West Dereham Sign Gary Trouton


July 2006

Chris seeks to catalogue local wells.

Those of us who live in older houses, or a newer home built on an old site, may know of the existence of a well on their property.

When our home at West Dereham was being renovated in 1973, the lorry delivering the concrete for the floor nearly came to grief as a wheel sank down a hollow just outside the front window. The builders quickly threw in loads of rubble to fill up what remained of the well, presumably unused for many years, since the nearby front door was bricked up with 19C bricks.

A couple of years ago, to give restless grandchildren somewhere to dig during the long summer holidays, I suggested that they try to dip in the front lawn, where I thought they might find a well.

They did, soon uncovering the top ring of bricks about 12 inches under the turf. The "big boys" soon took over and, as the hole deepened, organised the rubble to be wheel barrowed off the site.

Eventually they reached down about 10 feet, but had not emptied all the rubble. The water quickly flowed in and we were able to pump it out from time to time to water the lawn.

During the June half-term this year we decided to finish the job and see if there really was a bottom. It took most of the day, and most of the length of our longest ladder before we had emptied the sludge and old bricks. The brickwork is rally perfect all the way down, the bricks laid radiating outwards with the narrow ends forming each circular ring face. The cylinder formed is not quite perfectly straight down - a bit of a bend halfway down, but still an admirable piece of construction. It would be interesting to know how old it really is; the house was constructed in 1752 from single story with dormers, to full two storeys.

One interesting bit of well construction we had not expected: As the water and mud reached its lowest point, a new shape emerged. There at the bottom of the brickwork emerged a wooden octagonal frame - presumably the former which the original well-builder made to give him the right shape to start off his brickwork.

The octagonal frame was quite soft - you could dig your finger nail into it - but otherwise intact. The water would have kept it sealed away from the air so it had not rotted away.

It would be interesting to hear of any more "well" stories and perhaps create an historical map of wells around the area.

Chris Young.

Copyright remains with independent content providers where specified, including but not limited to Village Pump contributors. All rights reserved.