The Pump room at Canons Ashby
For hundreds of years, from a small humble room within the entrance to the Pebble Court, water was supplied to Canons Ashby house from the Norwell, or north well, situated in a nearby field.
This water source, which was in fact a fresh water spring, had been used for almost a thousand years. In the 13th century by the Canons living in the Augustinian priory and before that, the villagers in the medieval hamlet of Ashby. This spring is believed to have been in use until about 1950.
The pump room was originally known as the water house. In the 1550s wooden elm pipes carried water from the Norwell to the house and some of these pipes were still in use as late as 1938. Old plans indicate the water may have flowed into an open cistern in the floor, which would then have been collected and carried to other parts of the house. In 1864 Sir Hentry Dryden started restoring and reinstating the system. This is probably when the pump, lead piping and lead lined wooden tank was installed.
The job of pumping the water to the header tank would certainly have been hard and tiring work for some poor servant!
From the header tank, gravity sent the water straight through to the tap in the kitchen, which was the only tap in the house until 1938. From here the servants would carry the water to where it was needed.
It seems hard to imagine that the only source of water to the house was from the spring, as this extract from a letter in 1911 shows: "the water house has to be cleaned out and they have not much water until the spring fills it up again".
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