Elvers were plentiful

Stories of catching elvers and the wind driven water pumps

By Judy Chorley

Early days of the canal.

AS I have mentioned in previous articles, my profoundly deaf father was sent in the First World War to manage the farm and estate of the Teesdale family of Whitminster House. This house had been the residence of the lord of the manor of Whitminster for several centuries.

In the mid 1700s, the then lord of the manor at Whitminster House was Richard Owen Cambridge.  He, with several others, financed an operation to make the river Frome, navigable from Framilode to the Bristol Road.

The Balancing ponds

I can distinctly remember that the river was tidal up to the weir. The weir spilt the excess water when the balancing ponds above it were full. These ponds were used to top up the water level in the section of the canal from the recently excavated Whitminster lock to Saul Junction.

The Perrett family

The Perrett family who lived in the house above the weir, were in charge of this operation.  The ponds were filled by the River Frome which passed through an aqueduct under the Stroudwater Canal about 500 yards above the Whitminster lock.

Catching Elvers

At the period I am describing, elvers in the River Severn were very plentiful and a considerable quantity travelled up the Frome as far as the weir when the tides were high. Sometimes, my father would catch a great quantity. Elvers were always sold by the pint. The price at that time was two old pence for one pint.

Wind powered pumps

On the subject of the use of wind power, there were two wind ‑ driven water pumps situated between Whitminster House and the Bristol Road. Both were used to pump the water from the well above which they were located; one to Whitminster House, and the other to Parklands which was then occupied by the Ormrod family. They were probably erected during the reign of Queen Victoria and were made by John Wallace Titt of Warminster in Wiltshire.

The Rotor

The wind-driven rotor was about seven or eight feet in diameter and had multiple tapered blades which were attached to a substantial circular ring of the diameter mentioned. At the centre, the blades were attached to an equally substantial hub. The shaft to which the hub was attached was cranked between its two retaining bearings. The depth of crank was about six inches, which meant that the vertical pump shaft attached to the crank had a stroke of twelve inches when the cranked shaft rotated.The whole of this assembly was supported by a steel structure similar to a small electricity pylon. It was about 20 feet high and had a steel ladder attached which permitted access to the rotor, which could be locked.

To end, I would ask those readers who are interested to be tolerant. It was a long time ago and, while I believe the above to be true, I have no means of checking it.

Les Pugh

First published by Stroud News and Journal, 29October 2003. Reprinted with my permission.

This page was added by Judy Chorley on 04/06/2009.

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