Water Shortages at Haseley in the Late 1940s

The filling station at Haseley, August 1950.
Image courtesy of RT Bolton. Warwickshire County Record Office reference B.HAS.Bol(P)

Facilities in [our] house were fairly basic; water was drawn by hand pump from a well just a few feet beyond the front door. This source did not last long after the war possibly until late 1948 or early 1949, as a scheme to provide more water for Warwick lowered the water table and the pump was unable to raise any water […]. As an interim measure to provide water for ourselves and others in Haseley, Hatton and Shrewley, a Karrier Bantam lorry with a 600 gallon water tank on the back called twice a week – Tuesdays and Fridays, the allowance was two buckets of water every visit, about eight gallons, which wasn’t a lot. As a consequence of this disruption to supplies a photographer came out from the Birmingham Mail and photographed my mother and myself at the back of the tanker on one of its visits.

Birmingham Mail, Tuesday March 8th 1949

A Warwick Rural District Council water lorry set off today on its twice weekly tour of Hatton, Shrewley Common and Haseley. Come rain, snow or sunshine, many of the villagers turn out with buckets and jugs for their only means of obtaining drinking water. This is no new experience, except that the water lorry has a longer and longer journey, Winter and Summer as wells fail, one after the other, and more families are dependent on the contents of a 600 gallon tank which it carries. Residents who live off the beaten track have their own problems in summer. Buckets have to be left at the roadside because the water is not delivered at a specified time, and hikers, more from thoughtlessness than ill-intent, have been known to wash the country dust from their faces and hands with the family’s precious four-days’ supply. Water collected today must last until Friday. Once the ration was eight gallons each person per week and while supplies are more generous now, there is a limit to the storage capacity in many houses. When supplies of rain water run out and they have been very low this Winter, difficulty is experienced in eking out the allowance. ‘I don’t know how the women with young families manage’ said one resident*, who is lucky enough to have a large soft water tank. ‘It must be a worrying problem, particularly when the allowance has to suffice for all household purposes.’ […] Meanwhile, the arrival of the water lorry is an important, if unexciting, event in the lives of more than 50 families in this rural and waterless part of Warwickshire.

(*It is most likely that the ‘resident’ was my mother as we had a soft water tank and of course the person from the paper would have spoken to her, I can’t imagine anyone else being sought out for a quote.) Mains water was eventually laid via a scheme which connected the local villages to a bore hole at Little Shrewley.

The mains arrives

The contractors used a team of Irish labourers to dig out the trenches for the pipes […] When the trench for the water pipes was within a few feet of the tarmacadamed area that cars pulled onto when filling with petrol, the Irishmen went on strike (over what I never knew – possibly wages or conditions) when work restarted several days later, the last thing my father wanted was for them to strike again when the tarmac pull off had an open trench along it, so he overcame any potential disruption by giving one pound to the foreman to be spent on beer for all the labourers (sounds a small amount now but was obviously enough back in the early 1950s, as a loud cheer went up when the foreman announced it) and work resumed at a cracking pace.

This article is an abridged section from the memoir Four Gallons of Petrol and a Pint of Oil. The full version can be seen at Warwickshire County Record Office, reference B.HAS.Bol(P)

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