Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Household Advice Manuals - Cassells Household Guide, New and Revised Edition (4 Vol.) c.1880s [no date] - The House - (1) Water Supply - (2) cont. - (3) cont. - (4) cont. - (5) cont.

[-back to main menu-]

Volume 1




THE importance of a regular and sufficient supply of pure and wholesome water in every house, has been abundantly acknowledged by all intelligent people, has been proved by experience, and insisted upon by scientific men. Water enters into the composition of all our food, it is the chief ingredient in all our drinks, and it is largely present in the air we breathe. Its absence for a short time only would be followed by the extinction of our very life. In the present article we shall confine our remarks chiefly to the different qualities of water, and the modes of treating it in given circumstances. The supply of water should be constant, as it contracts impurities when stored; and water may be contaminated readily by any effluvia arising from the sink during the night, when a kitchen has no air admitted. Pure water is not possible with an intermittent supply. As to the quality of the water, one must take it as the water companies provide it, and use the best remedy possible for its purification for drinking purposes. Dr. Bernays' remark upon the purity of water is worth observing attentively. He says, "It is a mistake to suppose that the water supplied by any company is good and wholesome if filtered  - water never occurs in nature in a state of purity; and it is equally a mistake to suppose, because water from a well appears pure and is not conveyed through pipes, that it is necessarily fit to drink. Pure water has neither smell nor taste, is colourless in small quantities, but when viewed in a mass is of a more or less blue tint; poured into a glass, it should be bright, clear, and crystal, and sparkle with the gases it contains." The same authority recommends the use of filtered rain-water for cooking and household purposes, the impurities of this water being removable by filtration, while the animal and vegetable matter which it still contains, in spite of this filtration, can be rendered harmless by boiling the water.
    As a safeguard against all impurities in water-lead excepted, the presence of which is detected by a sweet, mawkish taste - the water should be boiled in a kettle, allowed to rest, then carefully drawn off from the sediment into a jug or pitcher, and aerated by being poured three or four times at a slight elevation from one jug into another.
    It is of the most vital importance to health to ascertain the quality of the well-water if the house depends upon that for its supply. Be certain that it does not contain salts of lime in excess, which render the water hard and unwholesome, nor soluble animal matter, either of which may be largely present, and yet the water be excessively brilliant. If the water but slightly curdles soap, it is good, but if the lather separates into flakes, the water is injurious to health if drunk without first precipitating - in the form of rock or fur in kettles - the lime salts which it contains, and which, when drunk, are by the heat of the stomach deposited instead of being taken into the system. Soft water is a solvent of food; hard water, on the contrary, in which there is an excessive - proportion of salts of lime, occasions indigestion, though that is a minor evil when compared with the mischief it brings about in other ways.
    Rain-water is, next to distilled and boiled water, the best for cooking or drinking, because it very readily; dissolves food in the stomach. If it be filtered, it is then as bright as any other water. Science asserts that pure water is not at all requisite for maintaining health, only it must have no putrefactive matter in it to induce disease. It is said that even the presence of certain animalculae in the water does not injure the system, excepting when they are dead and putrid. If it be true - and there is no reason to doubt it - it is a providential arrangement, for millions must take their drink from ponds and rivers in which animalculae abound.
    [-163-] There are numerous organic impurities, both of animal and vegetable matter, existing in water, which have their source in the percolations of water through cultivated lands, and consists of deposits of sewage matter. Their presence can only be detected by an analytical chemist, excepting when it is found that putrefaction readily commences if the cistern or reservoir be covered. Matters in a state of decay possess but little, if any, oxygen; and if deprived of what they have, they form themselves into new life; but if once the air be freely admitted, the process often stops, and the deleterious matter passes off in gases. Thames water, when it is taken to sea in casks, soon becomes intolerably putrescent from the gases generated in it; but on rocking them, and exposing it to the atmosphere, the water becomes perfectly sweet and wholesome. All these organic impurities (that is, those which arise from the growth and decay of vegetable and animal life) can be rendered harmless or be consumed by the filtration of water through animal charcoal. Wood charcoal, according to Professor Frankland, has not this property. Dr. Bernays, on the contrary, asserts that wood charcoal removes both smell and taste from foul water, and it is therefore well adapted to serve as a filter. It is a well-known fact that meat which has turned putrid from heat or a thunder-storm, if it be boiled for ten minutes in boiling water, with a lump of charcoal, is thereby rendered as good as ever.
    Dr. Edward Rivers agrees with Professor Frankland in stating that "charcoal obtained from animal matter alone appears to possess the power of removing matter from solution in water to any extent. Wood charcoal has, however, been very much used, but with the result, consequently, of only aiding in mechanically filtering the water." But even animal charcoal after a time loses most of its purifying power, and when this is the case it will have to be renewed.
