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The wells, windpumps, and water towers of North Mymms

Producing water "sufficient in quantity, good in quality"


Photograph of The windpump and well at the side of Love Lane, North Mymms Park - August 2018 Image by the North Mymms History Project released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The windpump and well on the west side of Love Lane, North Mymms Park - August 2018
Image by the North Mymms History Project released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

In 1911, fewer than a quarter of the 404 homes in North Mymms had a constant mains water supply piped to the premises. The rest had to rely on an estimated 53 active wells dotted around the parish. A health inspector's report at the time noted that the water extracted from the wells was "sufficient in quantity and good in quality". Four of those wells were still supplying water for 20 homes more than half a century later, but, by then, the quality was described as only "satisfactory".

Introduction - the research for this project


The North Mymms History Project has been researching the background of drinking water in the parish.

We've studied old Ordnance Survey (OS) maps digitised by the National Library of Scotland in order to identify the locations of the wells, water towers, pumps, and springs from the mid nineteenth century to the present day. And we've added all the information to an interactive map.

We've been reading through old documents relating to public health in the parish, including surveys of the condition of the wells in North Mymms, using the free resources at the Internet Archive.

And we've used images and documents courtesy of two local historical archives, the Peter Miller Collection and the Images of North Mymms Collection.

This lengthy feature is a work in progress. We are updating it and adding new information all the time. The table of contents below lists some of the areas we have been researching as we try to paint a picture of the development of the water supply in North Mymms.

As always, you can help us by sharing any information you might have about this subject. You can use the comments box at the foot of the page or email us using the form at the bottom right of any page. All contributions are welcome.



Table of contents




The history of drinking water in North Mymms


In 1960, the lives of the occupants of 12 cottages along Bullens Green Lane, North Mymms were changed forever. For the first time they were able to turn on a tap, installed above their sink, and experience a continuous flow of drinking water.

Gone were the days of walking to one of the two local standpipes in all weathers to carry buckets of water home.

In his 1960 annual health report to Hatfield Rural District Council, presented in 1961, the Medical Officer for Health, Mr G. R. Taylor noted that the residents welcomed the new supply.

"The occupiers were most grateful for this amenity, since water had to be carried individually over some distance previously."

Except from page 46 of the report mentioned and linked to above
Report digitised by Archive.org and released under Creative Commons BY 3.0

Ten years later, efforts were still being made to connect all homes in North Mymms to the mains supply, but the cost of reaching rural homes, and the reluctance of some local residents to switch from well water, meant that by 1971 there were still 19 dwellings served by four wells.

In the early 1900s, North Mymms had access to underground supplies sufficient, it was claimed, for the needs of all those living in the parish. It was accessible via springs and wells, and was distributed - often to standpipes - with the help of hand pumps, a windpump, water towers, a reservoir, and gravity feeds.

The image at the top of this article shows what remains of the windpump and well alongside the track known as Love Lane.

It's one of just three remaining North Mymms wells marked on both the OS digital maps of 2018 and the OS map published 100 years earlier in 1919 (see below).

OS Six-inch Hertfordshire XL.NE. Revised: 1912 to 1913, Published: 1919
Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland
Released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The windpump can be seen middle left on the map above. It didn't appear on the 1898 map, which suggests it was probably built in the 15 years between 1898 and 1913. More on this well later.

Drawing drinking water from wells


Wells were an important part of Victorian life in North Mymms. In a piece on this site about the life of Welham Green resident, James Chuck who was born in 1903, he is quoted as saying:

"And water; there was no piped water, that was all got from the wells. Where we lived in Holloway’s Lane, there was a well for the five houses in the middle of the five, like. Soft water tank and water used to come off the roof and the women used to use that for washing, you see.
"And I was round there the other day and I see the old soft water tank still there, iron top of it, and that brought back memories to me that did. The big well that was in the middle that was sealed over and nobody knows it’s there, not now they don’t know it’s there, the one by the telephone box."

One of the wells at Welham Green.  Image from the Peter Miller collection, scanned by Mike Allen
One of the wells at Welham Green.
Image from the Peter Miller collection, scanned by Mike Allen
The image above is of another of the wells serving the village of Welham Green. It was on the west side of Station Road, opposite the Sibthorpe Arms. The image is taken from a newspaper cutting published in the Welwyn Times and Hatfield Advertiser on October 11, 1974. 

