The Reservoir built by the Corporation of Liverpool was a pioneering piece of 19th century public infrastructure. It was a response to a massive increase in population of the City, mainly due to the potato famines in Ireland and the consequent high volume of immigration; it provided a reliable, safe supply of water for the rapidly expanding port. This new supply of water made a significant contribution to public health during mass outbreak of cholera that killed thousands of people. In addition, due to its elevation, this new facility provided a very high-pressure supply for firefighting on the sailing ships and wooden sheds in the Liverpool South Docks. When originally built it received its water from the Windsor Well about a mile away that had been sunk some 12 years earlier at the junction of Lodge Lane and Beaumont Street. In the late 1850’s, when water became available from the Corporation’s newly-constructed impounding reservoir in the lower Pennines at Rivington Pike, a large water main was laid to Toxteth reservoir from the Rivington Aqueduct at Old Swan. Initially, however, this water was so highly coloured, for some time afterwards the council mixed it with water, from the Windsor Well, to encourage the people to drink it. Many years later, the reservoir was supplied with water from the Corporation’s Lake Vyrnwy reservoir in mid-Wales.
Completed in 1853 the reservoir features a battered snecked ashlars’ retaining wall with top roll molding. The original entrance, at the base of the round tower on the SE corner, has an iron door surmounted by a sculptured bas-relief Liver Bird. The tower originally had a small spire supported by a corbelled top. The spire was destroyed by lightening in the 1960’s and replaced with a Plexiglas dome. On 19 June 1985 Toxteth Reservoir, with its retaining walls and corner tower was Grade: II listed.
The Reservoir interior is equally impressive, with a forest of 96 cast iron columns supporting an iron and brick vaulted roof, with a heavy brick arcade supporting its perimeter walls. The masonry walls have an internal asphaltic membrane set between them to provide water-tightness (seen when entering the reservoir through the Leticia Street entrance). The brick-lined floor may have had an asphalt or puddle clay layer beneath it for water retention. Massive iron water valves, pipes and stone spillways are located along the southern internal wall. A drainage ‘well’ in the centre is now surrounded by protective steel railings. Considering the interior was never intended to be viewed by the public, the quality of the workmanship internally is extremely impressive. When the reservoir was full to its depth of 12ft (3.6 meters) had a capacity of 1,750,000 gallons (about nine million litres).