    In a lecture - one of a series - delivered by Professor Frankland at the Royal Institution, he stated that lead, poisonous as it was, did not contaminate hard water, and that "soft water, circulating through leaden pipes, is soon entirely protected by the formation of an insoluble coating on the interior of the pipes;" that "tinning the interior of the pipes is dangerous, inasmuch as abrasions would lead to the formation of a voltaic circuit, and a more rapid solution of the lead." Dr. Bernays affirms that spring water may be kept with safety in leaden cisterns, provided the covers be of wood, unleaded; otherwise the pure water which rises in vapour, and settles in drops on the lid, would, if it were of lead, slowly dissolve the latter in small quantities, which would then drop into the water.
    It appears, then, that water is best contained in uncovered cisterns, because the air prevents or annihilates putrefaction; that the cisterns or reservoirs should not contain much more water than is needed for daily consumption, or it becomes stagnant from the want of oxygen, and its organic matter putrefies ; that putrid water can be rendered sweet and wholesome by filtering it through animal charcoal, made by strongly heating bones in vessels from which air is excluded; though, according to Dr. Bernays, simple wood charcoal will purify water equally as well.
    Water should never be allowed to stagnate; the air should be admitted to it freely, by leaving exposed cisterns and reservoirs uncovered. Water which is hard from excess of carbonate of lime (chalk) can be rendered soft by long and fast boiling, by sulphate of lime (gypsum), by carbonate of soda, or by potash added twenty-four hours before the water is needed, or by exposing it in shallow tanks two or three days to the air. The remedy being so simple, persons living where the mountain-limestone or chalk abounds need not use hard water, nor need they drink it where gypsum is found.
    Nitrates - that is, combinations of nitric acid with the other constituents of water - are injurious in drinking- waters. Dr. Lankester, during a lecture at the Royal Institution, analysed the water from a well-known favourite pump. It was found to be bright, cool, fresh, and tasteless to the palate, but, owing to a peculiar combination of nitric acid with the water, upon a chemical test being applied, it yielded a large amount of deleterious matter. Nitric acid decomposes all vegetable solutions, and when it exists in impure water, is highly detrimental to health; nevertheless, in a diluted form, taken in distilled water, it is not only one of the most refreshing of beverages, but is also a good tonic, and has been found useful in asthma and hooping-cough.
    If a cistern or reservoir of drinking-water be placed in a scullery, or where offensive smells arise from any cause, it should be closely covered, for the reason that water quickly absorbs offensive gases, and is thereby rendered totally unfit for drinking purposes. It is a well-known fact that if a pail of water be set in a newly-painted room, the smell of the paint is rapidly absorbed by the water; and in the same way water standing for a night in an occupied sleeping-room is rendered unwholesome for drinking.
    It is always advisable to have the water-pipes and cisterns brought inside the house, to prevent the water from freezing and the pipes from bursting. Exposed pipes should be covered with straw bands, which is the least permanent, effective and troublesome method of protection. 
    The Board of Health enumerates several qualities which water should possess-namely, Softness ; freedom from animal and vegetable matter; aeration by a pure atmosphere; freedom from earthy and mineral matter; medium temperature ; limpidity or clearness ; absence of special flavour or taste. These desiderata cannot all be had; but, as we have before observed, most if not all the evils complained of in water ordinarily supplied or obtained from wells can be remedied by boiling it for a long time, then aerating it, when cold, by pouring it at a height from one jug to another; by this means the flatness and deadness, usually the characteristics of boiled water, will be entirely got rid of, and the water will be as fresh and bright as ever. The safest, and indeed the only thorough remedy for all impurities, is distillation but this is of course a more tedious and troublesome operation.
    In a future article it is our intention to give some further information respecting pipes for the conveyance of water, cisterns for containing it, and other matters bearing upon our water supply.




IN building or purchasing a house in London and other large towns, we usually find some system of general drainage, if the roads have been formed, and therefore we may confine our attention solely to the proper drainage of the house.
    In country places where there is no system of drainage, each house has to be drained separately, and the subject being more complicated, professional advice should be taken as to the best mode of disposing of the drainage.
    There are two systems of drainage generally adopted in the country?viz., by draining into some adjacent water, or by cesspools and liquid manure tanks. The first mode of getting rid of the drainage is generally considered preferable to that of cesspools, provided that the water we drain into is some river or running stream of sufficient depth and velocity to carry off the drainage ; for if the water be shallow, or merely a pond that is likely to become stagnant, we are in danger of poisoning not only the water but the air of the neighbourhood, and so of becoming a serious nuisance to our neighbours.
