|Miscellaneous Information on Pump Restoration.|
A growing number of you out there have been asking me for information on how to restore pumps, locate or make spare parts, or where to buy replica pumps. I've not got all of the answers yet, but have amassed a great deal of information and am continuing to find out more as I root around.
I greatly appreciate hearing of your pump renovation projects, so I can add to my own experience and pass advice on to others.
I hope the following notes are useful, and by all means contact me if you have a specific query.
STOP PRESS Here's a contact who may be able to make replacement parts for your pump.
And we also have someone who can produce replacement pump caps, using a 3D printer. Two standard designs are currently available, and the maximum diameter he can make is 190 mm. Price is negotiable but is in the region of £35-£50, although if any extra design work required it would inevitably add to the overall cost.
If you are interested in either of the above, please use the e-mail address under "Contact" on our home page, and I will forward your request immediately, leaving it up to you to discuss further.
A crucial first step is to decide whether it's to be an authentic restoration of an existing pump to its original state and in full working condition, a cosmetic but non-working renovation that aims to retain the original look, or simply installing a modern replica pump. Each of these approaches has its merits - and associated costs.
Pump Restoration Projects.
A wide range of skills may be needed to be brought into play, depending upon the scope of the project. The Histon & Impington Village Society, for example, decided that their pump would be non-operational but nevertheless be brought back to something close to the original, and hence they needed timber casings, lead capping, stone treads, rendering, brickwork, a handrail and posts, painting and a commemorative plaque. Much of the expertise was available locally. The villagers of Icomb turned to a blacksmith in Bourton-on-the-Water to make a new handle for their pump. The village pump at Ashendon, Bucks, was similarly given a smart makeover.
Richard Green in Devon embarked upon an ambitious project to completely restore a very dilapidated lead pump that was practically hidden in the undergrowth, and has written up his entire process.
In 2019 group of people led by Peter Browne restored the Lee Howl pump in Highbrook churchyard.
Mike Woolford in Oxfordshire completed a meticulous project in 2017 to restore his lift & force pump to full working condition, and includes a useful list of the sources of materials he used. In 2020 he provided an update, outlining some further improvrments.
Norman Smith started work on restoring his well and pump in 2009. After a 4 year hiatus, he doggedly returned to the fray, solved an extraordinarily wide range of knotty problems, and completed the job in Sep 2016. At my request he re-sent to me all of his e-mails since 2009, where he and I had discussed the ins and outs of the project, complete with a large number of photographs he took as he progressed. Click here for an edited, but still very detailed, version of these e-mails. (In an attempt to reduce the size of the file, I've omitted all my e-mails to him.) It should be recorded here that Howard Jones's experience in making traditional wooden clack valves - see below - was fundamental to Norman's success, and Norman is deeply grateful for the help provided by Howard.
Craftsman Alan Odom was awarded a contract by his local council to restore the decrepit old pump in Rotherby, Leics. At my suggestion he has kindly written up the project, where it is abundantly clear that he has exceptional skills and pays great attention to detail.
Godfrey Holter in Cornwall carried out a project to restore a lead pump to its working state.
I've written up a project to restore a small domestic pump, and now Graham Wignall of Wokingham has written up his project to restore a pump to deliver collected rainwater in his garden.
There are many more examples of successful renovations, some of which are listed below:
Barry Smith in Shropshire restored both his well and an ancient pump.
Some of these were quite ambitious projects, but I've also come across many people around the country who have simply removed the old valves and gaskets from their pump, successfully replaced the rotten leather, and immediately brought the pump back to working condition. A lady in Cornwall replaced the inlet valve on their village pump with a piece of leather from an old handbag, weighted it with a chunky nut and bolt, and it worked a treat.
Howard Jones's project to build a full-size demonstrator of handpump principles has some valuable information on making a wooden bucket & clack valve.
Roger Howse in Gloucester took great care with paint stripper to reveal a rare manufacturer's trademark on a pump.
A restoration of a semi-rotary pump in Oxfordshire.
A renovation of a Paragon pump in S. Yorks.
A video clip on YouTube showing the honing of a corroded barrel as part of the rebuilding of a pitcher pump in the USA. The cylinder honing tool is an inexpensive device.
Sources of Expertise and Spare Parts.
Julian Worskett tells us that there's a cheap alternative to welding cast iron, in the form of an epoxy-based product called "J-B Weld" - the original type, not the fast-setting version. I've no idea of how strong the bond is, or how long it might last, but it might be worth a try.
Dorothea Restorations Ltd of Bristol and Whaley Bridge, Derbs, provide a range of specialist metalwork services, and many years ago renovated the cast iron pump in Acton, Greater London.
Procast Foundry Ltd, of Cleckheaton, nr Bradford, can cast small items in aluminium, brass or gunmetal.
