[Not all larger versions of pics are yet uploaded.]
|Dyfi Valley Wells, Springs, Pumps, Standpipes, Taps, Troughs, Fountains, etc., etc., etc.|
There are so many excellent books being published these days on the history of the area by local experts with access to written records that I was starting to wonder what my next project could possibly be. What's obscure enough that nobody else would scoop me, and yet might be of at least passing interest to somebody out there? I've got a number of ideas up my sleeve that'll keep me going for some time yet, but finally I decided that the project for odd snatched weekends of the summer of 2006 should be to seek out the "water sources" for each of the valley's communities - old wells, springs, pumps, standpipes, taps, troughs and fountains. As I progressed, I came to realise that I was years too late in doing this: most of the pumps and taps had been removed, and the wells fallen into obscurity. But enough of them remained to make it a challenge - and I've learnt a lot in the process. The project isn't complete yet - I doubt that it ever will be - but read on to see what I've dug up (in some cases almost literally) so far. If anyone knows of any other candidates that I've missed, do please get in touch.
|Wells and Springs|
|Considering wells and springs first, they
take two distinct forms:
(a) those that simply provided everyday drinking water, and
(b) those with an ancient religious/mystical/curative tradition (Holy Wells, Healing Wells, Wishing/Cursing Wells).
The former are far more numerous in the Dyfi Valley than the latter, although most have been lost since mains water was introduced. The old maps indicate large numbers of wells and springs, but they are often impossible to locate nowadays. A few do still exist though, albeit usually overgrown, and there are clues to be found in field names - e.g., Cae Ffynnon (Fountain/Well/Spring Field) is a commonly found name in the 1844 tithe maps, or the term pistyll - which indicates a spout or cataract.
Holy Wells and Healing Wells are certainly represented in the Dyfi Valley, as you'll discover below. Holy Well hunting is a pastime that others have picked up on, encouraged perhaps by the history and mysticism that surrounds them, and as a result there's a certain amount of reference material available, the foremost amongst these being "The Holy Wells of Wales" by Francis Jones, re-published by The University of Wales Press, Cardiff, ISBN: 0-7083-1145-8.
As far as Wishing and Cursing Wells are concerned, you'll be relieved to read that I've not found a Cursing Well in the Dyfi Valley yet - although there is one Wishing "Well" (see Machynlleth, in the table below).
|Pumps, Standpipes and Taps|
Turning to village pumps, standpipes and taps, there's precious little reference material to be found, and hardly anybody who hunts them down. (I guess I can understand that.) But these fixtures are becoming rare now, as many authorities promptly removed them once mains water was introduced to individual houses. Road widening schemes have resulted in the old fixtures being demolished, but some remain - generally abandoned, disused and ignored - although I've had the wet feet to prove that some at least are still in working order. Old Dyfi Valley maps often indicate their location, and I've searched for many of these - although usually with little luck.
|These water sources must surely have been
a gathering point for the women of the village, and one can imagine the
exchange of news, banter and gossip as buckets were filled. The photograph
on the right shows a group of 8 women and 4 young girls, each with their
buckets, posing in line at the pump in the village square in Aberdyfi
(Larger version under "Aberdyfi", below.)
Photograph by permission of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/The National Library of Wales.
|In my travels around the Dyfi Valley villages I've found various patterns of pumps and standpipes, and as I got a wider sample I've tried to compare them and deduce where some of them were made. I've now dug quite deeply into the topic, nationally, and become something of a nerd in so doing. The results of much of my effort now appears on another website of mine, devoted solely to the topic of Village Pumps - if you happen to have a passing interest! I'd never thought about it, but now realise that the production of cast iron pumps and standpipes would require techniques beyond local means. So where might the authorities have gone for their hardware? Both North and South Wales had flourishing iron industries, but so did the industrial English Midlands, and it seems to have been the latter that was favoured.|
Source of the Pumps
Joseph Evans & Sons (Wolverhampton) Ltd, was founded in 1810 and traded until about 1964. From about 1890 they very conveniently put a lion rampant trademark on all of their pumps, and it is through this trademark that I've been able to trace them as the supplier of the pump I've located in Esgairgeiliog. There's a very useful website at http://www.localhistory.scit.wlv.ac.uk/Museum/Engineering/Evans/evans01.htm that set me off on the trail. The company traded nationally, having depots in Cardiff, Sheffield, Manchester, Glasgow and Newcastle-on-Tyne, and I've now found examples of their pumps scattered elsewhere in England.
