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Post by Stanley »

One of the things that occasionally comes to my notice when people ask me questions is how little some people know about the services that are basic to our modern life. At the moment I'm thinking about utilities, electricity, gas, sewage disposal and water. I had a question this week about water and it betrayed the fact that my questioner hadn't the faintest idea where it came from. I'm always thinking up ideas for articles and decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to do the 'Stanley's guide' to the history of water supplies in the area.
First obvious fact, water is essential to life so as long as there have been human beings in the area there has been a need for water, preferably clean and nearby to save carrying it too far. Let's have a starting point, I can demonstrate to you that there were a few humans living round here 20,000 years ago. Take that as a given, if you want me to prove it for you write to the editor and he'll let me know. So we are talking about a long time ago even before the last Ice Age.
The solution then was dead simple, find a stream or spring and if that failed, take advantage of the rain. This was fine for many thousands of years, when it got to the point about 5,000 years ago when agriculture arrived and with it, permanent settlements, you just made sure you were near a stream or spring. Our ancestors were so in tune with nature and valued the gift of water so highly that the first religious practices evolved around veneration of these sources, hence holy wells like the long-forgotten St Mary's well at Calf Hall which, long before they had a name were centres of ritual. So far, so good, but a problem arose as population numbers started to grow. The more people that use a stream for drinking water, the more chance there is of pollution or simply stirring up mud which affects everyone downstream. For this reason small springs became the preferred source as water bubbling straight out of the ground was a gift direct from the Earth Goddess and was always clean. This in turn led to the concept of 'water rights', who was entitled to use the resource. You can find examples of disputes connected with water and ownership of it right through our history. Later use of water as a power source or cooling water for the condensers on steam engines reinforced the concept of 'riparian rights'.
But we are getting a bit ahead of our story here, let's step back a bit to medieval times. When the built environment started to grow, the building of houses for accommodation, it started as small hamlets like Lane Bottoms above Gillians on Manchester Road. If you look at these clusters they all have one thing in common, they were near a source of water. I've done it again, run out of space, more next week!


The small stream that supported Lane Bottoms above Gillians.
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!
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