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Will multi-million Jumbo revamp bid give Colchester its very own Eiffel Tower?

PUBLISHED: 16:53 13 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:18 14 March 2018

Colchester councillor Darius Laws, who believes the revamped Jumbo could be Colchester's answer to the Eiffel Tower. Picture: GEMMA RAWLINSON

Colchester councillor Darius Laws, who believes the revamped Jumbo could be Colchester's answer to the Eiffel Tower. Picture: GEMMA RAWLINSON

Archant

Colchester could soon have its very own Eiffel Tower after multi-million pound plans to revitalise a much-loved and iconic landmark were revealed.

Inside the Jumbo water tower - where a sky-high restaurant, bar, gift shop and heritage centre could be built in years to come. Picture: CNEEBPT/MICHAEL CAMERON PHOTOGRAPHY Inside the Jumbo water tower - where a sky-high restaurant, bar, gift shop and heritage centre could be built in years to come. Picture: CNEEBPT/MICHAEL CAMERON PHOTOGRAPHY

That’s according to a campaigning councillor backing major proposals to open a sky-high restaurant, bar, gift shop and heritage centre inside the town’s Balkerne Water Tower, commonly known as Jumbo.

Bosses behind the revamp, from the Colchester and North East Essex Buildings Preservation Trust (BPT), want to bring the Grade II listed building – once a fully functioning water tower which has stood empty for almost three decades – back to life.

Chiefs pressed ahead with scheme, estimated to cost more than £3million, this week – unveiling the initial proposals and submitting an initial bid for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Darius Laws, councillor for the town’s Castle ward, thinks the project could replicate the success of France’s Eiffel Tower, albeit on a much smaller scale.

The Jumbo water tower in Colchester.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN The Jumbo water tower in Colchester. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

He added: “Jumbo is iconic on our skyline and could be our Eiffel Tower. Regardless of political colour, I know that every single Colchester councillor is committed to promoting and enhancing our unique heritage.

“Jumbo preserved with a catering facility in the sky represents a massive opportunity for Colchester.

“Who wouldn’t want to have a beer up in the sky?”

Work could start on the renovation project within two years, according to trust bosses.

Simon Hall MBE, chairman of the Colchester & North East Essex Buildings Preservation Trust, is also High Sheriff of Essex. Picture: ESSEX COMMUNITY FOUNDATION Simon Hall MBE, chairman of the Colchester & North East Essex Buildings Preservation Trust, is also High Sheriff of Essex. Picture: ESSEX COMMUNITY FOUNDATION

If all goes to plan, most of the proposed features – which would add a new floor to the top level of brick arches, and convert the former engineers’ room and water tank – will be complete by 2022 at the earliest.

The initial HLF grant will allow bosses to fully develop plans before any work begins.

Trust chairman Simon Hall MBE said: “Everything about the project is big and our Heritage Lottery Fund application is a step on what will be a long journey to save this magnificent piece of Victorian industrial heritage for Colchester and the nation.

“Clearly, Jumbo has a big place in the hearts of many people.”

The Jumbo water tower in Colchester.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN The Jumbo water tower in Colchester. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

In the meantime, community groups and schools are being briefed about the project.

Tim Young, responsible for culture at Colchester council, said he is supporting the project and added: “Jumbo is such an iconic landmark, and their plans for the renovation sound really exciting.”

Visit colchesterbpt.co.uk for more information.

The Jumbo water tower in Colchester.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN The Jumbo water tower in Colchester. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The history of ‘Jumbo’ water tower

Balkerne Water Tower, a Grade II listed building, is the largest remaining Victorian water tower in Britain.

It was originally named after Jumbo the London Zoo elephant by Reverend John Irvine – who became frustrated that the tower dwarfed his nearby rectory at St-Mary-at-the-Walls.

At the time of its construction in 1883, it was considered to be the second largest water tower in England.

Colchester council's deputy leader, and portfolio holder for culture, Tim Young. Picture: TIM YOUNG Colchester council's deputy leader, and portfolio holder for culture, Tim Young. Picture: TIM YOUNG

But after a century of service, Jumbo was rendered unnecessary to the water system and was sold off by Anglian Water in 1987.

Since then, it has had multiple owners and was put up for sale in 2006 and later in 2014 after a series of planning applications were refused.

Jumbo sold for £190,000 at auction to poultry farmer Paul Flatman, who still owns the building today.

It currently stands at 130ft above ground, offering panoramic views of Colchester and its surrounding districts.

The Jumbo water tower in Colchester.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN The Jumbo water tower in Colchester. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

More than a million – 1,200,000 bricks – were used to build Jumbo.

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