    Cesspools should be carefully constructed of good substantial brickwork, built perfectly impervious, so as to prevent the possibility of escape of liquid sewage ; for this reason they should be sufficiently far removed from the nearest point of any dwelling-house?at least, a hundred feet?to allow of the cesspool being periodically opened for the purpose of cleansing or emptying. Care should also be taken that the cesspool is not constructed near any well, where water might become contaminated by any percolation of drainage matter from the cesspool. The drain-pipes from the house in connection with the cesspool should not be laid along the walks in the garden, or in any position where it may be inconvenient to open up the ground for the purpose of examining them. If possible, every cesspool should have an overflow, pipe to take off the surplus liquid matter, which is comparatively innocuous, and can be drained off into' some neighbouring ditch or water or liquid manure tank. By this means the contents of the cesspool can always be maintained at the same level, and all danger of an overflow is avoided; moreover, the necessity of frequent emptying is obviated, a practice always to be avoided as much as possible.27c.gif (18718 bytes)
    The uses of cesspools in conjunction with open privies in London and other large towns, is, we are thankful to say, now almost unknown ; and, indeed, where there is a general system of drainage, such a practice is illegal, and cannot exist. But where such things do still exist, every precaution should be taken not only that the privy is properly trapped, but that it should be supplied with water, and the cesspool substantially constructed of brickwork with an overflow. For cottages in rural districts the cesspool might take the form of a liquid manure tank, one of which might be made large enough to serve two or three cottages. The liquid contents can be drawn up by means of a well and pump, but whether a cesspool or manure tank be employed to take the soilage, in both; cases the water-closet should be trapped with an ordinary syphon trap, and if constructed over the cesspool or tank, an extra length of pipe should be affixed to dip into the sewage. By this means the air of the cottage in the immediate vicinity is kept comparatively pure.
    Construction of House Drains.?House drains are generally constructed of two materials?viz., of brick, or earthenware and stoneware. The chief point to be considered in the construction of drains is, that they should be perfectly air tight and thoroughly efficient-that is to 'say, they should offer no impediment of any kind to the easy passage of any sewage matter that may have to pass through them. Drains constructed wholly of brick on this account are unsuitable for ordinary drainage, par-[-248-]ticularly in small houses, as, from their mode of construction (of rectangular bricks and mortar or cement) they cannot efficiently fulfil these requirements ; they cannot be made perfectly air tight, thus allowing the escape of noxious gases and perhaps liquid matter, and the imperfections and irregularities which necessarily occur in the construction of the joints, seriously interfere with the easy and free passage of sewage matter, particularly when it is reduced to small quantities of semi-liquid matter. There is no portion of ordinary house building so likely to be neglected and carelessly done as the construction of the drains and unless the workmen are thoroughly super- intended, constant mistakes 27d.gif (26752 bytes)will occur which cannot be rectified after the drains are covered in and the house inhabited, without great annoyance and discomfort to the inmates ; thus, we have known instances where drains have become choked up, causing, of course, the most unpleasant smells in the house (which are very often put down to other causes), merely through the carelessness of the workmen, who in building the drains, have allowed large pieces of mortar to tumble into the drain?this is a very common occurrence in brick drains. For these and other reasons we confidently recommend pipe drainage as being in every way preferable to brick, particularly for ordinary sized houses ; great care, however, should also be taken in their construction. We think the best drain-pipes that are now made are the vitrified stone-ware ; these are to be preferred to the glazed earthen- ware pipes which are cheaper, but are neither so strong nor durable as the vitrified, and the inside is apt to become corroded with the sewage matter, which, when removed, causes the half-burnt earthenware to absorb the foul water, and thus the pipe soon becomes decayed and worthless. There can be no falser economy than the use of inferior materials for drains, for if they are not properly constructed in the first instance and of good materials, they are sure to become an endless source of annoyance. Soil pipes from water-closets when possible should be of lead, not iron or earthenware, the latter are of course cheaper than lead, and galvanised iron pipes are therefore very commonly used in cheaply built houses. They are not, however, to be recommended, as they are sure to corrode in the inside and require repair, which, from the ordinary position of soil pipes inside houses, either in angles or in chases in the walls, is always to be avoided as much as possible. Waste water-pipes from sinks may be of lead or earthenware, though lead are of course preferable ; great care should be taken that they are not made too small, as from the greasy matters that are sure to pass through them, they are soon apt to get choked.
    Size of Drains.?With respect to the size of drains, the chief point to be remembered is that, whilst they are made sufficiently large to ensure an immediate discharge of all the matter that may have to pass through them, at the same time care should be taken that they are not made too large to ensure this object. There is quite as much danger in having the drains too large as too small, as in the former case, when the sewage matter is reduced in quantity it is apt to become sluggish, and will not pass freely through the drains, particularly when the fall is very small, as is but too often the case.