The text accompanying the photograph read:

"The village well at Welham Green is believed to have stood near the present day Station Road.  
"It was 90 feet deep with water said to be "beautifully clear and cold". The wheels were to be heard turning most evenings at the beginning of the century as men drew supplies for the following day. 
"The click of the cogwheel could be heard from one end of the village to the other and the well's huge buckets could hold the equivalent of four normal sized pails of water. It fell into disuse when the piped water was laid into the village."

The well, marked with a W and circled in red on the map below (published in 1899), would have been close to the entrance to Potterells Farm, near the North Mymms Social Club (formerly Working Mens' Club and formerly The Institute), which was used until 1930. 

Section of the OS 6-inch map Hertfordshire XXXV.SE - Revised: 1896 Published: 1899  Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
Section of the OS 6-inch map Hertfordshire XXXV.SE - Revised: 1896 Published: 1899
Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland
Released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

There were two more wells close by. One is marked on the map above to the north-west of the Sibthorpe Arms, and another at Potterells, where there were also two water pumps, marked on the 1898 map below with the letter 'P'.

Photograph of The site of the well at Potterells  Image taken February 2012 by Mike Allen
The well in the grounds of Potterells
Image taken February 2012 by Mike Allen, part of the Images of North Mymms collection


The two pumps and well at Potterells  From the OS 25-inch Hertfordshire XXXV.15 map, revised: 1896 and published in 1898.  Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The two pumps and well at Potterells
From the OS 25-inch Hertfordshire XXXV.15 map, revised: 1896 and published in 1898.
Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland
Released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0


Well water inspected for quality


In his report to Hatfield Rural District Council in 1911, the Medical Officer of Health, Lovell Drage reported that 90 houses in North Mymms were connected to the continuous mains supply but many still relied on water from wells.

His team was responsible for testing samples of the water on a regular basis. Sometimes this resulted in wells having to be cleaned or repaired, while some were closed by the authorities.

Overall, Mr Drage judged that the water from the 53 North Mymms wells still in use in 1911 was "good in quality".


Except from page five of report mentioned and linked to above  Report digitised by Archive.org and released under Creative Commons BY 3.0
Except from page five of the 1911 report mentioned and linked to above
Report digitised by Archive.org and released under Creative Commons BY 3.0

The coming of the water works


In the early 1900s there was a dramatic change in the way some residents in North Mymms accessed water as more and more homes were gradually connected to a constant mains supply.

In his report to Hatfield Rural District Council, presented in 1918, Lovell Drage recommended that Welham Green be connected to the Barnet Water Works mains supply. Five years later, in 1923, the connection was made. Lovell Drage commented on this in his 1925 report.

Little Heath had already been connected to the same supply as noted in the 1904 Annual Health Report prepared for Hertfordshire County Council by the county's medical officer for health Francis E. Fremantle.

North Mymms was to get its own waterworks c1926 when the Barnet District Gas & Water Company built a facility on Warrengate Road, close to Abdale House. The site started to provide a continuous water supply for those connected to a new mains system.

Detail from the OS 25-inch map of 1936 showing the water works on Warrengate Road Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
Detail from the OS 25-inch map of 1936 showing the water works on Warrengate Road
Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland
Released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

This site's archivist, Peter Miller, has dug out an intersting transcript of a recorded interview with Herbert William Honour (b.1899), who lived in Abdale Cottage not far from the Warrengate Road water works. In the interview, conducted in 1983, William talks about the wells at Water End and the tunnels that were dug when the water works (pumping station as he refers to it), was built.


Transcript of recorded interview Herbert William Honour in 1983
Document from the Peter Miller Collection

The slow shift from wells to mains


But, despite attempts to connect homes to the new mains supply, there were problems. Some due to a reluctance on behalf of local residents, some due to the cost of connecting remote homes.

In 1958, the annual health report to Hatfield Rural District Council from the Medical Officer for Health, G.R. Taylor revealed that 20 properties in the parish were still being supplied with water from four wells.

Samples of the water from the wells was taken for analysis as many as a dozen times a year. The results showed a deterioration in the quality of the water extracted, which was described as "satisfactory"; almost 50 years earlier the same supplies had been described as "good in quality".

