History of St Keverne Parish Council
Wells and Water Supply
Extracts from St Keverne Parish Council 1894 to 1994
a booklet compiled by Michael Wearne (then Chairman)
Before the arrival of mains water, springs and their attendant wells were the only source of supply. Most of these were on private property and many deeds contain elaborate details of the rights of neighbours to cross the land and draw water.
Where there was a concentration of houses, there were public wells and taps, the responsiblity for whose maintenance fell to the Parish Council. The task was just as endless as was caring for the footpaths. Taps were out with extraordinary frequency, pipes blocked up, the area around the well or tap became muddy and paving had to be laid or replaced.
There were also occasional examples of what we should nowadays call vandalism. In February 1914 Councillor Roskruge reported an obstruction in the Rosenithon Well which was causing great inconvenience to women going there for water. Councillor Rogers agreed to clear it immediately but in March had to report that, despite some efforts, he had failed. There was considerable discussion of the "dastardly act" and the matter was passed to Councillors Retallack and Nicholls who promised to deal with it shortly. At the April meeting the latter reported that it had been cleared; the obstruction had been in the overflow pipe and consisted of a 2' 6" (two feet six inches) length of "brush hill" (??) the same size as the pipe. Councillor Nicholls produced the brush at the meeting.
The Council still maintains Tregarne and Traboe wells.
St. Keverne Reservoir
As might be expected, the two major settlements, i.e. St. Keverne and Coverack, gave rise to most problems. It helps to understand the position in St. Keverne if we have some idea what the Reservoir was, particularly as it has long since disappeared and in any case was never what we would normally think of as a reservoir. It stood on the corner of St. Keverne Square where the bus shelter is now; it was about 10 feet square, 8 feet deep and covered in slate. The overflow went to a horse trough from which cattle used to drink.
In March 1914 at the Annual Meeting held in public the surroundings of the Reservoir were said to be very dirty owing to the excrement left by cattle; this was a great eyesore to the immediate neighbours and to visitors coming into the village so much so that the local press had now "seriously taken the matter up". One suggestion was that the area should be railed off, another that the trough should be removed. Members of the public pointed out that the loss of the trough would be keenly felt by a large number of residents. It was resolved that the Parish Council were quite capable of dealing with the question and it was left in their hands.
In June the Council considered a petition about the filth from three parishioners, apparently offering to do the cleaning. It was decided that they should be required to carry out their self-imposed task three times a week or the Council would remove the trough. In July the surroudings were reported to be much cleaner.
Apart from routine matters, the next mention is in August 1917 when the dilapidated and dirty condition of the surrounding shrubbery is mentioned and it is reported that a "party" still drove a Steam Tractor through the village and each week put its hose in the water to fill its tank, contrary to the Council's notice.
Sometime before the next relevant minute in August 1926 railings were erected. It was then reported that water was being taken as the Reservoir lock had disappeared. In October, in spite of a new lock having been bought, water continued to disappear. The Council resolved to leave the matter in abeyance and try to find out who the culprits were. As far as can be discovered from the minutes, the problem was not so much solved as bypassed for two months later we find that the District Council intended to erect a storage tank in place of the reservoir. The Council resented this strongly on the grounds that it was an uncalled for waste of ratepayers's money.
Despite their protests, by August 1932 the tank appears to have been in place for some time as a Mr. W. Rogers was employed to clean the walls. Problems did not by any means cease, however. People left rubbish, manure returned, the owners of the cows that drank at the Reservoir being asked to clean it up, and there were occasional leaks. In October 1940 it was reported to be empty partly for this reason and partly because they had had a very dry spell of weather (it was the idyllic summer of the Battle of Britain).
Mains Water to St. Keverne
In February 1950 Councillor Brown informed the Council that representatives of the Rural District Council had been to Whitehall and the Ministry of Health had given their approval of a scheme that would take three years. Supply was to be taken from"Me-Hall-Mill" to Roskruge Beacon and then piped to points to be decided on. In March it was reported that surveying was being carried out as quickly as possible.
In June of the same year the minutes mention that a boring had been carried out at the new estate (Penmennor) which would produce 300 gallons of water per hour, a fact which seems to have relieved the minds of councillors whose faith in the immediacy of the comprehensive scheme seems not to have been unlimited. In October their scepticism was justified as we then find that the RDC had resolved to sink a borehole near the reservoir. By January 1951 it appears that the RDC was constantly reviewing the situation and it looked as though the scheme would not be undertaken for some years.
