon 2.91 1.96
Sr Strontium 0.014 0.041

Duplicate sample tested 1 Dec 2009 — pH 6.0
The results are reassuringly unspectacular.

Pipe appears to be glazed ceramic — difficult to tell from the photo

Pipe appears to be glazed ceramic
— difficult to tell from the photo

I started scrubbing some of the hairy slime from the internal brickwork of the Blue Pool in the hope of finding the brick arch. The water had only partly cleared with half an hour to sunset when I noticed a pipe about six inches in diameter at about two feet below the surface. Not likely to be an overflow at that depth but a definite candidate for an inlet pipe.

The water in the pool would not be clear before darkness fell so that was it for the day. I intend cleaning all the hairy slime from the internal brickwork and photographing from an underwater camera housing. I suspect the brick arch will be the outlet and will line up with the manhole but that’s just me thinking aloud.

Some interesting figures: A line drawn from the six inch pipe, through the centre of the blue pool, goes through the centre of the manhole and that line has a compass bearing of 123 degrees magnetic — reading from a hand-held silva compass sighted by eye and will easily have a five degree error — more on this shortly.

People are starting to refer to me as The Blue Pool Guy

People are starting to refer to me as The Blue Pool Guy

I have found more people who know of the pool and some who have swum in it but nobody knows its purpose.
The Blue Pool web page is doing its job well and acting as a nucleus for attracting information.

I was recently contacted by ‘Jay’ who was born and bred in Torwood. Jay recalls that around 1960 there was a gamekeeper called Angus Gillies who worked for the Carron Iron Works that owned the land at the time
Angus Gillies the Gamekeeper (now deceased) lived in a small lodge about 200 metres downhill from Torwood Castle on the west side of the Drive.

Jay was with the Gamekeeper around 1960 just prior to a Fox Hunt. The Gamekeeper told Jay to look at the bottom of the Blue Pool where Jay clearly saw lots of bricks and timber planks (not trees). The Gamekeeper explained that the Pool once had a brick beehive shaped roof that had fallen into the pool and Jay could clearly see the debris on the bottom.
It is not clear whether the beehive roof started at ground level or if there was a wall with the beehive roof on top. Jay does not know if Gamekeeper Angus Gillies saw the beehive roof himself or was recounting a story told to him by an older person.

Roofing Slates

Roofing Slates

Jay contacted me first thing the following morning after a flash of inspiration during the night. He owns a book and is currently trying to find it. He recalls reading that when the RSNH Hospital was built they sourced their water supply from Torwood.

I immediately went to my research drawing/map of the area (not yet on this page) and extended my compass bearing line of 123 degrees magnetic and near wet me pants with excitement — the line went straight through the RSNH Hospital. Unfortunately the RSNH was built as two distinct units.
This one was called the RSNH (Colony) and was not opened until the mid 1920’s. The other (the first one) RSNH (Institution) is about half a mile north of the Colony.

Hopefully Jay will find the book which may furnish us with more detailed information but in the mean time I found another book on the history of the RSNH, written in 2002, at Callendar House Library:

Page 54
Water and Drainage
There was no civic drainage or water supply when the first buildings were erected and so a well was sunk. Some of the stronger boys had the task of pumping water from it into a storage tank. Pipes were laid to connect the tank to buildings. Rain water was also collected in cisterns, for washing purposes.
Access to a spring on Torwood Estate was granted in 1865, but it was not tapped until 1870 delaying the use of new kitchens installed the previous year. The water was hard and although it was good for cooking and drinking, rain water was still used for washing. A water supply from Falkirk Water Trust was connected in the 1890s.

A straight line is not a requirement for a water supply pipe but it would have been nice.
The RSNH water supply theory is still being assessed.

Half Round Cast Iron Gutter

Half Round Cast Iron Gutter

Today I spoke to Brian Brown who has lived all his life in Torwood. Brian was born in 1947 and remembers his Grandfather (who lived in Torwood all his life) telling him that the pool was once the water supply for Carbrook House (demolished around 1946) on the north side of the Glen Road, Torwood.

Carbrook House and the RSNH are not too far apart and a common water supply for that small area would not be unreasonable as the cost could be split between interested parties. This possibility is being considered.

I now come to something that I have been holding on to but have made no progress with. About three months ago, just after one of my party discovered the manhole (much to Heather’s delight) he went a little further on into the trees and started finding stuff faster than I could photograph.
Some slates; a piece of angle iron around 6×4 inches; a short length of cast-iron half-round guttering; two curved pieces of metal.

The first piece of curved metal is flat-bar about 2 inch by 3/8 inch and is bent to the same curve as the pool. The other curved metal piece is a lot more intricate. It is a shaped moulding but also custom made to match the circumference of the pool.

Cast Iron Moulding and Two Inch Flat Bar

Cast Iron Moulding and Two Inch Flat Bar

After considering the possibilities, my assistant investigator, Andy McLagan, turned the moulding up the other way and I had to agree it looked very much like ‘O-G’ Guttering for rainwater.
If we have guttering then we have a roof. If we have a roof, we have walls. Was it a slate roof ? — there were a few slates in the area but maybe they were for another nearby construction. None of the old Ordnance Survey maps show any construction in the area of the pool — they don’t even show the pool, though they record tiny two foot wells all over the place, they do not mention our 20 foot diameter pool.

The very latest Ordnance Survey map accessible at Callendar House on computer (not actually in print as far as I know) shows our pool and calls it a ‘Tank’.
The Callendar House computer also has an aerial photo showing the Tank from around 1940/50. The Pylon line is already there (marked ETL) and there are no trees around the pool.

Sometime in the 1980’s (my educated guess) the Forestry Commision planted their usual dense conifers in the area but they stopped at the pool — were they lovers of pools ? My friend and accomplice, Andy, is the same age as myself and has worked most of his life in Forestry — he knows his trees. He pointed out something in full view but not immediately obvious.

The power companies maintain their Pylon Lines and no trees are allowed within a certain safe distance of the transmission lines. It may be ugly, but if it had not been for the nearby pylon line, our Blue Pool would have been annihilated — destroyed by a huge plough and smothered by a dense conifer plantation.

The time between updates cannot be predicted. It may be days or months. I will always send out an email to inform you of an update so you don’t have to trawl the page to spot any changes. Let me know if you would like your email added to the mailing list.

Torwood Blue Pool

Torwood Blue Pool

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