Monday 15 July 2013

Old Wooden Tree Pump

On Friday night I had a strange phone call quite late.
A man phoned about this blog, he'd found something he called a tree pump on his farm and tried searching for information on the Internet and came across this post.
Only one large lump of wood found this time
 He didn't live very far away (and knew my dad - although everyone round here does) and would I like to come and have a look. So on Saturday I popped by and I could see straight away that it was similar to the other one I had seen but not in as good condition, only the timber had survived and  this was only one piece.
I'd say it was older than the one I saw near Bishops Castle, not so much time had been spent on the outside of this pump or pipe as it was quite rough, just hewed square I'd guess. Also they'd picked a piece of wood that had loads of knots in it which seems an odd choice if your drilling it by hand as it would make it much harder work. That said there might have been a shortage of timber at the time and apparently there used to be monks living there so time might not have been an issue.

From what I can work out I'd say this was the base where the water was drawn from. It's set up from the bottom to prevent too much sediment getting pumped through
 As for it's usage I can only guess. There were a number of pools there where the monks would have farmed fish for eating (there wasn't many days in the week where you could eat meat compared to fish ion medieval times so freshwater fish were an important food stuff in those times). I think it was probably to pump water up to the pools if the brook feeding them ran dry.
roughly a 5" diameter hole all the way down it

This would be the top. Tapered to fit tightly into another length of pipe

A fragment of timber from it that looks like elm

The pool where it was taken from
The man who found it, Bob, was a right character and we hit it off straight away, we share a common interest in trees, wood and the countryside. He did say if the digger is around that area again then they will dig deeper to see if they can find anymore of it so maybe that would put more light on the subject.
If I ever have enough time I'd love to build a working wooden pump like this and make it the traditional way (although finding the elm might be difficult these days). I think that through building it you would learn how it works to a much greater level and what they must have done all those years ago to have water close at hand.


  1. Wonderful bit of archeology. Might be worth attempting to recreate one just for the fun of it. Great way to learn about ancient techniques. Any chance to see some of the graphics from the old book you mention in your previous post on the subject about how it is done.

  2. If you can't find elm, you might try tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), though I know it isn't native there.

  3. Great stuff,
    Lots of old ones where made from Alder , Damian Goodburn at the Museum of London is your man for this sort of stuff. I suspect he would be very interested as He is one THE ancient timber man in the UK


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