The main concern for Mr Taylor, seemed to be finding out how many homes still relied on supplies of water from the remaining wells. The authorities were, it appears, keen to reduce the number of dwellings depending on well water and move everyone to the mains supply.

For his 1958 report Mr Taylor and his team carried out a survey of how every home in the parish accessed potable water. They were particularly interested in dwellings in the more remote rural areas.

His findings listed the four wells in North Mymms still be being used. On page 47 of his report he wrote:
"As far as can be ascertained from a recent survey made by the Public Health Inspectors, the following list represents a complete statement. No other sources are known either to this department or Barnet District Water Company."
The four wells listed in Mr Taylor's 1958 report (relevant sections from the report reproduced below) were:

1: Oak Lodge, North Mymms Park


This well served one property. It was 22 ft deep and approximately 25 foot from the house. Water was drawn by using a hand-operated suction pump. The well was reported to be well cleaned out and reconstructed in precast concrete with pipes 4ft in diameter. The distance from the nearest mains supply was approximately half a mile.

Except from page 47 of report mentioned and linked to above Report digitised by Archive.org and released under Creative Commons BY 3.0
Except from page 46 of the report mentioned and linked to above
Report digitised by Archive.org and released under Creative Commons BY 3.0

Note: We have been unable to find this well marked on any archived maps, however we have added it to our interactive map based on the information contained in Mr Taylor's report of 1958.

2: Flint Cottages, North Mymms Park


This well served two properties (see bottom right of the map below). It was covered and sealed. The depth wasn't known. The well was approximately 20 ft from the house. Water was drawn by using a hand-operated suction pump. The water from the well was described as being of a "consistently satisfactory quality".

From the OS 25-inc Hertfordshire XL.6 map revised 1935, published: 1936  Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland  Released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
From the OS 25-inc Hertfordshire XL.6 map revised 1935, published: 1936
Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland
Released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

3: North Mymms Park (estate supply)


This well served 11 properties. It was 80ft deep with a bore extending for a further 200 ft. The well was situated in a field approximately 500 ft from the nearest dwelling (see image and map below).

Windpump and well middle right to west of Love Lane - August 2018
Image by the North Mymms History Project released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

Windpump and well seen middle left at junction of Abdale Lane and Love Lane From the OS 6-inch Hertfordshire XL.NE map revised 1912, published: 1919  Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland  Released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
Windpump and well seen middle left at junction of Abdale Lane and Love Lane
From the OS 6-inch Hertfordshire XL.NE map revised 1912, published: 1919
Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland
Released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

The water was pumped to a reservoir with a capacity of 60,000 gallons (see middle of map below).

Section of the OS 6-inch Hertfordshire XL.NW map, revised: 1912 to 1913, published: 1920 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland, released under Creative Commons
Section of the OS 6-inch Hertfordshire XL.NW map, revised: 1912 to 1913, published: 1920
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
From the reservoir, the water was piped via a gravity feed to a water tower near North Mymms House which then gravity fed a water supply to the estate buildings. The supply served the estate, Home Farm and nine houses. The water from the well was described as "usually satisfactory quality". The distance to the nearest main supply was Home Farm Cottages - 250ft, and the house 2,500 ft.

4: Potterells, North Mymms


Photograph of The well opposite Potterells on the east side of Station Road (now demolished)  Image by Ron Kingdon taken June 1963, from the Images of North Mymms Collection
The well opposite Potterells on the east side of Station Road (now demolished)
Image by Ron Kingdon taken June 1963, from the Images of North Mymms Collection
Note: There is a full-size picture of this well and the water tower below

This well had a 7,000 gallon capacity. It had a cover which was screwed down. It was situated in a field on the east side of Station Road, North Mymms.

Note the use of Ws circled in red on the map below. That shows that there were two wells on this site, although the report, included below, is referring to just one. Presumably the other was no longer in use when Mr Taylor wrote his report in 1958.

There is a larger image of this well, including the water tower, in the section about the water towers of North Mymms.