D. M. Foundries Ltd, in Thrupp nr Stroud, Glos, specialise in high quality sand castings.
We've had good reports of Slinden Services, in Measham, Derbs, who specialise in Cast Iron Welding and Stitching Repairs.
Similarly, a firm in Portishead nr Bristol - Acorn Restorations - also specialise in "the design, fabrication, restoration and installation of high quality architectural metalwork", including cast iron.
"Sparrows, the Pump & Water Engineers" in Charlton Mackrell, Somerton, Somerset, are always happy to help customers with handpump refurbs, well, spring or borehole works. Contact Steve Kelly at email@example.com, 01458 223415, or mob 07804 361937.
A company in Cornwall run by a direct descendant of Joseph Evans, has contacted me to say that they can supply spares for Evans pumps ("Lion" pumps), or even an entire replacement pump. Furthermore, they can oblige if anyone wants lead- or wood-cased pumps. The company can provide either decorative or fully working models, with either a traditional internal design or with a low-maintenance stainless steel pump barrel, for maintenance-free operation. I have absolutely no connection with the firm, but must say that this looks very encouraging.
A company in Somerset which specialises in Rams will happily remove, re-condition and re-install your typical village pump. .
Take a look too at Pumps & Filtration Ltd, an East Anglian company which will carry out old hand pump repairs and restoration.
Panks in Norwich hold a wide range of spares, including complete clack valves and cup leathers. Their website doesn't always show them, but they are worth contacting, and respond very efficiently.
W.Robinson & Sons (www.pump.co.uk) are particularly helpful in providing spares, complete pumps and advice - any number of people have commented on their efficiency. They hold stocks of bucket & clack valves (plungers), both in the 75 mm (nominal 3") and the 90 mm (nominal 3½") size.
Some useful spares, including a 75mm (3") plunger, can be found at Suffolk Barrel Products (www.suffolkbarrel.co.uk).
M.G.Judd Ltd are a very handy source of leathers for inlet clack valves, and Base Camp stocks a wide range of lightweight cup leathers.
I've had superb service from G & S Brough Ltd., 28/40 Leopold St., Birmingham B12 0UR, who can provide one-off cup leathers made to your requirements. My small Joseph Evans pump needed a very unusual 2" cup leather with a 1 1/8" piercing, 1/4" depth, 2-3mm thickness, which they promptly produced at reasonable price.
Sigma tell me that they can source spares for their NP-75, NP-90 and Standard pumps (including those hard to find inlet valves). Although they are not held in stock they can get them in very quickly. They do, however, carry a range of spares for semi-rotary pumps.
Most unusually, a company in the Netherlands offers cup leathers, inlet valves and even wooden plungers for a 2½" bore.
If all else fails and you can't find a cup-leather of the size you need, you can try making your own. See https://www.lifewater.ca/drill_manual/Appendix_L.htm, the Canadian website mentioned above.
We have identified a contact who is willing to produce a replacement pump cap from a mould of an original cap. You'd have to negotiate terms directly with him, but please contact me and I'll provide an e-mail address. Gomme's Forge in Buckinghamshire have made a replacement cap from aluminium, using a mould made from an original cap.
From time to time an old pump appears for sale on the Internet and, although most of these are small domestic pumps, probably salvaged from a demolition job, I remain very suspicious as to where the seller might have got hold of a true "village pump", and suspect that for every large pump that appears for sale a village or a back garden somewhere has mysteriously lost theirs. So do beware.
There aren't many well restorers around, but we've located one in Hampshire which looks very encouraging. Not only can they restore hand dug wells but can dig new ones, enable the full usage of the well for both irrigation and domestic household usage, and they also have a large supply of old hand pump spares.
Other New Pumps.
New, cheap, imported, cast iron pumps are available from a number of retailers. They are typically advertised as working/ornamental, so keep this in mind:
Clarkes, a London company, sells typical garden centre pumps but their website includes a useful exploded diagram of one of their pumps.
And there are firms in Germany, China and the Czech Republic that specialise in cast iron pumps. Try Puteus, in Germany, and Sigma Engineering UK for the Czech pumps.
Some firms produce fibreglass replicas, which might suit your budget, and some of which look convincing enough from a distance (but yuck).
The Water Table.
Just when you think that you've solved all your problems, it can be the case that the water table has dropped significantly from its original level, and the pump can no longer reach the water source. It might be a very good idea to check this before you embark upon the project, as if the water level is much below about 25' a simple lift pump just won't work.
Health & Safety Aspects.
Not sure how this applies to a pump on private property, but there are strict controls over public pumps and water quality. I've come across instances where, although a pump might be renovated to full working condition, the local authorities will not allow it to pump water because the quality was either dubious or, worst case, actually proven to be contaminated. It's not unusual to find a chained-up pump with a written public health warning.
Listed Building Status.
This is one to look out for, as special regulations apply. You can check to see if your pump is a listed building (sounds odd, I know, but there are many pumps that are) via firstname.lastname@example.org.