Billy McLean’s Well, rear of Waggett’s Yard, Church Street, Ramsey.
Discovery in King Street – Well Uncovered in Excavations
During excavations in the King Street area last Friday, workmen came across an old well and attached to it was a wooden pipe about 12 ft. in length which possibly dates back 200 years.
The well, which is about 12 feet in depth, is a wonderful example of craftsmanship of the old days with each stone set carefully in place and the find was reported to the Manx Museum authorities.
The well is situated in a quarter off King Street, popularly known as ‘Port Arthur’ before the demolition of more recent years.
Old residents of the neighbourhood think that the well is at the spot where there was a cottage occupied by Billy McLean and his wife at one time. And it is recalled that Billy used to complain often about the smells in the house and the theory is that they must have emanated from this disused well.
The wooden pipe, too, is a remarkable example of craftsmanship. The trunk has been hollowed out with a square base and it is almost exactly similar in type to the only other pipe of this kind known to have been preserved from old times. This was found at Ballafletcher, Braddan, and is now on exhibition at the Manx Museum. The well was covered by stone slabs and it must be many years since it was in use for the house occupied by the McLean family, at the rear of Waggett’s yard in Church Street, stood there for a long period before it was demolished with other buildings nearby.
The wooden pipe from Ballafletcher was in use up to 1900.
Mystery of the Wooden Pipe – More About the King Street Well
This is a picture of the wooden pipe discovered recently in an ancient well just off King Street.
Mr Malcolm Cannell, Town Commissioners’ foreman is photographed with the discovery.
Workmen, as previously reported in the Courier, came across this well in the vicinity known locally as ‘Port Arthur’ and it has now been filled in but it is intended that the wooden pipe which was removed to the Town hall, shall be passed to the Manx Museum authorities as they have only one similar pipe in their collection which was found at Ballafletcher, Braddan.
There has been a good deal of speculation as to how the craftsmen of about 250 years ago managed to hollow out the pine trunk to form a water pipe. But in the Manx Museum there are examples of old implements which were used for this operation. It seems that the practice was to use an iron bit to begin with, then a larger scoop was employed and a hand-forged drill from the smithy. The work required considerable skill and judgment.
In this instance it is thought that the pipe was either dropped down the well or perhaps it was laid to connect the well with a source of supply from a stream or something of that kind.
It is pretty certain that the pipe goes back 250 years or so and yet right up to the 1790s there was the backwash of the river running along what is now Church Street.
This part was known as the South Mooragh and if there was water running only about 100 yards away from the well, the question arises as to why it was so situated.
According to a plan of 1791 showing the harbour basin and the river going up Church Street, no well is marked on this spot.
In this old chart the river ran 6 ft. deep at high water and went up to the Old Cross before turning into the sea.
Nor does the 1869 survey map show the King Street well. An old scrap book which was examined at the Museum last weekend, however, provides a clue to the known existence of the well 130 years ago.
A description of Ramsey (about 1830) refers to a well-built drain just having been laid from Market Place up to the new street known as Church Street. And there is reference to the new street becoming a popular thoroughfare.
The writer also states that water carts (which obtained their supplies from Ballure Glen), sold buckets of water in town at a half penny, but it is pointed out there was ‘an excellent iron pump’ at the corner of the Old Cross and another in the Court House wall opposite the Post Office.
It was also recorded that ‘there are two good wells in the south end of the town’ and presumably the King St well would be included in this pair.
There was another well at Captain’s Meadow (Chibbyr-e-Woirrey) and one at the Leighany.
There is an interesting article in the Ramsey Courier, 24 June, 1960 on How Wooden Pipes Were Made.
Per this forum post, King Street was a narrow street running at the left side of St Paul’s (when viewed from Market square) into Strand Street.
The well is filled in and the area developed.
If you have any information on this well please contact me and quote well record number (199) as this will help identify which well you are referring too.