It’s hard to believe but the residents of many of the villages and hamlets in West Sussex did not have running water until 1950.
Take Mr and Mrs EM Pratt for instance.
Before the coming of the stop cock and the u-bend to their home at Goldneys River, they had to haul their water out of a 65ft deep well.
Since the end of the Second World War, the government had provided grants to bring water to the scattered farming communities but, for some reason, it was five years before Midhurst and Petworth Rural District Councils could take advantage of the offer.
The councils had started schemes to bring water to the area before the war, with Rogate and Lodsworth the first to see the benefit.
Mr and Mrs Pratt lived in a tiny hamlet of around 20 houses, and every drop of water they needed came from the well. On average, they hauled up more than a ton of water per week – considerably more during the dry spells – and concerns were mounting over the level of the water.
It wouldn’t be a problem for long and, while a plumber was fitting out the Pratt’s house with all the piping and taps they would need, council workmen were busy connecting the hamlet to the mains.
Mr Pratt told the Observer at the time: “They were very quick, too. The plumber had nearly finished when he rang them up and they were up here just as he stopped doing the last joint.”
But what about the running water?
Mr Pratt said: “It makes a difference, you know, when you want to do anything. Just turn on the tap – it’s a lot better than having to pull a bucket up 65 feet.”
Running water may have been extremely convenient for Mr and Mrs Pratt and, in the long run, saved them some back strain, but for one section of the community it had the potential to mean the difference between life and death. The fire brigade.
The Observer reported: “A typical incident was one which occurred among the rhododendron bushes and young trees in the grounds on Graffham Court Hotel a few months ago. The brigade’s engine held 200 gallons of water, which lasted for about 10 minutes.
“This was insufficient to quell all the blaze, which flared up and spread farther while firemen were driving to Heyshott Pond three miles away to fill up the tanks in the engine again.”
While delighted with the running water, fire remained a great fear for the farmers, so many kept their wells in order so there would be a plentiful supply should a blaze start.
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