Friday, 12 August 2016

When “buckets of water were the only supply of any but rain and spring water.”


Revisiting an old story.

Now I do not think there is anything romantic about having to collect a bucket of water from the local well.  

I know it is still what millions of people have to do across the world and it just makes the daily round of maintaining a household just that bit more difficult.

And that is what went on here well into the middle of the 19th century.

The first piped water arrived from Manchester in 1864 along Edge Lane and went to just 17 households.

The year before when Stockton Range opposite the new parish church was built it included two wells inside the house.

So wells, pumps and ponds were pretty much how we got our water.  And there was plenty of the stuff, along with the Brook to the south of the village  and Longford Brook running through Martledge* there was Rough Leech Gutter which followed the route of Corkland Road before meandering down what is now Wilbraham Road and then out to Turn Moss.

There was the village pond by the Bowling Green Hotel and an impressive stretch of water known as Blomely’s Fish Pond which stretched along Beech Road from Acres up to Chequers Road and dotted all over the township were smaller ponds many of which were old clay and marl pits which had been left to fill with water around what was once called the Isles and is now the Oswald Road, Langford Road area.

Our farm houses and the bigger houses had their own wells as did some of the cottages while other families had to share.  The Higginbotham family who lived on the green only filled there’s in sometime during the 1960s, while the pump at Bailey’s old farm on the Row** was still standing in the 1970s. 

But however close the source it still had to be collected and a family might need several buckets of water a day which had to be drawn and carried home.

Even in those grand homes it was someone’s job to pull or pump it up from the deep and take it to where it was needed.  And in humbler homes the walk to the nearest supply could in itself be a real chore. 

Mrs Williamson writing in 1883 described how the villagers of Lady Barn regularly had to visit a pond in a nearby hay field to collect  “buckets of water where with to clean their houses, this being the only supply of any but rain and spring water.” ***

Henry Stephen’s who write the manual on farming in the mid 19th century estimated
 “the cost of digging a well in clay, eight feet in diameter and sixteen deep and building a ring three feet in diameter with dry rubble masonry is only L5 [£5] exclusive of carriage and the cost of pumps.”

The earliest pumps in the township would have been made of wood, with the central part coming from a hollowed tree trunk and different woods used for the different parts of the pump.  Later lead and cast iron pumps were made replacing the old wooden ones.

Both pumps and wells which were shared were focal points where people met and exchanged gossip. And on long hot summer days  the pump provided our children with a source of entertainment.

Still, as idyllic as this may seem by the 1880s the supply was no longer enough and was already becoming polluted, but that is for another day.


Picture; from the collection of Lois Elsden taken from one of the posts on her blog,  http://loiselsden.wordpress.com/


 *Martledge is the area from the four banks down to the Library and across to Longford Nichola and Newport Roads

**The Row was the old name for Beech Road

*** Williamson, W. C., Sketches of Fallowfield and Surrounding Manors Past and Present, John Heywood Manchester, 1888, page 38



[1] Stockton Range
[2] Minutes of the Water Works Committee of Manchester Corporation No 10 January 28 1864, Archive and Local History Library, M231/1/2/1/10. The request had come from 17 of the principle residents and the 3 inch main extended down Edge Lane, along St Clements Road to the Horse & Jockey and the main cost £180.  At the time there were only 11 houses along the course of the main, but during the next 13 years it was frequently extended till in 1877 a new 12 inch main was laid from Brooks Bar, along Manchester Road, Wilbraham Road and Edge Lane to Stretford. Ellwood Chapter 22 Gas & Rates April 3 1886.  Above all it was to be the supply of clean dependable water which would allow for the expansion of the housing boom after 1870

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