    Fall.?House drains should not have a fall from their head to the junction with the sewer of less than one inch in every ten feet, and more than this where possible; unfortunately, however, from the prevailing custom, particularly in London, of having all the kitchen offices in the basement of the house, and below the level of the streets, there is great difficulty in getting a good fall for the house drains, which are often laid with little or no fall at all. We think, however, that for small houses containing from eight to twelve rooms, a six-inch pipe drain (if laid to a proper fall) will be found amply sufficient, whilst a nine-inch drain will suffice for houses of the largest size. Pipes of larger size than this can only be required in very exceptional cases, such as schools, hospitals, and manufactories, or where there may be large quantities of water used. A five-inch soil pipe will be found sufficient for water-closets, and from one and a half to three inches for the waste pipes of sinks. Care should be taken to see that the joints of the drain pipes are properly executed in cement of the best quality, and not in clay or mortar, it being of the greatest importance to prevent the possibility of any escape of effluvia or liquid matter through the joints. The pipes should be laid with their socket joints in the direction of the fall. In cheaply built houses it is not an uncommon practice for workmen to connect together drain pipes of unequal diameter, concealing the ill-fitting joints by cement. We need not say that such a dangerous practice will be sure to attract attention sooner or later, as, in truth, all the dodges that may be resorted to by careless work- men in indifferently built houses. The connection between the house drain and the public sewer is a matter of such importance that it is now generally undertaken by the district board of works, under the direction of their own surveyor and workmen; and in London and most towns it is the duty of the board of works to see that all house drains are properly constructed and trapped, and they have power to compel the owners to have the same altered and improved when not so done. We may add that the level of the drains should always be kept as high as possible, so that the connection with the main sewer may be above the invert. It is not an uncommon practice to find houses built in new districts before the roads are properly formed and the main drainage completed, and in such cases cesspools are made in the rear of the houses to receive the drainage until the main sewer is formed; and when the connection is made between the house drainage and the sewer, the cesspool is apt to be forgotten or not properly emptied and filled up, thus causing great annoyance.
    Traps.?We come now to perhaps the most important portion of our subject?viz., the trapping of drains or the means that are generally taken to prevent the escape of foul air from the drains or sewers into houses or yards. The preservation of the purity of air in every house, and therefore to a great extent the health and comfort of the inmates, depends very much upon this apparently simple question. In the first place, as simplicity should be the [-249-] guiding principle in everything connected with house drains, so the number of connections that may have to be formed with the drain should be as few as possible, as each junction will require to be separately trapped in addition to the connection between the drain and the main sewer. The traps should be of the simplest form, and the least expensive ; perhaps the best form of trap and the least liable to get out of order or require cleaning is the common syphon trap, made of the same material and of the same length as the drain pipe. One of these traps should be inserted at the foot of every soil or waste-water pipe where it is connected with the house drain, and also at the junction with the sewer. Should there be only one water-closet to the house, it may be situated near to the sink, so that the refuse water may enter the same trap as the water-closet, and so help to flush the drain. In all cases, however, the drain should be flushed with water along its entire course, and where the waste from the sink or a rain-water pipe may not be sufficient, a supply must be procured from the cistern by means of the over-flow pipe, of which we shall speak presently. With respect to the ordinary bell traps for sinks and areas, much objection has been found in consequence of the facility with which they are apt to get out of order ; this more often arises, however, from their misuse than from any great fault in their construction. Thus, through the carelessness of servants, the waste pipes often get choked up with grease and other matter which should not be allowed to enter the trap at all. The bell trap is then, of course, removed in order to clear away the obstruction, and put on one side for a time (perhaps gets broken), allowing, of course, the free ingress of foul air into the house not only from the house drain, but the sewer. The remedy adopted in some cases of soldering the top of the bell trap down is, perhaps, worse than the disease, as this will not prevent the accumulation of grease. Various improvements have been made in the ordinary bell traps.
    The accompanying drawings show the complete arrangement of the drainage for water- closets, lavatory, sink, and yard for an ordinary house, in which the chief object has been to collect all the waste-water pipes at the head of the drain behind the water-closets, in order to flush the drains along their entire length.