The Potterells well still operating in 1958 - circled in red Image from the OS 6-inch map of Hertfordshire revised 1922, published 1925 Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The Potterells well referred to above, still operating in 1958 - circled in red
Image from the OS 6-inch map of Hertfordshire revised 1922, published 1925
Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland
Released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

The well was 800 ft from the nearest house served. A pumping mechanism was used to transfer the water to a high-level storage tank with a capacity of 1,000 gallons. The water was then piped to five houses and a factory. The quality of the water was reported to be "usually satisfactory quality". The distance from the nearest main supply was approximately 100 ft from the Lodge, 400 ft from cottages, and 800 ft from Potterells.

Except from page 48 of report mentioned and linked to above Report digitised by Archive.org and released under Creative Commons BY 3.0
Except from page 47 of the report mentioned and linked to above
Report digitised by Archive.org and released under Creative Commons BY 3.0

The preference for "natural waters"


In his 1960 annual health report to Hatfield Rural District Council, presented in 1961, Mr Taylor noted that some of those still consuming water from wells also had access to mains water. It seems the health inspectors had difficulty convincing a minority of consumers to switch supplies.

According to Mr Taylor, when inspectors asked local residents why they didn't use the continuous mains supply some said it was because they preferred "natural waters" for domestic use.

Mr Taylor reported that this reluctance to switch to the mains meant that supplies from the wells had to be chlorinated on a regular basis.

"Advice has been given to consumers on the amount of hypochlorite to be added, and the frequency of application."

Several of the samples from the wells, that were submitted to the public health laboratory for bacteriological examination during the year, were described as "unsatisfactory". Mr Taylor wrote:

"Experience seems to indicate that well and borehole waters are more susceptible to contamination following periods of excessive rainfall, no doubt caused by surface contamination."

Despite efforts to connect North Mymms homes to the continuous mains water supply, wells were still the main source of water for a small number of dwellings in the parish as late at 1971, almost 50 years after the opening of the Warrengate Road water works.

It seems, based on comments made in Mr Taylor's report the following year, that the cost of connecting remote rural homes might prevent all benefiting from the continuous mains water supply, although he did warn that if samples continued to deteriorate the health issues might force a rethink.

"I cannot foresee a total coverage of the district through a mains system, bearing in mind isolated farms and cottages ... nevertheless, if samples show repeated contamination then consideration would have to be given to a connection."

Mr Taylor's concerns about the cost of connections in rural areas (page 48)
Report digitised by Archive.org and released under Creative Commons BY 3.0

The three North Mymms wells of 2018


Apart from the four wells still being used in 1971, there were probably others still active but not necessarily being used for drawing drinking water, and therefore not inspected by the health inspectors.

The OS digital app for 2018 has three wells marked in North Mymms. One is just north of Tollgate Farm, Roestock, another is south-west of Park Cottage just to the west of Tollgate Road, and the third is the one referred to above on the track called Love Lane to the west of Abdale House on the west side of the A1 (M).

Well north of Tollgate Farm, Roestock and south-west of Park Cottage Image is a screen grab from the Ordnance Survey app taken in August 2018
Wells north of Tollgate Farm, Roestock and south-west of Park Cottage
Image is a screen grab from the Ordnance Survey app taken in August 2018

Well to the west of the track known as Love Lane, North Mymms Image is a screen grab from the Ordnance Survey app taken in August 2018
Well to the west of the track known as Love Lane, North Mymms (image top and below)
Image is a screen grab from the Ordnance Survey app taken in August 2018


Photograph of The windpump on the west side of Love Lane, North Mymms - August 2018  Image by the North Mymms History Project released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The windpump on the west side of Love Lane, North Mymms - August 2018
Image by the North Mymms History Project released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

Photograph of The well on the west side of Love Lane, North Mymms - August 2018  Image by the North Mymms History Project released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The well on the west side of Love Lane, North Mymms - August 2018
Image by the North Mymms History Project released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

The six water towers of North Mymms


Six water towers have operated in North Mymms, two have been demolished. One of the two was the tower and pump above two wells on the east side of Station Road opposite Potterells. We have listed it here and on the map as both water tower and wells.

