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Mine Exploration Forum

Author Well Pumphouse - information please
Peter Burgess

Joined: 01/07/2008
Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 11/09/2015 09:39:03
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I am hoping someone might be able to help with a bit of a puzzle we have over what seems to be turning into a major project in Surrey. We have been given permission to look for a well, sunk in 1898 and out of use by 1910.

We have located the wellhouse, and are busy uncovering the various features inside. The wellhouse is about 7.5 metres square. The walls are two bricks thick, and robbed out apart from the bottom few courses. At each corner, and also roughly in the centre of two opposite side walls is a 2ft by 2ft base of a brick column or buttress, apparently added later, or at least separately built. Next to one of the central columns a 3-inch water main leave the building at or just below ground level.

This pipe runs into the centre of the building where it hangs over what looks like a large pit. We are resisting the temptation to call this the well, as it is much larger than we think the top of a well should be. We have only exposed one side of this pit so far. This side is straight, and the wall of the pit (below about a metre of fill) is made of large stone blocks and some brickwork. We have not found the bottom.

We have dug down about 2 metres, and have pushed a fencing pin in a further 1.5 metres without hitting a solid floor. Yes, we are tied on with harnesses! We have not yet found either end of this wall, which so far is up to 3 metres long. This, inside a building that is only 7.5 metres long. So far we have found no sign of the steam engine or pumping equipment.

The questions are basically what size and sort of engine and pump would we be talking about here? The well is known to be 60ft deep, and the pump was delivering water to the top of the adjacent hill, 350ft higher than the top of the well.
The person who paid to have the well sunk had also sunk another well in the 1880s on top of the hill in chalk, to a depth of 300ft. The crucial thing about this other well is that a newspaper report from 1901 of a theft of a watch and chain from the engine driver states that in order to reach the items which he had left in the engine room, the thief would have had to climb down a 12 ft ladder, suggesting it was underground.

Would they have copied this arrangement for the shallower well we are investigating? Is placing an engine below ground, albeit only in a shallow pit, something others have come across? I have been thinking that this engine at the well we are investigating was a small horizontal engine with one or two flywheels.

And the reason we are so interested in this well is that it is known to have intersected an extensive underground quarry of unknown age, potentially medieval.

Any thoughts?


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The most useful idiot you can ever hope to meet...
IP: 78.144.225.242 Edited: 11/09/2015 09:48:20 by Peter Burgess
Phil Jenkins

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Joined: 28/02/2010
Location: South Wales

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 11/09/2015 11:59:36
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I've no technical knowledge here but could it be that the pump or pumps weren't strong enough to lift the water in one go so there was an intermediate stage below ground? I've heard of similar arrangements in local collieries. IP: 86.148.74.89
Buckhill

Joined: 08/04/2008

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 11/09/2015 14:57:44
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The 350ft delivery head to the other point is of less bearing on the pump location than the suction head - theoretically c.32ft but in practice a good bit less.

The well is 60ft deep but where was the normal water surface? Not helpful I know but the pumps could have been say 25ft(?) above a point anywhere between water surface and well foot.
IP: 86.146.87.208
Morlock

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 11/09/2015 15:08:34
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The actual pumps may have been below the water level and may have been actuated by an older design of a borehole pump, (see image).
I would also suspect that the pump(s) may have been 'double throw' to balance the load of the fairly high delivery head of 155PSI.

IP: 31.52.224.255
Peter Burgess

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Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 11/09/2015 15:28:54
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OK thanks - a bit more information. The depth information we have is as follows. The full depth is confidently believed to be 60ft. Contemporary reports say that "in the winter time the water lies .... to the depth of 45 feet, and in the summer time to the depth of 30 ft". But it also says that an old quarry is accessible from the side of the well, which may mean it is only 15 ft down from the surface, if the quarry is not flooded in the winter. It would be nice to think we don't have to go down far to find the workings, but I would be surprised to find it so high up in the formation. I would like to be surprised!

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Morlock

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 11/09/2015 15:31:47
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Bearing in mind the delivery head and the mention of a (possible) underground machinery space there may have been bucket lift pumps up to a small reservoir at that level and additional pumps to deal with the delivery head.

Edit: Happy digging.Big Grin
IP: 31.52.224.255 Edited: 11/09/2015 15:35:21 by Morlock
Peter Burgess

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Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 11/09/2015 15:37:31
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Yes we firmly believe the water was delivered in two stages - once for the short lift up to a cistern, then the long one up the hill. It is the curious pit that puzzles us - it seems to take up so much of the area of the building, there would be little room left for a boiler, engine and control gear, unless the engine itself was quite small. So far we have not uncovered any signs of an engine foundation.

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IP: 78.144.225.242
Peter Burgess

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Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 11/09/2015 15:47:02
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And yes we are enjoying the digging - makes a change from doing it underground. This week we will have put in four sessions - trying to stay ahead of the wet weather Sad

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Morlock

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 11/09/2015 16:04:19
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The apparent lack of an engine bed is interesting, too early for any of the hot bulb diesels.

Was the water for irrigation purposes or domestic consumption?
IP: 31.52.224.255
Peter Burgess

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Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 11/09/2015 16:07:28
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There is still quite a bit of floor to uncover - it's under about 12 inches of soil and demolition debris. So still a good chance of finding more. The water was simply a domestic supply.

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Peter Burgess

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Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 14/09/2015 09:34:40
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An update - the pit has been extended and is now approaching 4.5 metres in length, width still unknown but probably of the same order. The solid side of the trench comprises bedrock, and rough and ready concrete/rendered compact rubble across the end forms the second wall found. It increasingly looks like the pumphouse was built simply to cover and surround the pit in the ground, within which we expect the well to be. We are now thinking that the pit was sunk down to the original floor of the underlying underground quarry workings which would remove the risk of subsidence causing problems to the machinery installed. Any engine could have been mounted directly to the exposed quarry floor within the building, at a depth of several metres. We now have an auger to further probe the depths more safely and hope to find solid floor somewhere! So far, we have found hardly any original floor at ground level.

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IP: 86.187.64.203 Edited: 14/09/2015 09:35:21 by Peter Burgess
Morlock

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 14/09/2015 15:09:45
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I suppose the remains of the building, (if not put to other uses) could be at the bottom of the pit?
Anything interesting turned up in the excavated material?

What the pillars supported could also be at the bottom of the pit.
IP: 109.146.31.18 Edited: 14/09/2015 15:13:22 by Morlock
Peter Burgess

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Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 14/09/2015 18:08:55
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Morlock wrote:

Anything interesting turned up in the excavated material?

Lots of broken roof tiles, an 18 inch section of 3-inch water main, a few bricks, and a brass door latch hook thingy. And that's about it - apart from a small enamel lapel badge worn by Marconi radio operators in the Merchant Navy dating from the 1950s, in the top layers of what looks like material dumped to fill a subsidence.


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Morlock

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 14/09/2015 20:28:52
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This is starting to sound like a mini-digger job!Big Grin IP: 31.48.98.248
Peter Burgess

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Well Pumphouse - information please
Posted: 15/10/2015 15:14:06
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This preliminary project is now over. We may be close to finding a significant quarry complex, but have to mothball the project at the wishes of the owner who is very pleased with what we have unearthed and is as keen as we are to discover what lies here, but needs to sort out a proper arrangement for us to continue without risks to safety or conservation. Now to find the next project!

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