    The basement plan, Fig. 4, shows a scullery twelve feet by eight feet six inches, with copper and sink ; behind this there is a water-closet for servants ; on the ground floor above, Fig. 3, a smoking or gentleman's room, with fireplace and lavatory; and another water-closet above the one below. The other plan, Fig. 2, shows the lead or zinc flat above, with a cistern to supply the two water-closets, lavatory, and sink, also a small skylight to light the water-closet. The section, as shown in Fig. 1, is taken through the two rooms and both the water-closets, and is intended to show the various soil and water pipes with their connections, &c. The waste pipes from the lavatory and sink are intended to lead into the water-closets to assist in flushing the pipes. There is also a junction between the rain-water pipe and the drain. In addition to this the head of the drain would be ventilated by the rain-water pipe, of which we shall speak presently. All the traps are indicated on the plans by the letter T. The water-closet on the ground floor is trapped with a D trap (as being a superior closet), while the other water-closet in the basement would have a stoneware pan and syphon trap ; there would be a syphon trap also at the foot of the rain-water pipe, and there should also be a cast-lead syphon trap to the lavatory and sink, but no bell traps are used, the sink having merely a grating to prevent the passage of rubbish. Underneath the foot of the rain-water pipe, a small brick cesspool about fourteen inches square should be constructed, covered with a five-hole sink stone to receive all rubbish that is sure to be washed down the pipe, and which it is desirable to exclude from the drain. The cesspool can easily be cleaned out by merely removing the stone covering. A syphon trap is fixed in the same, and connected with the drain. This arrangement is shown in the illustration, Fig. 4.
    The Ventilation of Drains is another matter that is not so generally attended to as its importance deserves. In most houses the only mode of ventilating the drains is by means of the rain-water pipes ; when this is the case, the head of the rain-water pipe should on no account be situated near any window (as is very often the case), thus allowing the entry of foul air direct from the drains into the bedrooms. The better plan is to construct a proper ventilating pipe or shaft direct from the drains, and terminating above the roof, where the foul air is perfectly harmless ; another plan would be to utilise tall chimneys as ventilating shafts; in any case the ventilation of drains is a most important matter, and should be as near the head of the drain as possible. Traps, however good may be their construction, are always liable to get out of order, and cannot be implicitly relied upon to prevent the passage of foul air, as the water in them may become dried up by evaporation.
Inspection of Drains.?In concluding these remarks upon drainage, we would add that it is most important to have ready access to the drains for the purpose of inspecting or cleansing them. Most people are acquainted with the serious inconvenience of being obliged to have the drains uncovered; thus it is most important, in the first place, that the drains should be so laid as to cause the least possible inconvenience when this is required to be done ; and we should very strongly urge every one who rents or purchases a house to procure from the builder a rough plan, the preparation of which need cost but very little, showing the complete system of the drainage. Some people are of opinion that drains should never be laid inside the house at all, and that all water-closets and sinks should be situated close to an external wall, so that the soil and refuse water may be [-250-] discharged into the drain outside the house. No doubt this would be an excellent plan, as it would, in a great measure, prevent much annoyance to the inmates of a house ; but, unfortunately for many reasons, it is very difficult to carry out, more particularly in towns, where the water-closet is often placed in the yard, or in the rear of the house, and has to be connected with the main sewer which runs along the street in front. We think, however, that the inconvenience of the plan now generally adopted in towns, viz., of carrying the drain through the house, is capable of being reduced to a minimum by simply adopting ordinary precautions, and seeing that the work is thoroughly and efficiently carried out.
    We have endeavoured in these remarks upon drainage to render the subject as intelligible as possible to our readers. In conclusion, we would again say that it is a matter that should never be neglected, and we earnestly recommend any of our readers who may intend purchasing, renting, or building a house to ascertain that at least three conditions have been fulfilled with regard to the drainage :?
    I. That the house has a separate and distinct drainage, properly connected with the main sewer.
    2. That the house drain is efficiently constructed of proper stoneware pipes laid to a sufficient fall.
    3. That all connections with the drain are properly trap5ed to prevent' the escape of foul air.



WATER SUPPLY (continued from p. 163).

27a.gif (31523 bytes)    IT is somewhat strange that, notwithstanding the number of valuable discoveries in metallurgical chemistry which are day by day brought to the notice of the scientific world, lead, as a material for the manufacture of water-pipes, cisterns, conduits, &c., remains unsuperseded. Its unfitness for such a purpose is beyond dispute, and there can be no doubt that a great number of obscure ailments and protracted diseases (which, although combated with all the appliances and remedies at the command of medical science, obstinately retain their hold on the constitution of the sufferer) might be, by the aid of careful analysis, traced to minute proportions of the salts of lead held in solution by the water in common use, and with it passed into the system. The quantities of metallic salt thus held and borne onwards by water are not unfrequently so infinitesimal that ordinary tests for its detection fail, until large quantities of the water to be experimented on are reduced and concentrated by the process of evaporation. Yet it is by the continued introduction of homoeopathic doses of metallic poison, that the strongest constitutions are gradually broken down by causes which lie beyond the ken of friends, or even medical men of average attainments.
