Public Utilities

Godfrey Jellyman (born 1923)

(When I was a child) we moved to Bussage School which was a church school ….there was no water laid on but I not nobbled to fill the big tank from the well with a pump.

The vicar (at Brownshill) lived at Brownshill House because that was halfway between Bussage church and the girls.   But the actual vicarage was at Bussage by The Ram.   Mother did the washing on Mondays in a copper that had to be lit with firewood and coal quite early because it had to boil.   Sometimes if the wind was in the wrong direction it didn’t want to boil.   When it did eventually boil they had two baths with cold water and all that had to be rinsed out.   If that wasn’t good enough, they had to go and do a second one.   Of course the collar had to be starched on the shirts.   The water was pumped from out back, it was rainwater from the big tank from the two houses.  


Dulcie Brimfield (born c. 1926)

There was the war on as well, and we used to get power cuts and so consequently couldn’t use the machinery (at work) to do the ledgers, and we just had to wait for the power to come back.


Anne Sutton (born 1927)

There was a family very near us and they were in a one bedroom house, they had a sort of partial partition.   There was no kitchen and an outside well, they filled up a washing up bowl and dabbled about in it.   Obviously no bath or anything.   An outside loo.

Places got very dusty because of coal fires you see.   Wash day was Monday and it took all of Monday.   We had a wash house out at the back and the copper in the corner, and sheets and everything were boiled in there and shirts, because they weren’t drip dry or anything.   So all these whites had to be done in there and there was a procession of zinc baths.   From the copper into the biggest one and down the procession.   Then it was the mangle, then it went into perhaps a starch, certainly a blue bag was in the final rinse and then starch as necessary.   We were lucky we had indoor passages, well I mean at least undercover, with all these lines strung across so it could be dried if it was wet and then a back yard if it was fine.   Turning the mangle was quite an operation, I can tell you.


Name witheld

(During the war) the prisoners of war didn’t help on the farm.   They dug the sewers or the water pipes.   They came in a lorry that dropped them off where the milk churns were left at the top of the King’s Head hill and picked up.   I think they came from Gloucester.

(Pauline):  Very few houses had running water or ‘water closets’, but German prisoners of war were given the task of digging the ‘trenches’ to enable the pipes to be laid, hence running water and sewer system was established.   Until then, drinking water would be collected from wells, some in people’s gardens, some at strategic points throughout the villages.


George Gleed (born 1930)

We had to get water out of a well and save our rain water.   It was hard times.   We didn’t realise it so much because we weren’t used to anything else I suppose.

I had to help my father.   He had his own paraffin business around the area including Minchinhampton, before, during and after the war, and I used to help him.   No gas or electric for a long time so most people had paraffin.


Cynthia Gleed (born 1933)

We went to live at Lypiatt when we got married (in 1953) for 7 years, then we moved to Chalford and we lived at Skiveralls.   A lovely little cottage but very high ceilings and there was like a  black range for heating but all the heat went up to the high ceiling.   No sanitation.   We had this awful bucket lavatory and no water.


Grace Banyard (born 1930)

We lived in one end of the house, 2 bedrooms upstairs and a kitchen and living room downstairs.   The fireplace was in the living room, with a hob on each side and an oven on one side;  there was only a small primus in the kitchen to boil the kettle.   We didn’t have any cooking facilities in there, the cooking facilities were in the front room, a range with things on the side where you put your saucepans and a little oven on the side.    We had no electricity or running water.  It was oil lamps and candles.   We had to carry a candle up to bed and blow it out as soon as we got undressed  (or when we heard our mother coming!)    Then we had gas put in.   There was always a jug, basin and soap dish upstairs and we had to wash in cold water from the jug – we used to empty our hot water bottles into the basin in the morning. 

 For water we used to have to go up the road to the well.   Just before where Hayden lives.   It’s still there because the dogs go and drink the water.   We used to have to go and get a bucket every night for tea and coffee in the morning but otherwise we used water from the stream at the bottom of the garden – dad made a spout to make it easier. We had a great big rainwater tank which we used for washing hair and having a wash.


Jenny David (born 1933) & Vesta Rock (born 1934)

My father was the waterboard man.   Pumping superintendent.   He had to go to all the outlying ones, just to check it was OK.   In the winter, when it was snow and it was fouled up, he had to get out there.   And his father was there, and his grandfather was there.   Belvedere was the headquarters.

