Wednesday, 22 June 2011

How Victorian Fountains were powered before electric pumps.

A few people have asked me how all the decorative fountains made by Handyside used to be powered in the Victorian Era. In August 1879 Andrew Handyside published...
"An Illustrated book of Designs for Fountains and Vases, costing from £1 to £1200 manufactured by Andrew Handyside"

In Catalogue C, it goes into great details of how to power one of their fountains. Makes interesting reading.
Some strange ideas in this guide about using a Horse etc, but you have to remember this was a long time ago before the days of electric power pumps etc.

The Head of Water and the Water Supply: 
The height or force of a jet depends upon the amount of fall between the reservoir and the Fountain, a minimum of 10 to 12 feet being necessary to produce a proper jet. This amount of fall must be reckoned
by taking the difference of level between the surface of the water in the reservoir and the top of the brass jet on the Fountain. Where this minimum head of water does not exist, and the force is therefore necessarily small, a pleasant appearance may yet be obtained by having a Fountain, such as No. 11 or No. 20, with a tier of basins, so that the water, although only bubbling forth at the jet, may, by dripping from one basin to the other, produce a good effect. lf there is a very plentiful supply of water, the appearance of a cascade may be produced by having supply-pipes of considerable diameter.

It is always an advantage to have the Fountain as near the reservoir as possible, as although water will find its level at any distance, it will, if conveyed far through pipes, lose by friction a portion of the impetus necessary to produce an effective jet. For the same reason bends in the pipe should be avoided where possible, and where they do occur the angles should not be acute. lt is in many instances, however impossible to avoid a long distance, and when this is the case, and a considerable length of piping has to be laid from the reservoir to the Fountain, it is advisable, when the head of water is less than 20 feet, either to have supply pipes of a large diameter the whole distance, or to commence with a large diameter at the reservoir, and gradually reduce towards the Fountain.
For instance if the length is 200 feet, and the pipe through the centre of the Fountain to jet is 3/4 inch internal diameter, all the supply-pipe may, with advantage, be 1 1/4 inch diameter, or the 50 feet of pipe nearest the reservoir be 1 1/2 inch, the next 50 feet 1 1/4 inch, and the remainder 1 inch; as, by adopting this method, the force of the water is, to a considerable extent, retained at the jet, while if the entire length of pipe is only 3/4 inch diameter the loss through friction is considerable. In towns or districts where waterworks exist, and where pipes have to be laid to join the "main", and to bring the water some distance to the Fountain, it is desirable to carry out the same plan, considering the "main " as the reservoir.
If the Fountain is near the "main" and is supplied directly from it, the above details are not necessary, as the head of water is generally considerable, unless the Fountain be upon very high ground.

A Fountain may be supplied with water from public waterworks, or from a reservoir constructed on a neighbouring hill, or from an iron tank. In those cases where the supply is obtained from public waterworks, the water is generally measured by a meter and paid for, the price in England varying from 10d to 14d per 1000 gallons.
If the water supply is obtained from an tank, the size varies with the size of the Fountain, and with the period which elapses before the tank can be refilled. If the tank can be supplied with water at any time, it will be found sufficient to have one capable of holding enough for two hours consumption. but if the supply is liable to interruption, it is better to have a tank large enough to form a reserve.

For supplying a small Fountain from an iron tank, and where the latter cannot be filled from public waterworks, a hand-pump will be sufficient for the purpose. Where a large Fountain has to be supplied, there are various methods by which the tank may be filled.

Pumps may be worked by horse, pony, or bullock power. Water-wheels, Turbines, Hydraulic Rams, Wind Engines, or Steam Engines, are all available for raising the water, and as a supply is often needed for other purposes besides that of a Fountain, the rank and pumping apparatus may be arranged according to the necessities of each special case. The horse or bullock gear necessary for working pumps is similar to that often used for giving power to agricultural machines, and the same gear may be used for various services.

Water is one of the most economical sources of power, and may be used in different ways. when a running stream exists, a small wheel will give considerable power, and if tastefully arranged will form an ornament in a park or pleasure-grounds; and in some cases horizontal water wheels or Turbines may be used to advantage in preference to the ordinary water-wheels.

The Hydraulic Ram is an ingenious machine, by which water, with a moderate fall, and when brought in a pipe from pond or reservoir for the purpose, may be used to
force water to a considerable height, without the intervention of a pump, and entirely by its own self-action.

Wind engines are well suited for working pumps. They are very economical in their action, will work night and day without any attention, and they cost nothing to keep them going. The power obtained by them can be used either for pumping or for driving chaff-cutters and other agricultural implements.

Steam power affords the nicest powerful means of pumping large quantities of water, and there is an endless variety of engines made for this purpose. Small machines, called "Steam Pumps", are very useful where the raising of water is the only service required, and these pumps occupy very little room and do not require a large boiler.

Well know you know!


  1. Excellent blog!. I was looking for bravo electric air pumps and I landed your website through google search. I found your blog very interesting.