Jumbo Water Tower – Colchester, England - Atlas Obscura

Jumbo Water Tower

The largest Victorian water tower in Britain. 


In the heart of Colchester stands the Jumbo Water Tower, considered a striking architectural wonder. The tower reaches 131 feet high and is made up of 1.2 million red bricks. It takes over 150 steps to reach the cupola at the top, which is crowned with an elephant weathervane. The structure earned the nickname “Jumbo,” after an elephant at the London Zoo.

In 1883, surveyor and engineer Charles Clegg built the water tower in a Romanesque Revival campanile style. At the time, it was England’s second-largest water tower, with its tank holding 230,000 gallons of water. England’s National Heritage has given the structure Grade II status and was listed in 1971. Today, the tower is the largest remaining Victorian water tower in Britain. 

Despite its architectural significance, the water tower faced a period of uncertainty after its redundancy in 1987. In 2001, the tower’s tank was almost turned into a glass-walled penthouse. In December 2021, the current owner Paul Flatman and North Essex Heritage designed plans to turn the tower into a vibrant hub of activity. Construction of a restaurant, visitor experience, and historical interpretation space are underway, breathing life back into the landmark. 

Know Before You Go

The tower can be viewed from all exterior sides, and tours of the inside may begin as early as December of 2024. 

In partnership with KAYAK

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