St. Keverne Village Wells

Memories of Billy Moyle

Billie Moyle, now aged 94, has lived in St Keverne all his life and remembers the days long before mains water was available to village residents. In the early days it was the responsibility of the parish council to maintain the public wells and pumps and to deal with any grievances arising.

In his youth and up to the late 1950s there were several sources of water at various locations within St Keverne. Up until about 1920 there were houses and workshops in the middle of the Square (where the War Memorial stands today) and these premises obtained water from a well in the centre of Willie Hodge's shoemakers shop. Miss Lizzie Tripp lived in one of these houses.

There was also a well in Doctors Hill at the top end of William John Tripcony's carpenters shop and house (today the premises of Retallack the butchers). The door to the well is still there.

For residents living in the Commercial Road area water was obtained from the well and pump situated in Well Lane on the right hand side of the lane just below the Parish Hall. Sadly, the old iron pump has long gone.

The main source of water for the village was the Reservoir which was located on the site of the present day bus shelter. This was a large storage tank capable of holding thousands of gallons of water and was fed by the same source as the well in Doctors Hill. The Reservoir was surrounded by high iron railings and the tank was covered by a zinc metal roof. Only on a very few occasions did the water level drop following a dry spell. The local fire-brigade used this water regularly when attending fires in the area of the Square. I can remember when the cottage on the corner of Trelyn Lane caught fire and was destroyed - water was carried in buckets from the Reservoir in the attempt to put out the flames. A stand - pipe supplied water to the stone trough on the Square side of the Reservoir- from this the villagers filled their pails while cattle could drink from the granite trough. It was always a bit messy around the Reservoir after the cattle had been there and there were many complaints to the parish council. The Reservoir was used up until about 1958.

Several houses had their own well in the garden. In the house where I was born in 1910 and where I still live, there is a well in the garden. This is always full to the brim, even in times of "drought", and on those occasions people from the village come to my house with buckets to collect water for their gardens. Up until the arrival of mains water, my family used this water for drinking, washing and cooking by using the hand pump outside my back door.

There were also dowsers in the village who had the knack of finding water. One of them, William Rogers (known as Lawyer Bill), was my next door neighbour - he probably discovered the well in my back garden. This water eventually finds its way down under the Parish Room and through the field until it reaches the stream and millpool at Tregoning. In my days this field belonged to John Rogers and later Henry Rogers and their cows drank from the stone trough at the bottom of the field where an overflow pipe from the ground fed the trough.

All these wells in St Keverne are connected. One source is an underground stream running down Trelyn Lane towards the Reservoir which is also fed by a stream coming down Doctors Hill. This eventually finds its way down past the White Hart and down Well Lane before emptying into the river that reaches the sea at Porthoustock. Another probably comes down Back Lane and goes under Commercial Road before reaching the river at Tregoning.

August 2005