COLCHESTER’S iconic Victorian water tower could be saved from ruin after landmark funding to help transform it into a restaurant and destination venue was secured.

North Essex Heritage plans to restore Colchester’s Balkerne Water Tower, affectionately nicknamed Jumbo, and turn it into an exciting community space.

Development funding of £250,000 has been awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to the charity to help progress its plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant in due course.

The building is in desperate need of renovation works after an inspection in January concluded urgent action is needed to prevent the historic water tank becoming unsafe.

North Essex Heritage now plans to run the site as a “destination venue, restaurant, visitor experience and historical interpretation space” with hopes work could start on its conversion next year.

If funds are raised and permission given, the huge water tank will be turned into a mixed-use space with a bar on the floor below.


Gazette: Iconic - the Jumbo water tower dominates Colchester's skylineIconic - the Jumbo water tower dominates Colchester's skyline (Image: North Essex Heritage)


Charity chairman Simon Hall said: “This is wonderful news for Colchester as the grant brings us closer to achieving our ambitions and solving what seemed an intractable problem of how to save Jumbo.

“Colchester has always loved Jumbo, which is an icon of our city.

Gazette: Historic - inside the unique water towerHistoric - inside the unique water tower (Image: North Essex Heritage)

Gazette: In need of repair - the tower's interiorIn need of repair - the tower's interior (Image: North Essex Heritage)

“Now we need everyone to support us as we work towards the full development scheme which will deliver a project we can all be proud of for generations to come.

“We will now start vital restoration work, make grant applications to other organisations, and develop our proposals and partnerships. We will also seek planning permission and listed building consent.”

Mr Hall added: “We are delighted to have received this amazing support thanks to National Lottery players.”

North Essex Heritage has leased the Grade II* listed, 34.5 metre tall tower from owner Paul Flatman for 150 years.

Gazette: Enthused - North Essex Heritage chairman Simon HallEnthused - North Essex Heritage chairman Simon Hall (Image: North Essex Heritage)

Its members’ vision is to make it a commercially viable operation which pays for the building’s upkeep.

A statement adds: “Jumbo will be a fully accessible heritage attraction, so everyone can admire the remarkable engineering and stunning views or join in community activities.”

Conversion work could start in summer 2024, with opening tours from autumn 2025.

Colchester MP Will Quince said: "This is the news we were all hoping for and I am delighted. 

"Plans to regenerate Jumbo were triggered thanks to the government’s Town Fund Deal but this National Lottery Heritage Fund grant shows confidence in the overall project.

I'm grateful for the support of so many partner organisations as well as volunteers and heritage enthusiasts."