We tend to buy old houses, partly because they are cheaper and partly because we love the style,charm and history of old buildings. With the house there is occasionally a treasure such as a well. Our last house had a well, and our present place does too.
There was a time when people filled in or covered over their old wells. Houses were connected to town water and for health and safety reasons the wells were discontinued. Then came droughts and water rates and people began to rediscover whatever irrigation sources they already had.
Our well is about 7 or 8 metres deep, scientifically measured by lowering a weight on a rope until it seems to hit bottom. We can’t be sure, but scribbles on our shed walls show that someone in the past achieved the same result.
It has been covered over for years with a ground-level lid made of heavy beams and covered with iron sheeting. It’s pretty strong and designed to be lifted to give access, if we wish.
The property is in a small village in semi-arid South Australia where heatwaves are frequent and water is very precious. Our town used to be a watering stop for drovers taking cattle to market in Adelaide back in the 1830’s and 1840’s. The well may date from that era. The township was established in the 1850’s and cattle began to be sold from here. A large stockyard was built and our current property was part of that stockyard. A windmill was installed to pump water from the well.
Later still, in the 1870’s, a railway line came through and the town blocks were subdivided into five acre lots and became rural residential. There was a house built here which burned down sometime shortly after 1900. My information comes from elderly local residents but I’ve found nothing official.
By the 1930’s there was a chicken farm here, which operated until about 1975 when the land was further subdivided and sold again. The owners built our present home – the newest house we have ever had – on the site of the original house which burned down.
The well operated until this house was built. At that time, the windmill was removed leaving just its foundations, and the well was covered over. There was one other owner between those occupants and us. We have lived here for five years now.
The plan is to bring the well back into use so we can use it to irrigate fruit trees. This involves pumping out the water, testing the water, pumping it out at least twice more and determining if we need to clear out the debris.
Oh, how I’d love to know what is at the bottom of the well! But a deep narrow hole is a dangerous place. We entered the well at our last house but it was wider and not as deep as this one. We won’t be going in. The installation of the pump and the first pumping out is scheduled for tomorrow.
What better way to spend New Year’s Eve!