Social & Technical Forces Constituting the Silent Valley Reservoir Project: Mourne Mountains to Belfast (1893-1932)

  • Michael Reinsborough

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Initiated in 1923, the Silent Valley Reservoir in the Mourne Mountains was the first large scale civil engineering project after political partition of Ireland. Before being completed the project had to overcome several obstacles. Firstly, the Mourne Mountains were claimed by the South of Ireland and thus subject to the Boundary Commission of the Anglo-Irish peace treaty. Secondly, the combination of fluid subsoil and the failure to locate bedrock at expected depth brought construction to a halt while an engineering, political, and legal solution was sought for the expensive and now publicly controversial project. Air-shafts for excavating under increased atmospheric pressure were designed taking in mind both technical and political difficulties. Today the 3000 million gallon reservoir, first imagined in the late 19th Century, continues to be a major water source for the city of Belfast. This study utilises a technology studies approach which connects social and technical forces, exploring how social relationships are materially present within technology and similarly how material effects influence social practices. A disparate network of people, knowledge, and materials was involved in the completion of the Silent Valley Reservoir. This thesis explores the social and technical forces that enabled this network to come together and looks at how the resultant arrangement of forces differed from the initial arrangement. The thesis then explores how this changing arrangement of forces can be described in political terms. For example, in what ways might the state be said to be a participant? Flow are social relations such as gender or political identity encoded within the technological solutions?
    Date of AwardSep 2007
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorPeter Bowler (Supervisor) & Debbie Lisle (Supervisor)

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