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Blog: Seaton Spring Waterworks History
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water workers cleaning seaton spring reservoir
30 January 2017 - 13:18, by Paul Goad, in Seaton Spring 1 comment
The Waterworks at Seaton is integral to our heritage with the site having been used to draw quality rock filtered drinking water for the local community for over 110 years. This year I plan to write four blogs about the site’s history, its link to the Bulmer family who have ensured that our pure water has continued to be available throughout the North East and also about the geology of the limestone aquifer from which this wonderful natural resource is drawn.

On the anniversary of his passing this series starts with a brief history of William R Bulmer MBE (6th August 1915 - 30th January 2001). ‘Will’ as he was known was born during the Great War at Stotfold Farm located on the hill overlooking the North Sea adjacent to our site. The 1920’s was a tough time for farming with the country wrestling with a depression. Therefore on leaving Ryhope Grammar School and despite wanting to farm, Will found work in the local mines as a trainee electrician. With his love of the outdoors he found it difficult to adjust to life underground and eventually found work as an insurance broker in Newcastle.

In 1938 Will was able to return to his love of farming working alongside his father, Herbert. When Herbert passed away in 1946 Will took over the farm tenancy and continued the line of what would eventually be four generations of Bulmers who farmed the East Durham countryside around The Waterworks. He quickly looked at improving efficiencies and was instrumental in many changes on the farm.
He said that he had no intention of walking behind horses for the rest of his life, insisting that tractors were the future of farming, buying his first Standard Fordson in 1939.
Farming was a reserved occupation during the Second World War meaning Will was not called up for active service. However he was commissioned into the RAF Voluntary Reserve and channelled his war time efforts by being one of the founder members of the fledgling Seaham Air Training Corps (ATC). He remained involved in the ATC for 60 years making him the UK’s longest serving officer within the Air Cadet organisation. As testament to his service the Seaham ATC building was dedicated to his name ‘The Will Bulmer Complex’ which still operates today as part of his legacy to the local community.

In addition to his commitment to the ATC, his wife Louise, his family of four children and the Farm, Will also served for many years on the British Rail Transport Users Consultative Committee and for this work he was awarded the MBE in 1981. The timing of the award coincided with Will suffering a massive stroke totally paralysing his right side. However, in a show of determination which epitomised his life he was adamant that he would collect the award in person and walk to the Queen. Deferring twice he eventually collected his award at Buckingham Palace in the summer of 1982.

William Robert Bulmer (1915 – 2001) – a truly wonderful life.
William R Bulmer MBE
Paul Goad, Seaton Spring Limited
About this author
Paul has had a varied working life; he spent the 1980’s in the British Army, graduating through Sandhurst and leaving in 1989 in the rank of Captain. Throughout the 1990’s he had a number of commercial positions in businesses as diverse at IT, arboriculture and furniture manufacture. In the late 1990’s he managed both Northumbrian Spring in Darlington and Fresh and Cool Watertechnology, Germany’s largest Watercooler business. Both businesses were acquired by Danone in the early 2000’s. Subsequently Paul joined Seaton Spring in 2005 in which he is now a principal shareholder.

A sport and exercise fanatic Paul graduated in 2015 with a 1st class Honours degree in Sport and Exercise from Teesside University. Paul is currently devising a Work Place wellbeing initiative (watch this space) and regularly presents at academic conferences on topics as diverse as the 1948 Olympics and North East football fanzine comic characters.

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