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find old well last seen 1893? (Hampshire, England)

 
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I'm in England. The Ordnance Survey map from 1893 shows a well at the corner of my land. It is not shown on any of the maps from 1900 onwards. There is no sign of it today (but the field is pretty muddy around there).

The spot is at the bottom of a gentle valley. The local soil is clay but it's sitting on top of a large chalk formation (called the South Downs). I know the chalk is on the surface only a few hundred metres away from us, so we're very close to the edge of the clay patch.

What are the chances of being able to get fresh water from the same underground watercourse? or even the same well? I assume 19th century wells did not employ deep bore-holes, so I am hopeful ...

The main resource limitation we have for off-grid living is that we have to carry drinking water into the woods from the nearby village. If we could get a local water source, we would be delighted.

Cheers,
Paul
 
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Location: Richmond, Utah
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Hi Paul,
Yes, I think this is very possible. Chalk is a type of limestone and limestone is one of the best rocks for getting good drinking water. Limestone alters to clay when it weathers and clay is adept at plugging things up. Remove the clay in the right spot and you should have a high quality water source. When I was a kid, I worked on our neighbors ranch where we did exactly that. We dug out a basin with a tractor and then drove big logs endwise into the muddiest area until water started pushing up and out around the logs.
Good luck.
 
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrcPbVZYEQ4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuYxz4oFbLs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGiTb7ubKug
If the well was that old it is a hand dug rock lined shallow well that was spring fed or ground water.
go through the steps to dowse for it and you will probably find it right were the water is. If not just build another.
 
pollinator
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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We are also on the south downs and in our area the aquifer is around 30m deep. There are a number of old hand dug wells in the area that reach down to that depth from around the era you describe. Most of these were brick lined and then later capped off with stone slabs or concrete to make gardens safe when the well water was no longer needed.

Boreholes are not terribly expensive to install - we managed to get the hole for ours dug over two days by a chap who specialises in "drilling" the chalk. "drilling" in quotes because his custom built rig is actually a pile driver setup that gets winched and dropped down the shaft, collecting a plug of the chalk which is lifted and dropped in a waiting skip. Quite different from wet drilling methods and quick and effective on our lands.

There are some natural surface springs, usually at the feet of steep chalk hillsides where the aquifer rises with the landform. These tend to present as boggy patches rather than flowing water as the chalk soil down slope rapidly reabsorbs the water. It may be possible to develop one of these, but I suspect that the flow rate most of the time would be low. I wish we had one on our land to experiment with!

As far as finding your well goes - if the area is agricultural land the well may have been filled to make it safe which would be a bummer, otherwise it may be capped with a slab which has since silted and grown over. You could try probing the area with a sharp metal spike and see if there is an area of shallower soil indicative of a slab beneath.
 
garden master
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Michael Cox wrote:
As far as finding your well goes - if the area is agricultural land the well may have been filled to make it safe which would be a bummer, otherwise it may be capped with a slab which has since silted and grown over. You could try probing the area with a sharp metal spike and see if there is an area of shallower soil indicative of a slab beneath.


Even if the well was filled with soil or rubble, it would probably be a lot easier to dig it out again than to dig a new hand-dug well. If it has a traditional stone lining, digging out whatever's inside that would likely be a lot easier and safer than digging a new well. (Not that anybody is proposing a new hand-dug well; most of us moderns aren't willing to work that hard.)

If probing with a steel spike doesn't turn up the wellhead, it wouldn't be that impossible to dig a few exploratory trenches in likely areas. Figure out what the traditional plowing depth is in your part, make your trenches six inches deeper than that and as narrow as the soil will support. Criss-cross the area until you find anomalous material, then dig there looking for the wellhead.
 
Paul Ryan
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thanks everyone

The exact location of the well on old maps is a few metres outside the boundary of my land, in my neighbour's field. Due to the height contours of the terrain, I have a feeling the water source will be near the surface.

I doubt there is a sophisticated deep brick-lined well because the area is too rural and I assume there would not have been sufficient demand.

I am tempted to dig a few holes in likely spots with a hand auger and see what turns up ...
 
Michael Cox
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Paul - if you are on the chalk like us then I think you probably have very little surface water around. There are no streams or anything near here.

A well on farm land opens up land for livestock grazing which would otherwise be impossible without a reliable water supply, so a hand dug well in those times would have been an expensive but likely worthwhile investment. Also bearing in mind that that was a time when labour was cheap - it was probably dug by some farm workers in quiet periods, perhaps over a number of years. The chalk around us has good pockets of clay and we had active brickworks within a few miles of the house - again, the resources may well have been available.

That is not to say that they weren't smart about it and chose to dig in an already damp spot!
 
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Paul - limestone/chalk tends to produce decent water atthough it can be difficult to get at. If there is an old well its fair to assume there is water there. There may be old records on http://mapapps2.bgs.ac.uk/geoindex/home.html?theme=boreholes (you need to select the borehole and water wells data sets). If not for your site then a site close by will give you an idea of the geology. If you get the water tested I'd empty the well a couple of times, letting it recharge before testing, your local Env Health Dept should do it and importantly should be able to give an interpretation of the results.

Good luck
 
pollinator
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Paul : Just about anywhere that Good Clay bodies could be found, both bricks and clay roofing tiles were locally produced so add in all the old buildings
around your area which had Clay Roofing Tiles. Check with a local historian, bricks were probably produced within 30 miles of your location !

Or slate and some types of shale or any rock that has a uniform fracture plane !

Michael Cox : I would like to learn more about the punch/cut style of drilling platform you describe , can you come up with a Name or phrase that locals
call this process ?!?

For the Good of the Craft ! Big AL
 
Michael Cox
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"Edeco Wayfarer 1500 drilling rig"

Should bring up what you need. It is described as a percussive drill.
 
allen lumley
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Michael Cox : Thanks ! Big AL
 
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