In the last few weeks works of cleaning and consolidating have been undertaken on the buttresses and walls of the water tank in the river course of La Vila’s river, underneath the railway bridge. The work has been carried out by personnel from Vilamuseu and the Municipal Technical Department.
The urgent action has concentrated on the parts that are suffering deterioration in order to halt the decline. The consolidation work has been done using mortar made of lime and sand, lighter in colour than the old mortar, because, in heritage restoration, it is obligatory to distinguish the new from the original.
In the medium term there is to be an integral restoration project, integrating it into the green zone of the river basin so that it becomes a new tourist and cultural attraction. This project is to proceed with the archaeological excavation of the interior of the tank and its foundations, in order to find out, dates of construction, alterations and when it fell into disuse.
Archaeology does not only apply to very old buildings, such as those from the Roman and medieval times,but also to modern era buildings. Archaeological investigation and excavation takes place before any work is carried out. That investigation is necessary in order to discover, for example, how the building was used in various moments in its history and to decide exactly which period is going to be ‘respected’ in the restoration, what parts are to be preserved and which of the most recent reforms ought to be eliminated.
This is not an ordinary water tank. On its southern side there is an apse, a semi-circular entrance in the wall, the purpose of which is unknown, although the archaeological excavations will surely give us some clues.
At the moment, nearly everything about this strange water tank is unknown. Thanks to a plan of 1847 by Fransisco Coello, we do know that close by there was a mill 100 metres to the north of Molino Real de la Llobeta (Llobeta Royal Mill), which is also in the river bed. Perhaps the tank collected water in order to allow that second mill to operate. What seems clear is that it was not a flour mill, like the Llobeta, because documents make no mention of it in la Vila. The curious form of the wall of the tank suggests that it had a gear of some type of machinery, meaning, it belonged to an old industrial installation, but what industry?
The story of the recovery of this water tank is only starting, but given its rare promise it offers us many surprises. The excavations will shed light on pieces, perhaps the gears of the machinery; it will give us dates. Meanwhile, the ethnographic investigation from Vilamuseu and the Municipal Archive will search for signs in the memories of the ‘vileros’ (the name given to those who live in la Vila) and in the documents that have been left to us. Up to now all attempts have produced nothing; this is not going to be an easy challenge.