Dry Stone WELL

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Dry Stone WELL

Postby kit44 » Thu Mar 31, 2011 8:20 am

In the 1990's I lived in a farmhouse in the North Pennine dales, In the garden was a covered well where the water inside was the nicest water I have ever tasted. The well was constructed (or maybe it was lined) of dry stone construction and approximately 25 feet deep and 4 feet in diameter. Does any member know how this well would have been constructed? The ground was clay down to 3 feet but I don't know what was below the clay. The well must have been dug more than a hundred years ago. Having completed a course in dry stone walling during an environmental conservation course my engineering background cannot seem to work out how this well was practically constructed. Any suggestions from the members?
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Re: Dry Stone WELL

Postby stonewaller » Sat Apr 02, 2011 9:30 pm

Have tried to look into this in past...
Not much luck
One contact has suggested he saw a reference somewhere... we had been discussing it a couple of months back and my memory being what it is I couldn't remember details. Here's his reply to my quary did we discuss it...

And yes we did discuss wells.

We considered the idea i told you I had read about, where they used a circular oak V-shaped wedge thing to be a sort of knife that works its way down into the ground with the weight of each circle of stones built upon it and then dug away under the bottom.

Crazy idea but I did read it some where. Must try to look for it.


Meanwhile an american site I've just mentioned on another thread has pictures of wells on it so I've communicated with my contact there and he says there are 3 ways...
(1) Sink a rectangular shaft using mining methods. I know of only one documented example. The earliest well at the Jamestown Settlement (1607) was dug by a miner. It is square or rectangular shaft reinforce with wooden braces typical of 16th century mine shaft designs.
(2) The most common method was to dig an inverted cone shape hole, with the widest part at the top and the narrowest part at the bottom. Once the water table was reached, a circular unmortared stone well shaft was built from the bottom upward to the ground level. The space around the outside of the shaft was backfilled.
(3) In dense clay soils like Chesapeake Bay area of Virginia and Maryland another method was used. A heavy thick flat wooden circular frame with an open center hole was construction. A layer of bricks was placed on it in a circular fashion. The earth underneath the wooden frame was removed which allowed the frame and bricks to drop a few inches at a time. As the shaft was sunk into the ground, additional rows of bricks were added to line the well shaft. Dirt was removed via bucket on a rope & pulley.


Third method and first quote seem similar. I'm pretty cdertain third method was how they lined coal mine lift shafts, there was a visit to one at DSWA 2009 AGM., but my meory.... and I can't find a reference. Not sure how on earth this would work with irregular dry stone as opposed to regular mortared brick work.

I shall try to 'dig' a little more

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Re: Dry Stone WELL

Postby stonewaller » Sat Apr 02, 2011 10:13 pm

Found this at http://www.navitron.org.uk/forum/index.php?action=printpage;topic=5470.0
Rlates to a Fred Dibnah programme I think I missed, only I can't remember!
Post by: Richard Owen on November 27, 2008, 07:45:18 AM
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He dug a shaft (I don't think it ever got wet enough to be a well) in his back garden because he'd restored a steam winch and wanted something to do with it.

He had an iron ring, the width of a brick and the diameter of the shaft.

Fred (and his mate) would dig down 2'. Then lower the ring to the new bottom of the shaft. Iron (not steel) spikes were driven into the earth walls on top of the ring. Bricks were then laid up to the existing brickwork. The ring was held in place by chains secured at the top of the shaft. The ring would support the brickwork whilst another 2' was dug out.

And the cycle repeated.


Anyway same thread says technically this is "steining" which is what you need to google and also suggests looking at
http://www.kurg.org.uk/sites/wells.htmhttp://www.mininginstitute.org.uk/papers/Well.html
both of which explain the basic methods primarily relating to bricks.

Stein is German for stone, I suspect some saxon and hence anglo saxon root into English (although its not in my shorter OED). Stane is Scots for stone (i stand ready for correction) so whilst all lining is now steining its a shame nothing seams to deal specifically with dry stone

The method appears essentislly as that mentioned in the 1825 encyclopaedia of agriculture
http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=cukGAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA670&lpg=PA670&dq=well+steining+stone&source=bl&ots=6JLajDLKeG&sig=blCEYDpd1E-gD15IZwlhKnKlj6Q&hl=en&ei=zqGXTcmQO4mJhQfIm5njCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CEIQ6AEwBTgK#v=onepage&q=well%20steining%20stone&f=false

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Re: Dry Stone WELL

Postby kit44 » Sat Apr 02, 2011 10:51 pm

Hi Stonewaller

Many thanks for your reply, the reference to the agricultural encyclopedia was especially helpful. I can see that a vertical "mine shaft" method of construction with wooden timbers to keep the walls true and held in place by "stretchers" would probably work as the stretchers could be used as a ladder to get down the well. I presume the dry stone walls could then be built within the wooden structure from the bottom up by removing small parts of the timbers and backfilling the dry stone walls as they are built up.

Thanks again and I'll continue thinking about the construction methods. All comments welcome.

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