    The ease with which the metal lead can be bent, converted into tubes, fused, cut, soldered, and jointed, tends greatly to induce those engaged in laymg down a water-supply to make use of it in preference to other materials, and so long as lead water-pipes can, without a breach of the law, be cramped to our walls and made to invade our dwellings, so long shall we have to contend with the evils they bring with them. And here we may repeat a remark made in a former paper that the widespread notion that filters possess the power of freeing water from mineral impurities, is entirely erroneous. Gaseous and some other contaminations are to be removed by carefully-conducted filtration, but solutions of mineral salts remain as such, and are unacted on by any filter properly so called. However, it is not our intention here to enter into a discussion on filters, as their mode of construction and management will be fully considered as we proceed with our subject. Earthenware, iron, wood, glass and zinc are all, in addition to lead, more or less made use of as materials for the manufacture of water-pipes, according to the position, &c., in which they are to be placed. Hollow bamboos are extensively used in tropical countries in lieu of artificial tubing, for the conveyance and protection of water for both domestic and agricultural purposes. In this country much outlay of money, inconvenience, and uncertainty are saved by the enterprise of public water-companies, who do that for the householder which, in a colony or partially- settled district he would have to do for himself - viz., discover a source from which a supply of moderately pure water can be obtained, and then, by the use of pipes, tubes, or other contrivances, bring it to his own door.
    We will leave a consideration of the sources from which water is best obtained for a future paper, and deal with a case in which water has been laid on in the usual manner, subject to the periodical turnings on and off by the water company's servants. In order that a sufficient supply should be? collected during the influx to last until the time arrives for a further supply, cisterns, barrels, tanks, and a whole host of other reservoirs are had recourse to. In bygone days it was the custom to watch the supply-pipe during the period of inflow, and when the store vessel was filled, a tap was turned, in order to prevent overflow, waste, and inconvenience. This system, although efficient enough when strictly carried out, led to endless domestic strife when neglected. Water turned on during the absence or slumbers of the watcher overflowed the barrels or cisterns, deluged the house or court, and caused confusion worse confounded. The labours of the ingenious were therefore directed to the manufacture of an automaton, or self-acting water-watcher, which should be always on the alert and prepared to govern the supply, come when it would. This important duty is to some extent performed by the common form of ball-cock. This arrangement, although extremely simple in its mode of action, is so little understood by the majority of house-keepers, that it may be well to make its performances and shortcomings clear to even the most unmechanical. In order to do this, we must refer the reader to Fig. 1 in the annexed illustration. This shows the cistern at a low ebb, the surface of the water having sunk to a low level. The hollow metal-ball, A, which floats on and is supported by it, sinks also and, as it drops lower and lower, its stern or lever n is also depressed, and, like a long powerful cross handle, gradually turns the barrel of the cock, or tap, to which it is secured by a square and pin, and thus causes the water to flow. It will be observed that in Fig. 1 the cistern is shown as nearly empty, the ball being sunk [-258-] as low as it is possible for it to go. This tap, C, although placed sideways, is, in internal arrangement, exactly like a common beer or spirit-cock.
    As the supply of water increases in bulk, and height of surface, the ball, like a metal bubble, forces its way upwards with the rising tide, until at length, on reaching the position, as shown in Fig. 2, the inward flow is stopped by the turning of the tap to the shut position. So it will be at once seen that, high or low, the ball follows the line of surface. This condition of affairs would be satisfactory enough, provided it would always last. Unfortunately, however, certain chemical laws step in and upset mechanical arrangements. Constant exposure to air, moisture, and the acid impurities held in solution by water, causes oxidation of the metal composing the ball to take place. Minute pin-hole-like orifices rapidly form, and through these water freely passes. The ball, instead of a float becomes a sinker, keeping the supply-tap always open, and if a capacious waste-pipe, as a precaution in event of accidents, has not been thought- fully provided, not only unnecessary expenditure of water, but destruction of valuable property by wet may be the result.
    Not only the metal globe, but the tap as well is not unfrequently so much oxidised as to become inefficient. The barrel of the tap at times becomes so tight in its cylinder from this cause that the lever is not powerful enough to turn it. In this case, too much or too little water maybe suffered to pass through it, just as the orifice in the barrel happened to be turned large or small when motion ceased. So it will be seen that the ball-cock is liable to derangement from' several causes, which, being familiar to the reader, admit, in many cases, of remedy, or at least palliation. Modern engineering skill has, however, stepped in to the aid of the consumer of water, and a far more perfect form of both supply and expense tap than that just described has lately been introduced to our notice. This arrangement, appropriately named the "Economiser," is represented in the accompanying illustrations. Fig. 3 is a sectional view of the supply- regulating apparatus. Instead of acting as a tap, the Economiser works as a valve, which drops by its own weight and is raised by a floating cup, E,  placed at the end of the lever, instead of a hollow ball. The advantages gained over the old arrangement by the new one are as follows :-Perfect freedom from the chance of the float becoming a sinker by oxidation and perforation; self-power of closing the valve in event of the lever being broken; freedom from liability to become fixed or "stuck" as it is called; and rapidity and delicacy of regulating power, which is so great that on a decrease of three-fourths of an inch of water taking place in the cistern the Economiser is in a position to pour in a supply to the extent of its full-bore capacity as a compensation. Instead of metal bearing against metal, as in a common tap, the bearing- flange of the Economiser rests on a thick seating of india-rubber, as shown at D, in Fig. 3 - which is a sectional view of the Economiser as applied to the inflow - F, its lever, shown broken on account of its length. Fig. 4 represents the arrangement as used for drawing off liquids by hand. On the lever, G, being pressed backward, the valve is opened, and when the pressure is reversed, it falls back to its closed position by self-action, thus guarding against all loss by waste.
