Home to remarkable Victorian engineering

Catcleugh Reservoir was constructed between 1884 and 1905 for the Newcastle and Gateshead Water Company. The reservoir forms part of a series of reservoirs along the A68 which are connected by tunnels and aqueducts from Catcleugh Reservoir to Whittle Dene from where drinking water is supplied to Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, and some surrounding areas.

The reservoirs that form the chain are, from northwest to southeast: Catcleugh Reservoir, Colt Crag Reservoir, Little Swinburne Reservoir, Hallington Reservoirs, and Whittle Dene. The reservoir is fed by the River Rede.

Although the site is privately owned, throughout the summer months we organised guided tours of the site. You are able to visit the last remaining dwelling on the site that has been restored to its original condition and contains many artefacts of the period. You are also able to visit the church and school which were paramount to the lives of the workers of the Newcastle & Gateshead Water Company and their families. Then, take a short, pleasant stroll through the woodland past the spillway to the Dam to view the reservoir passing some remarkable Victorian engineering on the way. Visit our What’s On Guide to find more information.

The site is also close to Whitelee Moor National Nature Reserve; one of Britain’s most important upland nature reserves. Here you be lucky enough to see buzzards, ospreys and herons. Mammals that live here include otters, red squirrels, badgers, roe deer and bats.

The History of Catcleugh Reservoir

Northumberland National Park volunteer Tony Evans explains the fascinating history of Catcleugh Reservoir and the workers who built it.

This film was created with the support of the Reece Foundation.

The creation of Catcleugh Reservoir

Explore our interactive overview of the creation of Catcleugh Reservoir (1890 – 1905). You are able to scroll through  sections to find out more information about the fascinating history, building process and workforce responsible for the this incredible engineering achievement.

A black and white photograph showing a view of the workers huts at Catcleugh Reservoir in the early 1900s.

Click here to learn more about the creation of Catcleugh Reservoir.

St Francis’ Church

Close to Reservoir, in the hamlet of Byrness you will find the Church of St Francis of Assisi; a small 18th century church which was partly rebuilt in 1884. It is renowned for the stained glass ‘Navvies Window’.


Church of St. Francis

The stained glass window was installed in the south window of the church in 1903 by the construction workforce of Catcleugh Reservoir. The window commemorates of the 64 deaths of workers and their families who died during the construction of the Catcleugh Reservoir.


A panel of stained glass window from St. Francis Church in Byrness showing a man with a pick axe working on the building of Catcleugh Reservoir

Getting there

By car

The reservoir is situated in private woodland, one mile past Byrness on the A68 and 4.5 miles south-east of the Scottish Border at Carter Bar. Follow the signs for the nature reserve.