Thursday 25 April 2013

Wells Conduit

Wells in Somerset takes its name, perhaps unimaginatively, from the wells which provided it with fresh water. Two could be found in the grounds of the Cathedral and Bishop's Palace; the nearby market place provides a slightly more prosaic location for this conduit, which brought well water to the townspeople.

Fresh drinking water has been available here since the middle ages. The current fountain is a relative youngster, built in the late eighteenth century. Its predecessor had been constructed in 1451, paid for by Bishop Beckington; unsurprisingly, it became somewhat dilapidated over the centuries and had to be pulled down in 1756. 

Its replacement didn't please everyone: John Britton's 1838 Dictionary of the Architecture and Archaeology of the Middle Ages damned the current conduit as 'a very paltry piece of masonry', while the Encyclopaedia Londinensis of 1829 described it as 'a tasteless structure in the form of a triangle.' In more measured tones, it went on to explain that the conduit's water 'is conveyed by leaden pipes, from an aqueduct, also the gift of bishop Beckington, situated near the source of St Andrew's Spring, between the cathedral and the bishop's palace.'

On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the fountain is surrounded by a market of equally venerable pedigree. Behind them, past the Penniless Porch, the cathedral overlooks the tiny city centre. Its beauties are - deservedly - more universally admired.

Wells Cathedral
Click the image to view more photographs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In our day we are so used to just turning on the tap that we forget how important the water supply is and how problematic it often was in the past.

I have become fascinated by old drinking fountains, wells and pumps for this very reason: they were once essential to the life of the community and if the rich had an easy way to win fame and approval by installing a source of clean water then the fame and approval were deserved.