TAKE A LOOK AT... (in Derbyshire)

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 28th July 2003 (p1 & p7), reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.

TAKE A LOOK AT: SPRINGS AND WELLS

Not-so-old inhabitants of many Peak District villages remember the days before the mains, when their water came from pumps and wells. Natural supplies could fail in drier years, especially in the limestone country of the White Peak and, as we described in an earlier article on Wardlow, the final precious trickles would be collected a saucerful at a time.

If money was available a pump might be installed over a well; cast-iron pumps were prone to freezing up in winter-time, so were generally boxed in with a wooden casing and further insulated with straw. Some villages only had stand-pipes for their first piped supply, so people who had private wells continued to use them for convenience. In fact when one music-loving leadmining village was asked by a generous benefactor to choose between water or a new organ, they chose the organ.

Almost 60 years ago a number of Peak District villages and hamlets were included in a survey of 144 Derbyshire villages, which revealed that only 27 had water piped to every house, and 16 had no piped supply at all. Fourteen villages had standpipes and 59 relied wholly or partly on wells, springs and rainwater. At least one village turned to the duckpond in times of drought! It was still quite usual to see buckets of water being carried home on a yoke, whilst three or four pails could be hung on the hooks of a contraption that ran on a pair of wheels.

FORFEITS

Protection of a village's wells had been of prime importance since the earliest by-laws were laid down. An extract from Glover's 'History of Derbyshire' records penalties fixed for the manor of Brassington at the Court Leet of 1663, when it was agreed that: "Noe person shall wash clothes, beastes meate, or swine's meat or any noysome or filthy thinge att the Coole Well or other wells in the towne within three or foure yardes of the wells mouthes to corrupt the water to forfeit uppon payne for everie default 12d. Noe myner shall carry either on horse or otherwise water from the Coole well or common wells aforesaid to wash oare or ould hillocks in the liberty or att their houses uppon payne to forfeit 12d."

The offences in the first paragraph carried a 17 pence fine at Bakewell, where specific reference was made to the Great Well, Cappewell and St Mary's Well. Bakewell, like Tideswell, Blackwell and Bradwell, took its name from the reliable water supply which attracted people to settle there in the first place.

CURATIVE WATERS

Over the centuries a few villages grew into towns on the strength of the qualities of their water. Matlock became the 'Mild Water Cure' capital, when hydropathic establishments also sprung up at Tansley, Darley Dale and Baslow. Buxton and Matlock Bath had earlier traditions of curative thermal waters, particularly beneficial for rheumatism and arthritis. Their waters, respectively 82 and 68 degrees fahrenheit, brought them fame as fashionable spa towns.

Bakewell first had a bath-house over its tepid 53 degree waters in 1697, renovated about 100 years later. A small restored bath-house is preserved over twin plunge pools at Stoney Middleton, where rather warmer springs, at 64 degrees, rise. These waters were reputedly used by the Romans and it is said that their healing powers became widely recognised after they cured a Crusader of leprosy upon his return from the Holy Land.

A small bath-house formerly stood at Bradwell over a spring behind the present New Bath Inn. Water from saline springs near Salt Sitch at Bradwell was drunk to relieve digestive complaints, and also used externally to alleviate heart and circulatory disorders.

The smell of rotten eggs rising from sulphurous springs at Wirksworth and Biggin-by-Wirksworth did not deter those seeking relief from the symptoms of gout or rheumatism, or from blood and skin diseases. Those suffering eye disorders were advised to use chalybeate, or iron bearing, springs, known amongst other places at Buxton.

Buxton is today one of several sources of water to be bottled in the Peak District. Strange to say that although the majority of households in Britain are now 'on the mains', the demand for bottled water is booming and customers are prepared to pay for a pure taste of the past.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 28th July 2003.

Articles by Julie Bunting are reproduced with her kind permission.

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