Russell remembered the days before there was a mains water supply to the house, when the family relied on the well for water. I think he told me it is 30 feet deep, not quite sure. It’s got a very solid, cast iron manhole cover over it but it’s completely open when you remove that – circular, brick-lined and the water down there looks quite forbidding. There used to be the remnants of the original hand pump on the wall, but it must have fallen apart and I can’t remember when it was taken away.
Sprig didn’t remember when electricity was brought to the house but his elder sister did. She was born in August 1932 and he was born in June 1936, so odds are that it was in 1937 or 38. This seems quite late, but wires had to be brought across the fields from Yagnub. My mother, who was born at the end of 1923 remembered when electricity was laid on at her house, which she left at the age of 7, so that was done sometime in the 20s.
What both sister June and my mother remembered about electricity was how cold the house was that first winter, compared to the old gas lights. I remember gas lighting myself – back in the 1960s and early ’70s, I delivered Meals on Wheels with my mother and one old lady, a Mrs Cockerton in Nelson Road, Pakefield, still used gas. She had a gas cooker, fridge, lamps, everything. In fact, friends of Sprig’s family, who will be mentioned again, lived in a farmhouse half a mile from the road and they didn’t have mains electricity to the ends of their lives, though they did have a generator.
When Sprig was a little boy, the hand pump was used to fill the large water tanks in the attic, which must have been a strenuous job. I suspect the gardener did it. I grew up in a house with a well myself, it was a wonderful thing and I’d never have gone on to mains water if I lived there. We had four tanks, each holding 250 gallons and the pump worked automatically twice a day to fill them. I very much doubt the tanks here were anywhere near that size, the water supply ddn’t warrant it. My mother-in-law told me that they had to be careful in summer or the well ran dry – it filled again, it wasn’t a serious problem but a nuisance for a few hours. Once the electricity supply had been brought, an electric pump was installed at The Close too, but it must have been later, maybe about 1940. I don’t know when the mains water came, but mains drainage never has and the big brick septic tank is still in splendid condition, though – as I wrote about at the time – we had a problem with the pipework the other side of it, the year before last. The water supply comes across the Ups and Downs, there’s a stopcock (just in case anyone ever needs to know) a few yards into that field and another by the road, between the churchyard and the old mill yard.
Russell always had a sneaking ambition to put in a new pump, so that we could use well water for the garden, but we never got around to it, which is a pity. Still, just one more thing to look after.