This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
The supply of good water to the house and its outbuildings is of primary importance. The chief sources of supply are rivers, springs, wells, and ponds.
In the case of river water, there is nothing special to mention, the supply being drawn by simple pumping. River water is usually contaminated by organic matters and mud, which can be removed by subsidence and filtration to a certain extent; but in populous districts the surface drainage and the impurities often contributed by manufactories, etc, render river water perhaps the least wholesome.
Spring water is generally free from organic matter, having been cleansed as it were in passing through the porous strata of the earth; but it is liable to have absorbed mineral matters by its action on the rocks met with, and often becomes very dirty at its point of issue from contact with the surface soil. The following simple contrivance may be adopted to deprive it of suspended impurities. Provide a stone or wooden trough, 12-15 in. deep, 2 1/2 ft. long, by 12 in. or so broad. Divide this by a watertight partition, so that a space of 9 in. broad shall be left at one end, and of the depth of the trough. This partition should only reach to within 2 in. of the top edges of the trough. The bottom of the large division must be perforated with numerous holes. Dig a hole in the earth from whence the spring issues, and put this trough therein, so that the upper edges shall be a little above the level of the ground. Earn tightly all round it stiff and good clay - the harder the better. The water from the spring will issue through the holes in the bottom of the large division of the trough, and any mud brought up will be deposited therein. As the clear water fills the trough, it will reach the top of the partition and run over it into the small divisions at the end, free from deposit.
The supplies required should be taken from this division.
Wells constitute another method of obtaining the supplies of water gathered in fissures in the lower strata, compelling the liquid to collect in artificially constructed openings rather than escaping naturally to the surface in the form of a spring. The choice of a locality for sinking a well cannot be determined upon without some knowledge and application of the character of the strata. The gravel, clay, and sand beds of the recent sedimentary formations generally yield more or less water at a reasonably shallow depth; in the older formations, it will be necessary to go much deeper, but the supply is more abundant and less likely to be contaminated by organic matter. Hence the latter source is preferable for large waterworks supplying towns.
A well may be defined as a deep cylindrical hole, walled round by bricks laid loosely in succeeding courses. The manner of sinking it varies somewhat according to the soil. In the case of a clay soil with intervening beds of sand and stones, a circle of 8 ft. diam. is described on the surface of the ground, from whose area the surface soil is removed to be used elsewhere as compost. After throwing out a depth of 8-9 ft. with the spade, a winch and rope and bucket is set up to draw the earth out of the well. While the digging is proceeding, a sufficient number of flat stones are laid down near the winch, by which they are sent down to build the ring. A depth of 16 ft. will probably suffice; but if no water is found, the digging must proceed to the requisite depth. A ring of 3 ft. diam. will be large enough bore for the well; the rest of the space should be filled up with dry rubble masonry, and drawn in at the top to 2 ft. diam. When the building is finished, the water should be removed from the well with buckets if the quantity is small, and with a pump if it be large, to allow the bottom to be cleared of mud and stones.
A thick flat stone, reaching from the side of the ring to beyond the centre, is firmly placed on the ground at the bottom of the well for the wooden pump to stand upon, or for the lead pipe to rest on. If a wooden pump is used, a large flat stone, having a hole in it to embrace the pump, is laid on a level with the ground upon the ring of the well; but if a lead pipe is preferred, the flat stone should be entire and cover the ring, and the clayey earth be thrown over it.
Where the well has to be sunk in loose gravel or sand, a different plan has to be adopted. The diameter of the well will be 3 ft. 6 in. inside of the building, and the building, instead of rubble, will be of droved ashlar, each stone 8 in. broad in the bed, 12 in. deep, about 21 2/3 in. long, in the chord of the are of circle on the one side, and 17 in. long in a straight line on the other side. The outside of the stones is formed neatly to a circle, and their inside into an octagon. Beds square; ends properly bevelled and wrought correctly to a mould; each course to contain 8 stones of equal size; a ring-board to be formed of willow, not to flavour the water, 8 1/2 in. broad, 1 1/2-2 in. thick, and 1/2 in. larger than the outside circle of the stones. The ring-board could be made stronger in 2 courses of 4 pieces of equal size. In building upon the ring-board, the first course of stones to have the centres of their face raised perpendicular to the inside of the ring-board. The centres of each stone of the second course to be placed over the joints of the preceding course, and also perpendicular to the inside of the ring-board. The inside face of each stone being a straight line, the inside diameter of the well being 3 1/2 ft., and the ring-board being correctly made, the inside ends of each stone will be back 1 2/3 in. from the centre of the face of each stone in the course immediately above it, and so on with every course.
A small stick made as a gauge at one end, of 1 2/3 in. length, will be found handy for setting the stones. The outside circle must be most carefully made. The upper course to form a square instead of an octagon for the covers to rest on, and to slope to one side, to carry the water off the top of the well. The covers to be droved, and in 3 pieces, one of which to cover the building on one side and half of the well, and to be half-checked where the other 2 stones meet it in the middle, and they are to be half-checked into it, also half-checked into each other where they meet in the middle, and to cover the other side of the building. One of the stones covering a portion of the well to have an iron ring in it, by which to lift it freely out of the checks of the other 2 stones. The joints of the covers to be filled with putty well mixed with white-lead, to prevent water from the surface getting into the well.