    The subject of cisterns and water-reservoirs, to which contrivances such as those just described can be applied, will be treated of in a future paper.
    We shall thus exhaust the subject, as far as those of our readers are concerned who have to depend upon a public company for their water supply. We shall then pass on to the consideration of wells and pumps, and the sources from which water is best obtained, both as regards its quantity and purity.



WATER SUPPLY (continued from p. 258).

THE materials from which water-cisterns are made vary according to the means, requirements, and fancy of those who employ them - from the humble and unpretending barrel of the cottager to the costly iron tank of the manufacturer or theatrical lessee - and there are ample reasons why different materials and forms of construction should be had recourse to. Cisterns may be placed at the top of a building, and so arranged that a large body of water may, in case of accident from fire, be poured rapidly and forcibly downward. In such a case as this it is highly necessary that great strength, combined with comparative lightness and facility of attachment, should be possessed by the arrangement. Galvanised sheet-iron, angled and girdered, is perhaps the best material that could be employed. It not unfrequently happens that a cavity excavated in the earth beneath some back-kitchen floor is made use of as a chamber for the spring-up of water. In such a situation as this, iron would be inapplicable, and it is therefore usual to employ brickwork evenly covered with Roman cement. It is a very common custom to place cisterns of moderate capacity on the outside of dwelling- houses, where they are mounted on brickwork supports, and protected from the intrusion of foreign substances by a small roof. This is probably the most common form of cistern used in this country; and, without question, the best material for its construction is cut and planed slate, as produced at the Delabole and some other of our great slate quarries. So admirably is this stone adapted for use in the arts, that it is worked with the greatest ease with the saw, plane, chisel, and drill. Huge planks - as they may be called - of clean blue slate are first reduced to the required size and thickness by saws and planes driven by engine-power. They are then measured, ruled, grooved at the edges, fitted together with rods, which are nutted and screwed at their ends. These bars pass through holes, drilled for their reception, outside the joining groove or rabbet, thus admitting of the five pieces constituting the cistern (viz., the two sides, two ends, and bottom) being either put together or taken apart by the use of a common nut-spanner. Every cistern of this kind has a match-mark cut on each of its pieces, and the contents in gallons painted on the outside. Lead cisterns we have already referred to as being highly objectionable as reservoirs for the reception of water intended for either drinking or culinary purposes. As a lining for a closet-cistern, or in situations where rain-water is stored up for washing, gardening, or general cleaning-up purposes, lead answers well enough. Do not, however, allow water so collected on any pretence to be either made use of in the kitchen, or given to horses, cattle, poultry, or dogs. When barrels are used to contain water intended for general household use, they should be first well scraped [-318-] on the inside, and then be carefully lined with a thick coating of clean, well-melted pitch. An unpleasant taste will be communicated to the water for a short time, but this is greatly decreased by the use of a good-sized cabbage-net full of charcoal. This should have a stone placed in it, in order to make it sink. Fasten a string to its top ; let it hang at about the centre of the cask ; lay a stick across the top of the barrel, and fasten your string to its middle; your charcoal-net will thus be suspended just at mid-water, where it should remain until all taste and smell of pitch has passed away. No portion of the water-supply arrangements of our cities and towns is so generally - we might even say, almost universally-defective and wasteful as that constructed to regulate the flow of water through closets and it is because the majority of mechanical arrangements made use of for this purpose are more or less inefficient that householders are compelled, in self- defence, to fasten up the flush-plug, and allow a large quantity of water to be expended, when, by proper mechanical adjustment, enough water to meet sanitary requirements is suffered to run, whilst wasteful expenditure is entirely prevented.
27b.gif (35260 bytes)
    A modification of the improved water-valve and cup- float, described in our last paper, has been lately applied to this purpose by a very well-known provincial firm. This plan is as follows :-A reference to the annexed illustration will show at a glance the manner in which the whole arrangement is carried out. Unlike the majority of contrivances constructed for flushing purposes, the new "Economiser," as it is called, governs expenditure and Influx at the same time, by a system of both floating and sinking power. The cistern to which it is attached is constructed in compartments, so that the time (a minute or thereabouts) which is occupied in restoring the balance of the contrivance, after pull on the lever-chain, M, is made, must pass before the flushing ceases. The bulk of the stream thus poured down being regulated by the size of the orifice X is amply sufficient to clear all the pipes and tubes thoroughly without allowing the least waste to take place.
