Butterley Spillway is a Grade II listed stepped overflow channel located at the edge of the Peak District National Park in Marsden, West Yorkshire. Following a minor flood remedial works were required to secure the safety of Butterley Reservoir. The works proposed to modify the much loved structure were met with organised local opposition. As well as being a functional safety overflow for the reservoir, the spillway had been designed to be beautiful and to sit in an area popular for recreation.

The Challenge

Wessex Archaeology was involved during several stages of the project in a variety of roles. Following initial refusal of planning and listed building consent, Wessex Archaeology was appointed by Yorkshire Water to produce a Heritage Assessment to inform an appeal. After the appeal decision granted both conditional planning and listed building consent, Wessex Archaeology was asked to produce a Historic Building Record to mitigate the impact of the works on the spillway. Finally, Wessex Archaeology was asked to produce a public interest book about the spillway for local distribution alongside a series of information boards.


Looking southeast up Butterley spillway Looking down Butterley spillway

Our Approach

The initial Heritage Assessment was produced in 2014 and comprised a desk-based assessment supplemented with site visits. It was tailored specifically towards producing a baseline resource against which to compare the preferred option of the works.

The Historic Building Recording largely comprised a standard piece of recording fieldwork undertaken to Historic England standards. Some additional archive research was requested to help place the spillway in its historical context. A 3D laser scan was also produced by Mott McDonald, the results of which were used to inform the Historic Building Record.

Finally, the book was produced by synthesising the information gathered by the Heritage Assessment and Historic Building Recording with local histories and general information about spillways. The local interest group that had opposed the development were included in the process, and information supplied by them was incorporated in the book. A large number of photographs were gathered and a selection made for publication. The book and information panels were tailored towards a general audience.

Butterley Reservoir Grade II Listed scour portal

Our Results

The Heritage Assessment was used to successfully support an appeal leading to a decision to grant conditional planning permission and listed building consent. It provided a baseline resource not only for the appeal but also for the subsequent phases of work that were undertaken.

The Historic Building Recording has produced a photographic and documentary record of the original spillway including details that were modified during the alteration works. The creation of this ‘preservation by record’ has ensured that the form and appearance of the structure as originally built has not been lost.

An attractive book has been produced which is available in pdf format on this page. The book relates the history of the reservoirs and of Marsden and provides background information about the function and design of spillways. The book outlines the reasons for the modification of the original spillway and the process that led to the work. Most importantly, the book sought to combine the varied viewpoints of the spillway. A balance has been struck between the need for public safety and celebrating the civic ambition of the ornamental spillway structure. The book was supplemented by a series of interpretation panels summarising some of the content of the book. The panels help visitors to the reservoir to understand the story of the spillway and the remodelling works.

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