In December 1954 the RDC wrote to say that they had cleaned the pipes to Porthoustock, though they were not inclined to replace them in view of the "impending" introduction of the new water scheme. In September 1957 the Council wrote a further letter of protest about the unsatisfactory state of supply to the village. People drew water from the Reservoir until 1958 when the mains at last arrived in the village, the supply being pumped from Roskruge Reservoir (later from Stithians) direct to both Porthallow and St. Keverne; from the latter it continued to Porthoustock. Thereafter the Council's responsibility was limited to complaining periodically first to the water company, then the water board and finally, at the time of printing, to a private water company again.
Coverack's Water Supply
Evidently Coverack's supply was particularly deficient and in December 1921 the PC first raised the matter; after somewhat acrimonious discussion, the proposition was put: "That this Annual Meeting of the Electors of St. Keverne recognises that the present water supply of Coverack is totally inadequate, and that it approves of an additional supply being provided".
It was lost by a large majority.
However, the District Council had its eyes on the situation and in August 1922 they wrote to the PC outlining a scheme. Councillor Collins moved that it was expensive and costly and should be dropped at once: passed by 6 votes to 5. The Sanitary and Water Committee were deputed to see if the present supply could not be improved at the cost of a few pounds. Some detail of how this might be achieved emerges at the next meeting where it is suggested that a pipe be laid from the tap at Sincock's (see below) to the corner of the old public house (where the public phone kiosk now is). In December 1923 the DC wrote to the PC telling them an Inspector from the Ministry of Health would hold an inquiry in connection with the DC's plan to borrow £250 for an additional water supply to Coverack. Councillor Rogers returned to the plan for a pipe mentioned above with the addition of a 1500 gallon tank opposite Sincock's (this is the house at the front of whose garden the tap was and is. Mr. Sincock was, incidentally, the first headmaster of Coverack School).
In January 1923 the meeting resolved to draw the attention of the District Council to the fact that cars were being washed on the high road in front of the new garage in Coverack. It is not clear if the offence was misuse of the highway or profligate use of a limited water supply.
The matter was left in abeyance for almost four years; it does not reappear until March 1927 at the Annual Meeting with members of the public present and free to speak. District Councillors were also there. Is it a sign of the less than brotherly relations between the two councils, that they had to wait until the last item on a long agenda? It is certainly unclear why they were there for when they were asked to outline the new £1,700 scheme for Coverack, they gave no answer. Mr. R.G. Harvey, a parishioner, pointed out that they had not supported the £250 scheme and they did not support the new one. He must have spoken rather more strongly than appears as one of the District Councillors told him that he did his cause more harm than good by being impertinent.
In January 1928 the PC again affirmed its opposition to such an expensive scheme. At the Annual Meeting in March there was further discussion involving contradictions and considerable heat (Mr. Harvey again intervened). It emerged that the DC's scheme would now cost £3,000.
In August they resolved to write to the DC opposing the present scheme but, since they recognised the urgent need for water in Coverack, supporting a smaller one.
And that is the last time the minutes mention the new Coverack water supply. Frustration again! The sequel is supplied from other sources.
In 1930 the District Council started work on its new scheme, having by then received a grant from central government. It appears to have cost considerably more than £3,000 and was contracted out to Dingles of Redruth. They piped the three main springs in the lower part of the village into a large tank behind the old mill. From there it was pumped up into a reservoir built in the field opposite Mr. Ben Roskilly's farm. The whole village was dug up and pipes were laid into all the houses.
Unfortunately this was not the end of water supply problems for Coverack. In January 1950 the Royal Cornwall Infirmary sent a report to the District Council which was read out at the Parish Council meeting. They had evidently analysed water samples and they reported that that from Coverack showed a large number of "coliform organisms of excretal origin and is unsuitable fo drinking purposes. The treatment appears to be most inadequate". Nobody familiar with the position would have been surprised. One of the wells was unfenced and a heifer once drowned in it; it was henceforth known as the "Oxo Well".
An intermediate solution was the pumping in about 1960 of the water fror Roskruge, the reservoir supplying St. Keverne. Later the whole area was supplied direct from Stithians.