We didn’t have a shelter (during the war).   We had a tiny toilet and a little shed in the garden, that was it.   You didn’t have a flush, just a bucket, but I didn’t deal with that.   Everyone did because you weren’t on the sewer.   Chalford Hill wasn’t on the sewer at that stage.   People just dug holes and tipped it in.   People used to say, ‘phew, you can tell it’s Friday night’ because everyone emptied their buckets then.

There’s one down here.   Walk down the canal path and just before you get to the bridge, there’s an overhanging toilet.   A nice stone building, and the toilet overhangs the brook.   All up the valley, the whole valley overhanging the brook, and there’s still one there now.   It’s in the garden for the cottages down here towards St. Mary’s.   They were beautifully built with tiles.   My brother and his friend used to wait for the paper to come down from the bridge.  

At Belvedere, all the engineering was inside, for pumping.   But the toilets – you’d sit on the bucket and the river would be rushing underneath.   It scared me to death.   I’d be feeling as though I might fall in.   It was only a seat and then in the winter…very draughty.   When Mr. Fawkes lived by the post office, he still had an overhanging toilet.


Shirley Bushell (born 1943)

There were several springs along the valley people used to drink.   My neighbour still goes along to get water from Tankard Spring.   Round here we used to have the old Black Gutter at one time.  It was a lovely little stream which came down the wood and all the houses round here had pipes from there;  then all these regulations came and they put this awful shed thing up to cover it in and we had to have mains water.

No indoor bathrooms.   Some people had a toilet inside and some outside.   Lots of toilets by the river, the toilet would be over the river – until the sewers came through Chalford in early 60s.   Then everyone went on to the mains sewers.   I remember the roads being dug up.   There was mains electricity by then.   A lot of open fires.


Gerald Gardiner (born 1933)

My dad worked for the gas company, laying new services to the houses.   I worked with him for a while.   I think most of the village was mostly electric as when I moved into the house it was only gas.   You had gas lighting, then I had electric put in.   You had gas right in the middle of the room.   As you went upstairs, it used to be oil lamps which smelled.


Margaret Mills (born 1934)

When we lived at Tankard Springs we didn’t have a bathroom, bath in front of the fire – long tin bath.   We went there actually a couple of years ago and we were outside talking and realised a man was  listening to us and he invited us in and he showed us round and we went down the garden and there was this old tin bath and it was my bath!   They called it a bungalow bath – a long oval bath.   I suppose we heated the water with kettles.   We had a coal fire with ovens and things.   Eventually we had running water, my father modernised the cottage over the years and put in a bathroom and a modern kitchen.   Before that we used Tankard Spring for water.   Filled the bucket up – the brook was nice and clean then and you could almost drink it.   We didn’t .   We had an outside loo tucked round the side. 


John Hemmings (born 1934)

Cherington Lake water supposed to be the same source as Black Gutter.  We had it at our house, very pure water, comes from Cherington under the headland to Black Gutter.   There was a row of houses in Chalford that was very old, called Ducks Nest, it was under the railway bridge on the left hand side.

Black Gutter was covered over well after the drought because people were helping themselves to water.   So many springs in the village.  People still take from Tankard Spring on the High Street and the one in the woods which used to feed the station.


Graham Hobbs (born 1953)

We had the water cut off in 2007 when we had the floods and we all had to go down to the village springs and collect what we could.   We were cut off for 2 weeks but then after that we had to boil the water for another week or two.   We used to have our own spring in Chalford but then they couldn’t supply Manor Farm as well so they bought it from Tewkesbury and those connected to the spring still had water in the floods.   Most unfair!


Beryl (born 1941) & Derek (born 1938) Freebury

We had an outdoor toilet – you had to walk right round the house to get there.   You had a bath round the fire on a Sunday night.   There’s a spring by the old cottage where we lived on the Street and we used to have hair washed in that water – heated first!   There was no running water.   When they built the reservoir on the Bisley road, they put water pipes right across the fields into Eastcombe and then round the village.   Before that water came from wells and springs.   My granny had a well and you would turn the handle and the bucket was on a rope.

