“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Wexcombe's Water

In my blog post at the start of April I posted pictures of two structures which I had happened upon, and had assumed where disused bunkers of some form. Following some helpful comments from the Britain's Cold War Facebook Group, it became clear that one of these structures was not in fact a bunker, but was an underground reservoir.

Having had my eyes opened to this existence of these reservoirs, I soon spotted a few more in the local countryside - reservoirs which I had frequently passed by, but never previously noticed. The pictures below show two such reservoirs along the Fair Mile road, near the hamlet of Wexcombe in Wiltshire.

The first reservoir is fenced off and is accompanied by a round brick structure that used to serve as a pump house. It seems that this reservoir / pump house combination were built in 1899 to supply water to the hamlet of Wexcombe, and the faded plaque that resides above the pump house door is believed to read "Wexcombe Waterworks the gift of William Corbin Finch 1899".

A covered reservoir (fenced off) behind the brick built pump house.

The faded inscription above the pump house, believed to read "Wexcombe Waterworks the gift of William Corbin Finch 1899".

Looking over the fence at the top of the covered reservoir.

The pipes on top of the covered reservoir that hint at its identity.

The second reservoir was unfortunately inaccessible due to its position in a field, but was clearly identifiable from its mound like shape and the pipes emanating from the structure.

Another reservoir along Fair Mile road, near Wexcombe.

Some of the concrete structure is just visible through the foliage. 

Wexcombe itself is barely a mark on the map (a handful of  houses and a farm), so when reading about Wexcombe I was surprised to find that the hamlet had a small, but significant, claim to fame.

In 1920 a man named Arthur Hosier moved to Wexcombe where he purchased an estate. It seems that Hosier wanted to turn his land over to dairy farming, but he was initially deterred from doing this as the parts of his land that where suitable for grazing cattle where a long way away from his farm buildings. To overcome this problem and to save the cost of constructing new farm buildings, Hosier invented the portable milking bail which enabled him to take his milking equipment to the cows as opposed to trying to bring the cows back to the farm for milking.

A portable milking bail is essentially a mobile stall/shed in which cows can be held for milking to prevent the cows from kicking or trampling the farmer (or generally moving about) while the cows are being milked. Hosier's invention was soon being manufactured and sold, enabling farmers across the country to milk their cows in locations remote from their farm infrastructure. The Hosier portable milking bail set off a revolution in dairy farming and was a staple bit of dairy farming equipment until recent years.

The portable milking bail was one of only a few bits of equipment that was developed by Hosier, which saw his farm in Wexcombe become a centre of UK farming innovation during Hosier's lifetime.

Pictures, Wiltshire (April 2014).

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  1. My Grandad Herbert Lovelock used to work for A J Hosier, as a boy. My Grandad was born in Wilton, but my Mother was born in Wexcombe, she used to walk up to this, daily, she said she was terrified of it!!!

    1. Hi Kay, thanks for your little be of history. Do you know what scared your mother so? Also, why did she walk up to it each day? Was it part of her job?



  2. Hi Paul,
    I am A. J. Hosier’s Great grandson and farm the land at Wexcombe. Just to clarify the brick structure, which you called a pump house is in fact just a folly containing two (now disused) taps. It was built by Dr William Finch, a surgeon from Salisbury who lived in Wexcombe in the late 1800’s and installed water works for the hamlet. During the war I am led to believe that it was used as a “prison” for the Italian POWs if they strayed from the straight and narrow! I can understand why some may find it spooky, it has been home to many a; tooth fairy, elf, goblin and ghost have been housed there in children’s imagination!
    Your brief account of my great grandfather is accurate, I could elaborate but there has been much written over the years about the man and his farming system.