The original Sunderland and South Shields Water Company chimney and pump house in place in 1906 as other buildings are constructed around them.
Water. It’s a staple of life on which our very existence depends. It’s healthy, sustainable and affordable.
We’re told regularly that a hot water with lemon first thing in the morning will get us off to a good start, and that we should go on to sip a minimum of eight glasses throughout the day. Vast amounts of research has drawn a link between the importance of water and healthy brain function, aiding both short-term and long-term memory, boosting energy, concentration and reaction times, reducing anxiety and improving our ability to plan, problem-solve and even do mental arithmetic.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that more and more businesses are seeing the benefits of providing employees with ready and easy access to fresh water.
When it’s drawn from a sustainable source and delivery clocks up only minimal miles then it’s little wonder that North East business Seaton Spring continues to enjoy a growing reputation and an ever-increasing customer base with clients interested in its health and environmental credentials.
This year the company, nestled in the County Durham hills between the A1(M) and A19, is marking its 20th anniversary. It’s the biggest supplier of watercoolers in the North East and sources its water from the only commercial borehole used for filling 19-litre bottles in the region.
Seaton extracts 2.5 million litres of water from a natural aquifer which stretches laterally as far as Nottingham but with water at its closest to the surface – around 350ft – in the hills to the west of the A19.
It’s not known when the source – into which a bore hole is sunk to a depth of 70-80ft – was first discovered but the pumping station still in existence today dates back to 1896. After buying the 7.2-acre site, Sunderland and South Shields Water Company began to construct the pumping station over a 15-year period, one of five in the area built to provide drinking water for Sunderland, South Shields and other towns and villages along the North East coast
Three shafts were dug allowing the main shaft to be sunk to a depth around 438ft with brickwork going down to about 250ft. Water was pumped via steam-power up the main rising shaft and into an adjoining reservoir from where it was gravity-fed to the community via a network of local pipes.
The engine is thought to have come from a retired merchant ship and the steam was provided by two 30ft long boilers. The steam engines were connected to three pumps situated at the bottom of the shaft. During early production, the site pumped 2.1 million litres a day around the clock, over two or three shifts.
The pumping station was steam powered until the late 1950s when electric submersible pumps were installed. The steam engine and its boilers were removed and the chimney was felled in 1959.
The pumping station remained in use until the Kielder and Derwent reservoirs were brought into use in the late 1970s, when many of the east coast pumping stations became redundant.
The waterworks lay dormant until it was bought in 1990 by the Bulmer family, on whose farmland it stands. Identifying an opportunity to diversify and take advantage of the fresh water supply for the water cooler market, they launched Seaton Spring in 1999.
The Bulmer brothers were joined by Paul Goad, Seaton’s managing director and now principal shareholder, in 2005.
A former Army captain who served in Belize, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and Hong Kong, Paul went on to hold a number of commercial positions in sectors as diverse as IT, hair and beauty, arboriculture and furniture manufacture.
His first taste of the water industry was with Northumbrian Spring, which he joined as managing director in 1997.During his tenure he oversaw a complete refurbishment of the bottling plant and doubled the company’s customer base enabling a disposal to Danone in 1999.
He also worked as operations and marketing director at German watercooler company Fresh and Cool Watertechnology, a venture capital-funded start-up which he helped grow into Germany’s biggest water cooler business, placing 14,000 coolers across the country, before it was bought by Eden Springs in 2003.
Since taking the reins at Seaton Spring, Paul has pushed the business into profit and expanded its focus to supply mains-fed watercoolers alongside its original bottle-fed machines base.
Seaton Spring has the North East’s only bottling plant making it a unique complete water cooler supplier providing bottle-fed and mains connected coolers, fountains, boilers and undersink chillers to organisations across the region including businesses, schools and the health care sector.
Filling and the sanitisation of its 19-litre bottles all takes place at Seaton. The layout of the original waterworks has always remained the same. The old coal store now houses company offices and Seaton’s purpose-built clean room for preparing and sanitising watercoolers. The former blacksmith’s shop houses the 19-litre bottling plant, while the old boiler house operates as a storage warehouse.
Paul says: “We are very proud to supply fresh, pure water drawn from a sustainable source with minimal delivery miles to customers across the North East and North Yorkshire. With the vast amount of research to a link between the importance of water and healthy brain function it’s great to see more and more businesses recognising the benefits of providing employees with ready and easy access to fresh water from one of our coolers.”
Marketing manager and Paul’s wife Rachel Goad says: “What sets us apart from the larger corporate suppliers in the market is the personal service we are able to offer by focusing on serving local clients well. We don’t supply outside the North East and North Yorkshire which also means we are able to keep costs down by not having an enormous distribution infrastructure.
“We don’t have a remote call centre – customers who call will usually get Penny or Sharon who are based at our distribution centre in the North East and can answer their questions – and because we’re local we can react quickly if customers unexpectedly run out of water, getting to them within 48 hours at no extra cost.”
The company also has a strong focus on corporate social responsibility, especially within the local community.
It has ambitious plans to mark its 20th anniversary, with Paul, Rachel and members of the Seaton team taking part in a series of fundraising activities.
Rachel and delivery driver Alan Simpson are running the Pier to Pier 11k from South Shields to Roker on May 19. A few days later, Paul together with Connor Dixon and Tony Potts, with Ian Roberts driving their support vehicle, will tackle the Coast to Coast bike ride, 225km from Whitehaven in Cumbria to Whitley Bay.
Paul, who is an exercise fanatic with a degree in sport and exercise from Teesside University, will go on to conquer the Yorkshire Three Peaks on June 15.
All the money raised through sponsorship will go to Centrepoint for its projects to support homeless young people in the North East. Paul and friends have previously raised over £7,000 for the charity by taking part in sleepouts at the Stadium of Light. This year they are planning an Extreme Sleepout in October 2019 and Paul will also complete the official Centrepoint Sleepout on November 14.
Anyone who wishes to support Seaton’s anniversary fundraising efforts can donate at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/seaton-spring-water-coolers