Over the centuries there have been several intrusions of the outside world into the Valley:
damming and flooding of the Valley in the late 19th century to create four reservoirs to supply water to Leeds.The reservoirs brought the massive impact of Victorian industrial development to the valley. They were needed to provide healthy clean water for the growing city of Leeds.
A former vicar of Fewston famously said, “Fewston must die so that Leeds may live”. The reservoir construction demanded a huge workforce, which was temporarily housed on site. The construction of Lindley Wood reservoir between 1870 and 1874 required a “navvy camp”. This was historically significant as being one of the first camps where the layout, conditions and activities were regulated. The camp had its own school, wooden church, drinking shop and a constable. This was largely because of the work of Elizabeth Garnett, daughter of the vicar of Otley, who became known as the “navvies’ friend”. She went to live on the site, started a Sunday School and published a newsletter to highlight the navvies’ conditions. When the water levels are low the site of the camp is exposed, with brick and pottery remnants sometimes visible. The impact of the reservoir construction on the communities of the time was huge.
“It was in 1870 that the Leeds Corporation commenced the construction of three immense reservoirs, in the upper reaches of Wharfedale, to dam a mountain river and then convey its pure water to Leeds seventeen miles away. The lowest of these reservoirs was made at Lindley Wood, a tree-covered vale in the heart of the hills….within a month the ground was cleared and three long rows of brick huts were erected, also stables, a food shop and a shant to sell beer, but neither church nor school for these people was considered necessary in those days.”
Extract from How and why the Navvy Mission Society was formed, by Mrs Charles Garnett, circa 1885