The restoration of the Victorian Water Pump in North Bar Within, Beverley.
Standing on the eastern edge of the pavement in North Bar Within, halfway between St Mary’s church and the North Bar, is the last surviving public water pump in Beverley. Octagonal in shape and made of cast iron, despite losing its handle, spout and trough by the 1960s, it remained an elegant, if neglected, feature of the townscape. Its importance is recognised by it being a Grade II listed structure.
Public and private pumps and wells were once a great feature of Beverley streets – a visitor in 1697, Celia Fiennes, remarked on how many wells she saw. Indeed Beverley was very late in providing piped water to domestic houses so wells and pumps remained important to residents. Another substantial cast iron pump survived in Highgate for many years but unfortunately is now lost, and an 1840s drawing of North Bar Within shows a simple pump in front of the medieval building almost opposite the pump which is now St Mary’s Court, a shopping arcade.
The extant pump in North Bar Within was of a superior design and was installed, probably in the late 1860s, in this most fashionable of streets. It was quite a statement by the Borough Council of Beverley purchasing it from London and being expensive, costing some £24, and not at half that price from the local foundries. It was made by the firm of Samuel Owens of Whitefriars, Fleet Street, London, and was called the ‘Enriched Gothic Pump Case’, as can be seen in the illustration below from an Owens’ catalogue which also describes it as being ‘suitable for squares, market places etc’. There are mechanical parts of the pump below the pavement (hand pumps need a downpipe to the water supply, a cylinder, a piston and two valves, with a handle and a spout at street level). Note the large rectangular York stone slab in the pavement adjacent to the pump. This covers the maintenance pit and was raised by using an iron ring, the remains of which can still be seen.
This is the only Owens pump of this design in the North. There are others in the South, some in better condition than others. The one at Esher, South London, is fully intact, see below, but another in Hampton Court is, surprisingly, in a very poor condition missing its handle and finial, as the illustration below shows.
There is a photograph in the famous Frith collection, taken in 1955, which shows the pump together with its spout and an iron trough in the road. Unfortunately this has been lost. Our pump was in a sorry state (see the picture on the adjacent North Bar Within History Board), after most likely suffering a traffic collision which destroyed the spout, and previously having had its handle removed, possibly when the water was deemed to be unsafe to drink.
The restoration was undertaken by the Beverley Civic Society with the generous support of sponsors, Yorkshire Water, Daniel Thwaites (the owners of The Beverley Arms), Beverley Town Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, and a number of private citizens.
Elmbridge Council (who own the Owens pump in Esher, West London) kindly allowed their intact pump to be scanned to produce 3D images of the spout and handle. Specialist contractors were commissioned: Chinchilla of London who scanned the handle and spout, NFire Labs of Hull who made the moulds from the scans, and Slinden Services Ltd of Measham who removed the pump to their workshops, then cast and attached the replacement parts, sandblasted the structure before applying a rust resisting undercoat and returning it to North Bar. The Minster stonemason, Andrew Gomersall, cut a new York base stone, an exact copy of the original, and Martin Bedford painted the final colour scheme reflecting authentic Victorian colours. In order to protect the spout from possible damage from parking vehicles the pump has been turned round 180 degrees, and a small build-out to the pavement has been constructed by ERYC.
The Esher Pump
Hampton Court's Pump
The Restored Pump