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Our story begins in 1863 when William Cash and Edward Woods agreed to supply the town of Bournemouth with water in return for being granted a licence to supply gas, and the Bournemouth Gas & Water Company was born. At that time, Bournemouth was becoming increasingly popular as a holiday resort, but its lack of infrastructure was an embarrassment to the town’s Commissioners.
Rapid expansion saw the company’s first site at Bourne Valley being unable to cope with demand, which by the mid 1870s, had reached over 1,000 connections. New wells were sunk and land developed at Alderney, which would later become the pivot around which the company would develop further, as well as the company’s headquarters. At that time, average water charges were around 2d per week – over three times more than the average household bill in today’s money.
Over in Christchurch, West Hampshire Water which was established in 1893, was developing in parallel, and over the years, a number of unsuccessful overtures were made by both parties to merge the two companies.
Having survived two world wars and social and political reform, the Bournemouth Gas & Water Company faced its most difficult challenge when the gas industry was nationalised in 1949, which split the company and its people in two, leaving the much smaller water business compromised and facing an uncertain future as the Bournemouth and District Water Company. However, the company continued to thrive.
In its centenary year, the company dealt with the big freeze, a period of continuous sub-zero temperatures. And little over a decade later, the country suffered a severe drought, with the hottest average UK temperatures since records began and the driest 16-month period in 250 years – still, the company did not impose a hosepipe ban!
Later, when the national water strike caused severe disruption across the country, the company’s workers did not participate in the strike and continued to serve their customers, while West Hampshire Water operated with a skeleton staff.
In 1994, after decades of courtship, the Bournemouth and District Water Company and West Hampshire Water finally merged to become Bournemouth and West Hampshire Water before being acquired by the Sembcorp Group and changing its name to Sembcorp Bournemouth Water in 2011.
The innovation and staff attitude that kept the company at the top of its industry over the years are still very much in evidence today. The company continues to look to technology to improve efficiency and minimise impact on the environment; and continues to value its staff, who still go the extra mile to deliver an excellent customer experience. In doing so, the company has been awarded the Investors in People accreditation since 1994, achieving Gold status this year; and has received the Customer Service Excellence Award for the 13th year in succession.
Journalists can contact the Press Office on 01392 443020 or via email.
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