Being a country girl, the word dam conjures for me a roundish dollop of brown water in a dry paddock, with a few cattle or sheep drinking at the edge, or resting beneath a single tree a hundred yards away. If you have an impression of heat, dust and dreariness, you recognise the image in my mind when I first heard about Lloyd’s Dam. I couldn’t seem to improve that image, despite learning that Lloyd’s Dam had been built by the cement works as a source of water and that it was a popular place for swimming, picnics and at least one swimming carnival.
So when I saw Lloyd’s Dam for the first time a week ago, I wasn’t expecting its breathtaking splendour and generous expanse of water, far grander than a dam in a paddock. An awning of mature trees sent shadows stretching across glassy waters, a boat ramp lunged out in readiness, ducks and black swans played on its surface and far in the distance I could make out a wall.
So that was the “dam”! A barrier built to stop the flow of water and create this beautiful reservoir. Those Kandos entrepreneurs again! They had everything needed to create a cement industry – limestone, shale, coal, railway, money, imagination, know-how. But no water. And to run a cement industry you need a constant supply of water, one that never runs out in the fiercest drought. Were those industrialists worried? They had already built a 20-million-gallon reservoir 400 metres from the works and beneath the mountain. They had also spent considerable time and money to sink a bore – unproductively. So yes, they were looking for certainty and looking to the future.
Rising at the foot of Haystack Mountain and wending its 14 kilometre route north-west across the landscape to the Cudgegong River, via Thomas Lloyd’s property, was Reedy Creek: more boggy swamp than flowing stream. The company saw its potential and put in an application to the Warden’s Court at Rylstone for water rights. Even before they got the go-ahead from the Warden, the company got agreement from Lloyd and began excavation in November 1915.
You can see in the photo that the wall was constructed at a narrow section of the water course. Under the supervision of Mr Peters (assistant chemist at the works, can you believe) they excavated down to bedrock using bullocks and scoops, then built the dam wall using stones and black clay (it was replaced in 1923 with a cement and sandstone wall). A building of ash bricks was added, to house the electric motor and pump ordered from England, and a line of pipes was laid to transfer water from the dam to the works (about 2.5kms). They envisaged dam capacity at 30 to 40 million gallons.
Three months after construction Warden Burke awarded compensation to Thomas Lloyd of £12 for surface damage to 12 acres of land; and annual rental of 10 shillings per annum. It was a bonus for Lloyd because not only was his land more valuable, his stock would have free use of permanent water.
You might be surprised to learn that Lloyd’s Dam didn’t solve the company’s water problem. For a few years it was enough for the company’s industry but it could not support the growing town, which they had founded and I guess felt a moral responsibility for. So they looked toward the Cudgegong River to construct a weir at Ferguson’s Hole. Rylstone Council and land-owners fought the application and the company was locked into pumping water only at a certain level. The company spent £40,000 on this first river scheme but the “level” was too low in dry summers to provide water to either Kandos households or the works (though enough for farmers downstream). Nor was Lloyd’s Dam much good. In 1924 the new cement company in the area, Standard Portland Cement Co Ltd, received an OK from the Warden’s Court to build another dam further up Reedy Creek (later known as Charbon Dam), which affected the flow into Lloyd’s Dam.
By the way, Reedy Creek’s correct name is Cumber Melon Creek. It was assigned by the NSW Geographical Names Board in 1978 on the basis that the name was recorded on a 1909 plan and a 1922 map. So that’s official. And I have taken note of the spelling!
If at first you don’t succeed… In 1930 the company built a new weir six and a half kilometres further up the Cudgegong River (from their first weir) and the idyllic Dunn’s Swamp we know today was created. The company finally had a permanent supply of water to satisfy the town and its industry.
I can’t help mulling over the company’s persistence and trial-and-error attitude. If they had faced today’s climate of economic rationalism, I doubt they would have survived. Even more impressive to me, who has little engineering knowledge, is how a puny stream could produce not one but two substantial reservoirs close to Kandos.
Thank you Maralyn Bennett for suggesting this blog topic. If you, dear reader, have a local history topic you would like to know more about, let me know, via this website.
The featured image shows the building of Lloyd’s Dam. Alf Halpin is on the scoop.
The image below is of Lloyd’s Dam in 2018, taken by the author.