Tuesday, April 5, 2016

East Haddon, Northamptonshire

Small and shapely

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference. I’ve highlighted quite a few tiny buildings on this blog, from drinking fountains to village lock-ups, often noticing how a small building can take an unusual form – with domed or pyramidal roof, for example. This tiny pump house in East Haddon, it seems to me, is such a structure. Users, whether drawing water here or just stopping to pass the time of day, must have been grateful for the shelter; it continues to enliven a quiet corner of the village now its pumping days are over. How much better than the bare, unprotected pump in the Lincolnshire village where I spent my first couple of years;* I’m told I liked toddling to the pump with my mother in the fervent hope that our journey would coincide with one of the visits of the ice-cream man.

I don’t know how old this little structure is. Online sources claim that it was built in the 16th century. But if so, it must be like the woodsman’s favourite old axe, which had a handle so comfortable he fashioned a replacement with exactly the same shape when it gave out, and a head so well balanced that when its edge was worn away by repeated sharpenings he got the blacksmith to make a new one that was the twin of the first. That attractive conical thatched roof will have been replaced quite a few times over the years, and I expect the timber uprights have been renewed too. If asked to guess, I’d have said that the design was redolent of the late-18th or early-19th centuries, when ‘rustic’ porches on cottages, with overhanging thatched roofs and knobbly timber supports au naturel were all the rage. Whatever its date, I’m pleased to add it to my virtual collection of small but well formed buildings.

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*In the late-1950s. I’m told it took a few more years for running water and mains electricity to reach this outpost.


Stephen Barker said...

Having lived in the village of Welham in South Leicestershire, the village pump was against the gable wall of the cottage, but had no shelter. The pump was inoperable and on the wall was a metal sign from the now defunct Harborough Rural District Council stating that the water was unfit consumption. This was good advice as the tank for the water which was fed from the downpipes of the adjacent houses was only a few feet from the old sceptic tank that took the sewerage from the houses.

Mains services in the form of water and electricity arrived in the village in the late 1950's early 1960's. The sceptic tank is still in use, originally if it overflowed, the excess material flowed into a field ditch and ultimately into the River Welland. It wasn't until the 1990's that an additional tank was installed to take the overflow and prevent sewerage flowing into the river.

Life in rural communities in the past was not always so romantic as it is often portrayed.

per apse said...

Stanley Holloway didn't miss a trick with his gentle satire ..... :

Ere's the axe that's the genuine axe Sir
That's given Royal necks some ard whacks
Tho it's ad a new andle and perhaps a new head
But it's a real old original axe.

East Marden in West Sussex has a similar structure over its village well - larger & complete with very rustic struts!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Stephen: This all sounds very familiar: I have experience of living with septic tanks, and know the anxiety of peering beneath the inspection cover to check that the thing is not overflowing, because one is not sure exactly where the stuff will go if it does. And indeed I remember the bucket privies in the Lincolnshire village where my grandparents lived, still emptying them regularly in the 1960s. I also recall the joy with which 'the electric' was received, also in the 1960s, when it was installed in the same village.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Per Apse: Oh yes of course, Stanley Holloway! Thank you. And thanks also for the information about East Marden – I do like a rustic strut!

LeeAnn at Mrs Black's said...

Oh! This is a wonderful sight. I love it!

Jenny Woolf said...

I agree with you - I can see this in an an engraving of some "rustic" early 19th century scene. I wonder whose responsibility it is to thatch it? I'm always shocked at how often rethatching needs to be done to keep a place looking good. It must be quite expensive.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you Jenny. They say a good thatched roof of water reed can last up to 50 years - but the ridge will need redoing several times during that period. So quite a lot of work, yes.