According to Wikipedia:
"A water tower is an elevated structure supporting a water tank constructed at a height sufficient to pressurise a water supply system for the distribution of potable water, and to provide emergency storage for fire protection.
"In some places, the term standpipe is used interchangeably to refer to a water tower. Water towers often operate in conjunction with underground or surface service reservoirs, which store treated water close to where it will be used. Other types of water towers may only store raw (non-potable) water for fire protection or industrial purposes, and may not necessarily be connected to a public water supply."
Some of the water towers in North Mymms would have been for the storage of potable water. They would have been fed by water pumped from a well, spring, or a reservoir. See our map of all the water sources below.


Photograph of The water tower at North Mymms Park - photograph taken August, 2018 Image by Peter Miller, part of the Peter Miller Collection
The water tower at North Mymms Park - photograph taken August, 2018
Image by Peter Miller, part of the Peter Miller Collection

Photograph of Water tower near the Brookmans Park Transmitting Station - Image taken August 2018 Image by the North Mymms History Project, released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
Water tower near the Brookmans Park Transmitting Station - Image taken August 2018
Image by the North Mymms History Project, released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

Photograph of WWII hospital water tower North Mymms Park - Image taken August 2018  Image by the North Mymms History Project, released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
WWII hospital water tower North Mymms Park - Image taken August 2018
Image by the North Mymms History Project, released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

Photograph of Brookmans water tower close to Brookmans Park golf club - Image taken August 2018 Image by the North Mymms History Project, released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
Brookmans water tower close to Brookmans Park golf club - Image taken August 2018
Image by the North Mymms History Project, released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

Photograph of the water tower at Brookmans just visible above the old A1 Dairy farm hay barn Image by Ron Kingdon taken in 1966, part of the Images of North Mymms Collection
The water tower at Brookmans just visible above the old A1 Dairy farm hay barn
Image by Ron Kingdon taken in 1966, part of the Images of North Mymms Collection


Photograph of WWII hospital water tower North Mymms Park - now demolished - picture taken 1983 From the former North Mymms Local History Society, part of Images of North Mymms collection
WWII hospital water tower North Mymms Park (now demolished) - picture taken 1983
From the former North Mymms Local History Society, part of Images of North Mymms collection
The old water tower opposite Potterells on the east side of Station Road (now demolished)  Image by Ron Kingdon taken June 1963, from the Images of North Mymms Collection
The well and old water tower opposite Potterells on the east side of Station Road (now demolished)
Image by Ron Kingdon taken June 1963, from the Images of North Mymms Collection

The springs of North Mymms


Old maps of North Mymms show that the parish had three springs, with another four just over the parish boundary.  The 2018 OS app shows just one spring in North Mymms, to the north of the Royal Veterinary College. east of the Warrengate Road water works, south of Wise's Lane.


The one remaining spring in North Mymms (middle of image)  Image is a screen grab from the Ordnance Survey app taken in August 2018
The one remaining spring in North Mymms (middle of image)
Image is a screen grab from the Ordnance Survey app taken in August 2018

The interactive map below includes the springs.

Mapping the water supply of North Mymms


This site has mapped, as best we can, the wells, pumps, water towers, water works, springs, the windpump and the one reservoir that have served North Mymms. 

There will be some we have missed that do not appear on any of the maps we have been able to access. For example, there were known wells in Holloways Lane, three at White's Corner, and one at Abdale Lane (where the nursery was – now demolished for A1M).

Photograph of The Victorian well at the rear of cottages on Holloways Lane, not marked on any maps Image from P Elgar, taken in the 1990s, part of the Images of North Mymms Collection
The Victorian well at the rear of cottages on Holloways Lane, not marked on any maps
Image from P Elgar, taken in the 1990s, part of the Images of North Mymms Collection

Looking down the Victorian well on Holloways Lane
Image from P Elgar, taken in the 1990s, part of the Images of North Mymms Collection

For the the purposed of creating this interactive map we have been using OS maps produced as far back as 1873 and up to 1950. We are grateful for the excellent work undertaken by the National Library of Scotland, which has digitised so many old maps and made them available for history researchers under Creative Commons.

How to use the map

  • Click the icon top left of the map below to reveal the key for the icons, or the icon top right to view the map in full-screen mode. 
  • Use the + sign to zoom in for a closer look at each entry and its exact location. 
  • Click on the icon to reveal images and more details about the item.
  • You can also use the social media sharing icon - second from the right at the top - to forward the map to Twitter, Facebook, via email, or to embed on your own site. 




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