Well Well Well!

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14 March 2016
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Until the twentieth century most houses in Saffron Walden and surrounding villages would have depended on a well, or a stream or pond, for their water supply. So it’s not surprising that when Hibbs and Walsh are extending listed buildings they often come across the well.

Usually lined with brick, and up to 9 metres (30ft) deep, these are often dry. The wells would have been dug by hand, and lined with brick. In more modern times the top of the well is covered with a brick dome, and a supply pipe – sometimes a hollowed out tree trunk – leads to a hand pump.

What is surprising is how often the well turns out to be immediately under the corner of the foundations for the new extension. In this situation it is usually possible to cast a reinforced slab over the well and to carry on building – it’s much cheaper than trying to fill in the well, but it will need the assistance of a structural engineer.

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When the well falls within the new extension it is possible to cover it with structural glass, so that the well remains visible. A well placed lamp will allow the interior to be illuminated, and in Hibbs and Walsh’s experience, will lead to ferns growing within a matter of weeks, without the need for the introduction of any seeds!

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If you are lucky enough to have a working well on your property, it’s probably not a good idea to drink the water – there are chemicals in the ground water that can be harmful to health.

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