Old well uncovered - possibly circa 1850

Well, well, well…….

We knew it existed, and were told when we were buying the house where it was, but due to overgrowth we hadn’t unearthed the well that once supplied the house with water. Until now.

In the former scullery (marketed on the estate agent’s brochure as a utility room! lol) was the pump connected to the well. I believe, long ago seized, this used to supply the house with water for washing, cooking and drinking.

Upon moving in, I had to temporarily do some plumbing for a washing machine, connecting it to the mains water supply. Hence the blue pipe in the picture. Up until this point there was no washing machine plumbing in the house.

Old pump in the former scullery connected to the well
Old pump in the former scullery connected to the well

The Former Scullery

The estate agent’s creative description of the former scullery, was somewhat of an embellishment.

Along the back of the house, there were two lean to buildings. In the photo below, on the left (lower pitched roof) was a coal store, and on the right a scullery with loft for storage of animal feed.

Back of a Victorian Farm house, with lean to buildings (Coal store on left with the lower pitched roof, and on the right a scullery with hay loft)
Back of a Victorian Farm house, with lean to buildings (Coal store on left with the lower pitched roof, and on the right a scullery with hay loft)

Through years of neglect , the scullery was quite unkept, dirty, rat infested and ….. creepy!

Former scullery in a Victorian farm house
Former scullery in a Victorian farm house

Once moved in, we cleared the scullery, and you could start to see some of the original features.

Scullery of Victorian Farm house with add on toilet circa 1950s
Scullery of Victorian Farm house with add on toilet circa 1950s

In the picture you can see the retro fitted ‘inside’ toilet, which I guess was an upgrade in the 1960/70’s once a septic tank had been put in. (Before this it was an outside toilet in a bucket – no plumbing, and I assume the contents were discarded into the stream. (Incidentally the outside toilet was up stream of the well).

Apart from this, there was the remains of what looked like a fire place (back left hand corner of picture), the chimney had long gone, but from the sooty deposits and opening it was clear this is what it had once been.

The back wall had been bricked up where possibly a window have been. This could have been done when the toilet was installed.

You can also see the lovely old mangle,on the left, which has the local town’s name on the casting.

The pump from the well is also visible, but out of the photo, again on the left, was the remains of what looked like a small fire stove where a copper for boiling clothes on might have been? While clearing the scullery, we came across a few antique irons. So in conclusion this scullery was probably used to do the laundry for the house.

Antique Irons found in the old scullery
Antique Irons found in the old scullery

The Source

Back to the source, you can see the well is quite a distance from the property and quite close to the stream. The water in the well is actually higher than that of the stream so seems to hold onto the water, which appears to be fed through an clay drainage pipe. So I am guessing that at the moment that it is topped up by drainage pipe running across/around the field?

Old Victorian well, is quite a distance from the original farm house
Old Victorian well, is quite a distance from the original farm house

Inside the well you can see some lead pipe going into the water. This looks like the same diameter pipe as that attached to the pump in the scullery. When we demolished the scullery and rebuilt the utility room on the back of the house I dug up a considerable length of this pipe running off in the direction of the well.

Lead pipe in old Victorian well
Lead pipe in old Victorian well

So this probably confirms that the hand pump in the scullery pumped the water from the source, up the slope to the house.

However, it does look a relatively modern pump in contrast to the age of the property.

When clearing the land outside the scullery, we found lots of discarded items from weights for scales to old bottles, to bits of farming machinery. However, one key find was an old solid lead water hand pump. Perhaps the original hand pump from the scullery? Cast completely in lead, this is very heavy, but intact, except for the handle and plunger. I am assuming it may have had a wooden plunger and leather washer? Which have long perished.

Lead cast water pump, dating back to mid 1800s found on a farm in North Devon
Lead cast water pump, dating back to mid 1800s found on a farm in North Devon

I also dug up another pump in the walled garden, which we know from photos, was once planted as a market garden. However, this hand pump was near to an old buried diesel/petrol pump, which had a hose going into the stream. So I am guessing, this pumps previous life was for irrigating the crops.

Agricultural water pump no longer used.  Found in a market garden in North Devon
Agricultural water pump no longer used. Found in a market garden in North Devon

Plans for the well

I understand that a lot of wells have been filled in as they were no longer required. From a safety perspective this makes a lot of sense. Thinking of safety, this was my first thought too.

However, being relatively near to the vegetable patch, this could be a great source of water for the crops.

I think I am going to cap the well with a concrete slab to make it safe but leave access to enable the well to be used.

One thought would be to renovate and reinstate the lead pump either as a working feature or ornamental focal point. Being lead I don’t want to be using the water that has come though it, unless I can line it in someway, inserting a more modern lined pump inside, which seems feasible.

Another option is to build a small windmill (there are plans out there using bicycle wheels and parts). Attach this windmill to a ‘drill’ pump. (This little pump normally attaches to an electric drill.) Cheap, and capable of pumping 3,000 litres an hour on a 400 watt drill. I obviously won’t get the flow rate, but this may work to fill water butts and IBC s which I have a few of already or provide a trickle irrigation on windy days.

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