Restoration of the Pump on Plot 229
There is a Well on 229
In April 2014 Dennis Weal gave up his plot 229 due to old age. He told Christina Fox that his father had rented this plot since 1946. He said they had dug a well and had a pump inside their shed and that they put the shed up around the pump because people kept breaking the handle.
I spoke to "Vic" who had been the maintenance man for the allotment for around 30 years and he told me that he installed the mains water in the allotment in the mid 1990's. He said that wells would regularly run dry and plot holders with wells would have to wait until the water level returned to use them again.
It was always Christina's and i intention to reinstate the pump before re renting out the plot. So on a bright April morning we excitedly opened Mr Weal’s old shed and found . . . a lot of rubbish and in one corner under loads of plastic and metal we found the pump and an old water tank. The pump had seized up and did not move, i followed the hose leading outside of the shed and eventually found the well completely covered by 5 foot high brambles.
Shed when we first opened it up
Pump and Tank in shed
The top of the Well under rotten wood with hose sticking out
I then dismantled the pump from the shed wall and made safe the well top. I took the pump back to my plot and over the following weeks i dismantled the pump. It has seized simply from rust so i cleaned it up, brass flaps and re greased the main internal body. The handle which we found in the shed was not attached to the pump and was full of wood worm and dry rot, it was totally unusable so we decided to buy a new handle.
I created a new well top from wooden decking material with double thickness and cross supports which would easily take the weight of an average person. I wanted to use an old water tank, the one we found in the shed, as the water butt for the pump. This tank fitted nicely on the top mostly because of the construction design of the well. Wells on the allotment were usually dug by hand and people use various means to support the well sides. On the well on my own plot built in 1957 the side are concrete which were poured around wooden planks and on another plot 3ft circular metal drums were used something you might see in large sewer piping. The well on 229 was constructed with old metal water tanks placed on top of each other with their bottom section cut out.
Pump internal parts cleaned up
Inside the well constructed of Tanks on top of each other
In August 2014 i started to reinstall the pump on plot 229. It is pretty much in the same place as before as obviously the well dictates the location. I used 32mm plastic pipe which is a perfect size for the pump connection joints and also a wider diameter than the old pond style hose that we found when we uncovered the pump. It is my opinion that Mr.Weal stopped using the pump when the mains water was introduced and that the hose that connected the pump to the well water was a more recent addition. My reason for thinking this is that the plastic hose we found is something that is often used in garden ponds and popular in the 1990's, i had some myself, there is also a wide bore pipe sitting on the bottom of the well which i believe was the original pipe for the well which would have been built some years before 1993 when Mr Weal senior was still on the plot.
I found the well was around 2.5m deep with a shallow depth of water around 30cm. I created a u bend on the bottom of the pipe work and placed it into the well. In keeping with traditional allotment practices of "Using whatever materials are at hand" i found some chunky wood and a metal iron girder and created a frame to house the pump. There are no official tops for these semi rotary pumps usually they have a hose attached so i created a curved feature with a flexible 32mm hose which directs the water into a water tank. A new handle was purchased. The pump needs to be primed although reading online thus type of pump should be self-priming but all i can say is that the pump valves do not close tightly enough a the pressure is lost within 5 minutes of pumping.
Getting the pump working
This pump needs to be primed with water to get it going. It will need around 2 bottles of water to create a vacuum to get the water up.
To get water into the pump first remove the top section of pipe as seen in the image below.
This section of pipe is not glued and should come apart reasonably easily with a little twisting motion. Pour the water into the pump whilst slowly moving the handles back and forth, once the second bottle of water is added a definite tension will be felt on the handle, this is an indication that the vacuum has been created. Continue pumping until water pours out of the top then replace the top pipe section and pump out the water for your use. The pressure in the pump can last up to five minutes but the internal levers do not always close tightly so this process may need to be repeated if you want to use the pump later.
The semi-rotary pump has been used as far back as the 1750's when it was used on fire engines.
The images below from a catalogue dated 1897 shows a semi-rotary pump on a tripod stand.
These pumps are still used today and have changed little in their design. They are commonly used in shipping and other marine activities. They can pump water, petrol, diesel and oil. We estimate that the pump on plot 229 made in the 1940 or 1950's.