The Importance of Pure Water - Trevor Bevis

IT was fundamentally important that pure water be obtained for March’s inhabitants. Those was taken from pits near the railway station which had been in March for five years.

Large deposits of gravel had been removed to build up railway embankments and the pits had filled with superior quality water. The pits were from seven to ten feet deep and were supplied with water from an area of 2,000 acres.

The water was raised from the pits by steam power to a tank in the town elevated to a height of 60 feet, and conveyed by an iron main from the pump. It was distributed by mains with a service pipe to each house and improved toilets. Every house in March was fitted with a single tap supply 20 gallons per day for each individual. There was sufficient water for surface cleaning and extinguishment of fires.

The engine house, shaft and tank cost �430; the steam engine, a beam type �300; iron conduit pipe to the town �665; street mains �2,750; service pipes and taps �1,050; and fire plugs �60. A total expenditure of �5,305.

An efficient drainage system was necessary, every house having a proper drain and one from the privy connected to the street drains in turn connected to the river. Stand pipes, shaft and engine, pumping well, street drains, house and court drains, etc cost �3,224. The court residences were particularly bad, wells and sewage pits communicating.

Yearly working expenses for this radical scheme were estimated at: Instalment to re-pay �3,327 over 30 years with interest �196 11s 6d; fuel �72; engineman’s wages �35.

Income for drainage (1,050 house and 1 and half d per week (�341 5s) left a surplus of just over �37 per annum in addition to profits accrued from the sale of town refuse as manure. Manure sprayed on land caused some fields in the Fens to produce tow or three crops in a year. The soil was so rich.

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Fen farmers did not then realise the value and had no practical experience of application of liquid manure. Laying in and around the houses the town refuse encouraged disease and death, yet it could be applied with vast benefit to the community. In the mid-nineteenth century such practice was achieved with great success at Thorney under the jurisdiction of the Duke of Bedford, an eminent Victorian social reformer.

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