|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.
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 to restore his lift & force pump to full working condition. At the end of his write-up he includes a useful list of the sources of materials he used.
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:
A useful written-up example of how an individual successfully renovated his pump to full working condition can be found at http://www.jwdltd.demon.co.uk/wellpump.htm, and another excellent write-up is at http://www.milesgolding.com/cistern.html. Take a look also at http://www.chainganger.co.uk/Well_pump/Well_Pump.htm which is a highly informative blow by blow account of a very impressive restoration project. Ray Ford, a retired engineer who lives near Beverley, East Yorks, bought and successfully restored an old pump and re-installed it in an original borehole next door to his property. He had some ingenious ideas and has written up the project in the hope that it will assist others.
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.
Although it is concerned with bringing clean water to remote villages, there's a highly instructive Canadian website providing very sound advice on the installation and maintenance of Zimbabwe Bush pumps at http://www.lifewater.ca/Section_14.htm#insert & http://www.lifewater.ca/Section_17.htm#valve. Much of their advice is relevant to a restoration project in this country.
Sources of Expertise and Spare Parts.
Repairing a cracked cast iron pump could be a big job: there's a company in Chesterfield - Casting Repairs Limited - which specialises in repairing cast iron and seems to have done some excellent pump repairs in recent years. You can contact them at: Marine House, 18 Hipper Street, South Chesterfield, Derbyshire S40 1SS. Tel: 01246 246731, Fax: 01246 246701, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. However, Julian Worskett tells us that there's a cheap alternative 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.
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.
A company in Ipswich tells me that they have a great deal of experience in repairing pumps, drilling boreholes and cleaning/refurbishing wells. They have a collection of old pumps that they can sometimes cannibalise in order to get your pump going again. Sounds like a good place to contact if you are considering a pump renovation project.
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.
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 cup leathers.
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.
If all else fails and you can't find a cup-leather of the size you need, you can try making your own. See http://www.lifewater.ca/Appendix_L.htm, the Canadian website mentioned above.
A company in the Gloucester area which takes particular care over the restoration of telephone boxes, pillar boxes and recently did some excellent shot blasting/priming work for me on a small pump.
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.
Depending upon where you live, you might be able to find an architectural salvage firm which may well have old pumps or bits of pumps. One such is in Leominster and I know of one pump restorer who got exactly what he needed from them.
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 ailsadirect, who sometimes stock pumps by the German Company, Puteus, 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.
Possible Sources of Funding.
It's not unusual for Village Pumps to be restored via fund-raising schemes organised by local action groups, and some Parish Councils are able to apply for funding through their County Council or other regional bodies - take a look at the Heritage Lottery Fund's website, and the National Lottery Fund's "Awards for All". However, if your pump is on your own private property, then this probably isn't an approach you could take. Some village history societies take an interest in pumps on private as well as public property, and might just be able to assist with funds if the pump is in a location that can be seen by the public and "adds character" to the village.