Another firm, in Tipton, Staffs, with the name Lee, Howl, Ward & Howl, was formed in 1880, and from this emerged in 1887 the firm of Lee, Howl & Co. There is a persistent rumour that way back in these days Joseph Evans's chief designer apparently defected to this company, and from this time onwards some of their pumps bore a striking similarity to those of Joseph Evans. According to an article in "Old Glory" magazine of March 1994, Lee Howl pumps carried a flag trademark (to copy the lion would have added insult to injury), which I've found on pumps in Eglwysfach and Forge.
Source of the Standpipes and Taps
As for the cast iron standpipes that are a feature of Llandre and Talybont, I can so far find no trademark or maker's name at all. They are all very basic, fairly similar (just three variations on a theme), and nowhere near as decorative as those produced by the firm of Glenfield & Kennedy of Kilmarnock, Scotland, who seem to have cornered the market elsewhere in Britain. Their standpipes often featured a noble lion's head as a decoration on the front of the structure, and sometimes came complete with an iron drinking cup on a chain or an integral iron dog bowl. No such frills for the Dyfi Valley, though.
An ancient and rusted tap in Machynlleth carries the words "Kennedy Patentee" and what might be "Lion".
Drinking Fountains, Dog Bowls and Horse/Cattle Troughs
These don't seem feature in the Dyfi Valley (probably because there was always plenty of water to drink from the streams, which generally might be assumed to be clean, except in rare circumstances), but elsewhere in the country, and especially in the big cities, access to fresh water was a major problem. Contaminated water had been responsible for cholera outbreaks in London in 1848-49 and 1853-54. The Free Drinking Fountain Association was established in London in 1859, and when they realised that animals needed their thirst quenching as well, they changed their name and role to the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association. London had its first drinking fountain that very year and the Association pushed ahead with installing hundreds of fountains, troughs and dog bowls. In 1912 alone they erected 37 fountains, 29 cattle troughs and 100 dog bowls, but the world was changing and the motorcar was on its way. Although usage of troughs continued well into the 1930s, the inevitable decline set in. Nevertheless, the Association is still active today, providing drinking fountains - especially in playing fields - and ensuring the preservation of at least some of the old troughs. The influence of the Association was noticed from afar, and other boroughs and councils started to follow London's lead. However, apart from a modern drinking fountain that was installed in Borth when a new public convenience block was built in about 2005, and a tap outside the Dyfi Yacht Club in Aberdyfi, I've yet to find any others in the Dyfi Valley (still looking). The same goes for horse or cattle troughs - I haven't found a single one yet in the Dyfi Valley. Are there any? Were there any? In other parts of the country these were quite commonplace, although they've largely disappeared now - or in some cases turned into corporation flower displays.
And finally, purely decorative fountains, but these are rare in the Dyfi Valley. They - and indeed drinking fountains - can be fantastic creations, reflecting or promoting civic pride. Generally, the Dyfi Valley is far more down to earth than this, though, and is not the place for puffed-up pretensions of grandeur. The only decorative fountain I've found that's still in existence is in the grounds of Plas Machynlleth, restored to working order in the 1960s, but now defunct again. It would be nice to think that the initiative to find another use for the Plas - post-Celtica - could bring the fountain back into use again. There were at least a couple of others in the Valley, and I've listed these under their locations, below.
|The following table lists most of the communities of the Dyfi Valley in alphabetical order. Simply click on a name that contains a link in order to see what I've found so far at that location.|
|Cemmaes||Commins Coch||Corris||Corris Uchaf||Cwm Llinau||Cwrt||Darowen||Derwenlas|