When I was 11/12 I used to go and play cards with Grampy on a Friday night and it was an oil lamp on the table.   They had a black lead grate which they had to clean a lot and a tub in a little lean to that you stoked.

Bob Messenger (born 1950)

I lived in this house – the same house all the time.   We used to have a pantry here, an old fashioned toilet, the old flush box, no bath.   But it’s all changed now.   Water was plumbed in.   I think they used to have a well years ago up on that path.   All filled in now.

In the very cold winters, all the pipes used to freeze up, used to put lagging round the pipes and used to have the old bath in front of the fire.


Nancy Gardiner (born 1924)

Maplehurst was such a lovely house.   The only fault was, it was spring water from somewhere into a well.   When we bought it we were told it is quite easy to pump up the water, just twice a day.   But we finished up with four children and we were pumping all day!   So Stan and a friend put in a pump so it worked electronically.   We had rather a funny toilet.   It was a big wooden seat, goodness knows where it all went because we weren’t on the sewers!   It went down the lissom as they all did.   I reckon it went into the canal!

We had to have mains water put in at Woodlands.   Before that we had to pump the water a certain way, I wasn’t very good.   It was from a well right by the back door.   There were no sewers or anything.   We had a sceptic tank put in.   We had a loan from the Council to improve the cottage.   As long as you stayed more than seven years you didn’t have to pay it back – about £7,000 so we paid the builder to put in the septic tank.   Before that you had to go down the garden.   It (the toilet) was propping up a plum tree!

We had a lot of trouble with the septic tank.   It was alright for the first few years but, being on a clay bed, it silted all up and started overflowing.   They only emptied it once a year unless you paid for it.   When we went on the mains, Stan filled the septic tank up with cans of paints, anything.    He was afraid it would give way (which it did with the next owners!)


Judith Newman (born 1943)

(When we came to Chalford in 1949) we had an indoor loo, of a very basic kind, and a bath in the corner of the kitchen where the coal would have been kept at one time.   We had no hot water, gas brackets in the kitchen, one cold tap in the kitchen, you know.   It must have been plumbed in, the bath.   And we had very basic light sockets and switches, brass switches, which must have been very dangerous, lovely Edwardian fireplaces, cast iron basket fireplaces where smoke traps in the bedrooms, and we took them all away.   We put in comforts like a nice coke boiler in the kitchen, radiator upstairs.   Eventually, just before we all left home, a new bathroom upstairs too, but that took a long time.   We did actually have a bathroom downstairs, but it was very basic, just a cupboard with a bath in it, and a toilet just off the kitchen.

(At Chalford Hill School) you had to ask permission to go out to the toilet, get your snowboots on, go down the toilet, slither, slither, it was really cold out there!   The classroom was heated, oh yes, the big tortoise stove, big guard all around it.  We had central heating at school.   Not just tortoise stoves but they were still there.   There were big cast iron pipes and we melted wax crayons on them.   There was a big pile of coke in the playground.

Water from the well?   I don’t know whether we were still using Tankard Springs or not then, they could have been.   I think it was OK to use the springs – now which way round was it? – there were 2 spring lines in Chalford because there’s 2 layers of rock, one’s safe because it’s filtered through the rock, probably the bottom one, and higher up it wasn’t safe because there were so many twig leaves and that around.   That was the one near the Duke of York.   We had a well on our Terrace, we didn’t use it ourselves but I was always told there was a well, which was at No. 4 I think, in his back yard, there’s a big concrete slab and that apparently was the well.   We always had water, thank goodness.


Maureen Cornwell

(House in Cowcombe Woods):  Four rooms – kitchen was the main one….everything was done in that one room, had to cook on the fireplace…..

When I was small it was quite funny because if I wanted to go to the toilet in the night, I used to call out to Gran – we had a chamber pot but just for wee – Gran did wake Gramp up, Gran would light the candle, then we lit the hurricane lamp, so you had not to be too desperate, and then he took you round to the back of the house to the toilet….

You had to carry the water up from the stream – it belonged to the railway that bank.   That filter thing comes out of a stone built thing but a little bit further up is where the water came out of the ground.   That was the first thing Gramp did every morning was go and get a bucket of water, and on wash day.   The rain water butt water was kept for rinsing.   It took 9 buckets to fill the boiler which was attached to the house.   It was also the coal house.

