The Goldhanger Village Pump

The village pump has always been a prominent feature in The Square in the centre of Goldhanger. For centuries it was used by villagers as the only source of drinking water, and was also said to of an excellent quality. In her book Goldhanger - an Estuary Village, Maura Benham suggests that the pump would have originally been in the middle of a larger square, with the land that is now the Chequers car park forming the south section. It is very likely that the well and pump have been a important feature in the village for over a thousand years and may well have been a major influence in the position and layout of the village. There were other wells in the village, mainly as part of the larger properties, but the water produced from these was said to be unfit for drinking. 

As the population of Essex grew, the water table lowered and it was necessary to fix a new pump at the bottom of the old well with a suction pipe into the borehole. However, this brought up large quantities of sand which took time to settle out from the water. So both the pump and well was replaced in the 1920s which necessitated building a completely new well alongside the failing one and some old postcards of The Square show both pumps in position. 

The mechanism on the earlier pump had a large counter-weight protruding from the casing at ground level, which can been seen in the early photos. This would have moved up and down and in and out  of a hole in the ground when the pump was being used, which would have been a serious safety hazard for children.

The Square with old pump

The Square with village pump and girl

The Square with Two Pumps

Early photo showing just the previous pump

The previous pump in use

The Square with two pumps

 

Memories of the pump construction in 1920s

The new well and pump was said to cost around £400 at that time. Furlongs of Maldon was given the job of constructing the well, and during the very hot summer of 1921 the digging and brickwork was undertaken by Ockle Bannister and Shadow Wiggens of Maldon. They dug down 5 feet and bricked it up, then dug another 5 feet and bricked that up, and so on until they reached a depth of 70 feet, for which they needed cradle to go down and up in. As they progressed down, a candle was burnt, if the candle went out they returned to the surface. The excavated earth was hauled up in buckets and was carted to a field opposite the Village Hall. A 100ft bore pipe was then put in and the force-pump was installed. A platform was constructed at a depth of 30 feet to service the new pump which was fixed on the wall at this level. A connecting rod and guide were fixed to the side of the well and connected to a crank and wheel at the top.

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The drawing on the left is part of one produced by Maldon Rural District Council at the time and the one on the right is based on a sketch by Bernard Mann, the village builder between the 1920s and 1980s.  The well and pump worked effectively for over eighty years. For the first twenty years of its life there was no mains water supply to the village. The water was again said to of an excellent quality. Although maintenance work was untaken various times by local craftsmen during its lifetime, the pump mechanism finally failed in 2004.

 

Restoration of the village pump in 2012

The Parish Council undertook a comprehensive overhaul of the Grade-2 listed village pump in 2012. As the pump is 10 metres down the well shaft, extensive safety measures were required, and a specialist company was employed for the below ground work. The first task was the removal of 4,000 litres of water with a submersible pump to gain access to the platform which is 2 metres below the normal water level in the well so that the pump could be inspected.

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Entering the well

Before the well could be entered, the atmosphere had to be checked and then constantly monitored.  A full harness had to be worn attached to an electric winch fixed to a portable crane as the step irons built into the brickwork could not be relied on. It was soon established that the operating rod was broken just above the pump. The pump itself was in relatively good condition, being made of brass.

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First view of the pump

The broken rod

The dismantled pump on the surface

 

Three timber beams across the well, which were very rotten, were replaced with stainless steel to which nylon bushes were fixed to restraint the movement of the operating rod and also provide fixings for the new rising main. On the surface the oak post and pipe work were replaced with new matching materials.  The original tap was retained. A plastic gully was replaced with cast iron in keeping with the requirements of the Conservation Area.

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Refurbished exterior

Refurbished pump

Final assembly

After a few turns of the wheel, water once more issued from the spout and the well and pump are again fully functional.

 

The project was only possible with financial support from the village residents together with grants from Essex Environment Trust, Maldon District Council and Essex Heritage Trust.  The restoration commemorates Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and an opening was ceremony was performed by the Chairman of Maldon District Council at 11am on Wednesday 2nd May 2012 in the presence of many residents and representative of the funding organisations.

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In November 2012 the project received Maldon District Council’s Conservation & Design Award for Sustainability

The restoration report and photographs were kindly provided by

the Chairman of Goldhanger Parish Council.

 

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