Gramp always had a spare bucket hidden down by the stream and all the family members knew where it was, so if they passed the stream on the way to the cottage they were supposed to bring a bucket of water up with them, as Gramp with only one arm could only carry one at a time, and the prisoners would bring one up often too and left it by the gate.


George Rowles (born 1928)

The first thing I did when we got married was to buy this house (1953?).   There was a map of old Brownshill and this house was built before the road.    There was a map of wells, because there’s no water in Brownshill you see, so they had a map of all the wells, and an interesting thing about this house, and the road there, all that ground that way it’s a quarry.   And I built a septic tank half way down the garden before the sewer came, you know, I put a septic tank in.  


Keith Weaver (born 1932)

(In 1932 – 5 Belle Vue Terrace) we had flush toilets and sink and drain in the kitchen.   We moved when I was six to a cottage which didn’t have a sink or drain in the kitchen but it had a tap.   The toilet was a shed in the garden which my great grandfather called a closet.   We only had oil lamps in Belle Vue Terrace at that time.   I don’t remember when we had gas.   We had a gas stove for cooking on.   I remember having lamps in there and to go to bed with, and candles.   When we moved over when I was six, to the other house we had one room with one gas light in, nothing else.

In 1938 the Gloucester Electric Company allowed you one plug and three lights.   The room we lived in, we had plug and light put in there, and one in our front room and in the kitchen.   None upstairs.   So we had to put those in afterwards.   We had candles.   For heating we just had the gas stove for cooking and the fire.   As I said before the kitchen wasn’t very good as it was just a tap.   We had running water.   We did have a jug and bowl upstairs on special occasions and a tin bath where the gas light was.

Prisoners of War:  they were employed to dig round Chalford and France Lynch in places that didn’t have the water.  They were digging the trenches by hand to put in for the water.

There was no houses on the front when we moved here (Belle Vue).  Two builders went bankrupt when they were building this estate.   They had lots of snags, one of them was drains.   There used to be a stream here but it came out in the wall so when they built this they had to do something about this drain and dig across the lane, my Dad’s garden and going down Stoney Lane.  That cost a lot of money.

In Chalford Hill School, at the back of the class was a gas ring with a large urn on it.   Girls from the top class would come in and fill it with water and when it was hot they’d put Horlicks in.   There was a boiler house under the Infants and under the Big School.   We had lovely radiators so it was really warm there.


Monica Ridge (born 1943)

At Springfield was all spring water and it came from over on the hill there (in Cowcombe Woods) and we used to have to go up and make sure that the leaves didn’t block it.   There’s a big tank there where the water would come in and pipes would come down and feed the house.  The tank is still there but they are on mains now.   And apparently, years and years ago, people from far and wide used to go there and bathe their eyes in the water to help cure blindness.   Like another spring on the left going towards Baker’s Mill, where water is exceptionally good for eyes because of the high iron content.


Alan Mayo (born 1943)

Tankard springs – we used to drink gallons of it.   Mr. Bingle, who lived in Meadow Cottage, he used to go every day with two buckets.   We always used to drink it but then all of a sudden signs appeared saying ‘not fit for drinking’ – they appeared years ago.   There’s another spring up by the old Duke of York and I used to drink gallons of it, and the other one, by the Baptist Church is a tap, and we used to drink that.  

We used to play in the brook – got mucky.   It was like a sewer in its time.


Roger Dainton (came to Chalford in 1970)

(I bought No 2 Anchor Terrace in 1970).   The house next door (No.1) was indescribable;  it had no sort of hot water or heating, it had one cold tap in the kitchen.   The loo was in the garden.   There were three loos in the end of the  garden of 2 Anchor Terrace, one for each house, even though they were all built together.   Originally the sewage went straight into the river, the mains sewer was connected in 1963.   In 1970 the toilet for 1 Anchor Terrace was just a pan sat on the earth with the outlet lined up with the sewer pipe, with no water connected so they got a bucket of water from the kitchen and poured it down.   It  did have electricity and it did have mains water, but just one cold tap.   The only fire was in the living room, but the problem with it was that the chimney stack had collapsed internally and was partially blocked.  So when they lit the fire, the smoke just came out into the room and the ceiling was completely black.   Eventually, if the fire was going for some hours, it warmed up enough and the smoke would then get through the bricks.   They did have a very ancient gas cooker (probably 1930s).  It was mains gas, but it was coal gas, there was no natural gas then.   It was connected with a lead pipe to the slot meter which took shillings.

There were gas works in Stroud, where they made gas from coal;  there’s a gasometer in Stroud, you know where I mean, and then it came up the valley.   It would have come in along the road I expect.   There is still a gas pipe actually coming up the canal path.     

Minnow Cottage had a toilet where they park the car now, which went straight into the river, until the sewer came(1963).

Corner Cottage;   A young woman bought it and I put in central heating there for her, but until that it didn’t have any heating or hot water in it at all,  although there was a basic bathroom supported by the corner post.   I don’t know how they would have heated the water perhaps on a stove and then poured it into the bath.  

Cyprus House & Bluebell Cottage:   Ada Baxter bought Cyprus House in 1950 and had the electricity put in.   Until the sewer came, when an outside toilet was installed behind the house, there was a toilet above where the garage is now, with a cess pit which was emptied by the council every two weeks.

Hill View;   This is off the road up to Dimmelsdale.  Norman Rogers used to live there.   His bath room had a corrugated iron roof and wooden walls so wasn’t very warm.   There was a cold tap to fill the bath but no hot water, but he had an old clothes boiler which he’d boil water in and pour into the bath, so that’s how the bath had hot water. Norman Rogers told me that when he, in the 1930’s, walked down the High Street, some houses had oil lights or candles, some had gas lights and some had electric at that time.  

Bubblewell:  It was bought in 1950, and had the electricity put in.   There was no electricity in that house then.   It might have had gas.   If you look above our window, there’s a bit of metal stuck out the wall, and that was a gas light it illuminated the window from the outside.  

The Red Lion:  The toilets now, or that building as you go in, they weren’t there and, on the edge of the car park now when you can go down a little ramp and things, well that used to be the toilets there.   And they were just public toilets, they weren’t to do with the pub.   They were public toilets as far as I remember, pretty basic.   And that’s all the toilets that were for the pub.

Marley Lane Water Works:  On the left of Marley Lane before the railway  bridge is a brick house below the road, you can see it from the canal.   Adjacent to the canal is the original pumping house, which was steam powered using coal brought up on the canal.   Stroud Water Company pumped water out of the river into three reservoirs, which were in front of the dwelling house.   This water was fed all down the valley to Stroud.   Crushed limestone was used to purify the water and when it was depleted it was dumped on the piece of ground at the end of the playing field, which is now covered in trees.  

When Sevilles Mill waterwheel was working, possibly until about the 1920s, the tail race from the wheel ran in the watercourse behind the houses from Anchor Terrace to Tankard Spring.   This is what we now call the back brook.   When the sluice gates from the mill pond were opened so the wheel would turn, water surged down the tail race and sometimes caused flooding in Dabchick Row.   It also flushed the tail race so any sewage that had come from the cottages next to it was washed away into the Frome.   Even after the waterwheel stopped working the water flow rate was much higher than it is now.   When the mill was demolished in the mid 1960s, the flow rate in the tail race was much reduced but this was about the same time as the sewer was put in.

Some of the houses higher up the hill put their sewage into a ‘lissom’ – an archaic word from this area meaning a crack in the rock.   As a result the ground water becomes polluted and that’s why the springs up the hill are all condemned and have ‘Do not drink’ notices.   Tankard Spring is OK because it is a lower level and there is a layer of clay between it and the higher springs.   Up the hill, not all that long ago, I was working on quite a fine house, and the sewage was all connected to a lissom.   I said to the owner ‘Is this a good idea, do you think?’   She said ‘Well it works’ and I replied ‘Yes, but it’s polluting the ground water and also could block’.   The main sewer ran in front of the house and as all the floors were up, I suggested connecting to the sewer, which is what was done.

Until mains water was brought to Chalford, people got their water from Tankard Spring, and possibly the river for washing.   I think the mains came in the late 19th century judging by the age of the pump house off Marley Lane.   Les Dean, who worked for the Water Board and lived in the cottage by the pump house before moving to Cyprus Cottage, said that when water was first bought, initially all they did they put the stand pipes in the road outside and people just came and filled buckets up, it wasn’t in the houses.









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