    A reference to the annexed illustration and the letters used to indicate the particular parts of the arrangement, will at once serve to explain the mode of construction and operation of this simple and useful arrangement :-A is a cast-iron cistern, divided into two compartments; B the flushing compartment; C the supply: the whole being about 16 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 12 inches deep. In compartment C the "Economiser" valve D and cylinder E are fixed; while in compartment B a flushing-valve, F, through which an air-tube, G, passes, is fixed. From this joint a connection is made with the closet. H is a valve fixed to the partition, and communicates with the flushing compartment B. Each valve is acted upon by means of the weighted lever K K. By drawing down this lever at M, the valve F is raised and the valve H closed. The water in compartment B, passing through the aperture X, flushes the closet. On releasing the lever, the opposite action takes place - the valve F closes and the valve H opens, admitting the reserve supply contained in compartment c into the flushing compartment H, while the "Economiser," left to its own free and certain action, supplies the deficiency to the reserve. By this arrangement it is evident that the lever cannot be fixed in such a position as to cause a constant flow of water down the flush-pipe into the closet; before the flush-valve is opened, the valve H is closed, and the supply from the reserve cut off. To obtain a second flushing, the cistern must be allowed to fill in the ordinary manner. Our next paper will treat of the supply of cisterns, &c., so situated as not to be replenished from accumulations of water stored up by public companies end carried through underground tubes and pipes.



WATER SUPPLY (continued from p. 318).

THE dwellers in cities and large towns are generally so well supplied by public companies with good and wholesome water, that little attention is paid by them to either its obtainment or preservation from contamination. Those who reside in small towns, villages, the rural districts, newly-settled countries, or in camp, must, in self-defence, exercise their ingenuity and powers of resource in the matter of water-collecting and stowing for use. There are several sources from which a supply of water may be obtained; some of them so obvious as to need little remark here. Rivers, lakes, and springs, rainfall, and showers link in one system with the waters of the deep sea. The moisture-laden clouds, driven landwards by the gale, meet and are broken by the high rugged peaks of some mountain-chain, or pour out their contents as they sail onwards. It is at all times desirable, when entering a dwelling-place, to make proper provision for the collection of rain water. We have already spoken of the different forms of cisterns and reservoirs in general use. These, to be of value, must be furnished with a carefully arranged set of tubes and water-channels, so placed as to receive the water as it flows from the ridges, and convey it, without loss, to the chamber placed for its reception. It is somewhat curious, notwithstanding the importance to be attached to a well-constructed rainwater system as applied to buildings, that so little care is taken in fitting and adjusting the channels and tubes. The latter are too commonly so attached to the outsides of the walls, that at the least interruption to the downward passage of water they overflow, and saturated bricks and mortar are the result. A variety of causes are in force to produce obstruction?dead leaves, broken cement, and the thousand and one nameless waifs and strays which, wind-drifted, at length find a lodgment in the channel, collect, and gather together as they are carried onward, until at length, forming a mass, they either fall into the box head of the wall tube and stop the orifice at its bottom, or form a sort of dam in the channel itself, which causes the water to flow in a broad stream out, over, and probably ultimately find its way to the ceilings or paper hangings of apartments. A small perforated zinc grating or strainer, placed at intervals of ten or twelve feet in the channels at runways, as shown in Fig. 1, will tend greatly to prevent ponding-up, as no accumulation of small substances can take place?each grate keeps back its own share, and prevents gathering together by onward flow. An occasional cleaning out will keep the grates in a state of efficiency. The end of autumn, after the leaves have fallen, should be chosen as a time for a general inspection and clearance of the channels. The construction of the box or funnel heads of the main downfall tubes in common use is, as a general rule, very faulty in form. Fig. 2 shows a section of the ordinary tube head, and the manner in which a collection of leaves, straw, sticks, &c. &c. effectually and quickly choke it. Tapering rapidly to the escape-hole at the bottom, the impediment concentrates itself, and becomes impacted by downward pressure of water. Fig. 3 shows a section of a form of funnel or box head rendered free from the chance of being choked - A is a piece of tube the same diameter as the main pipe B ; C is a cone of coarse perforated zinc, soldered to the mouth of the upright tube, like the head of a sharp-pointed pepper-dredger. All substances entering the box with water will have a tendency to gravitate to the bottom, where they will remain far below the holes in the cone. The point being sharp admits of no lodgment ; and as the water sinks in the box, stray floating fragments of matter will fall with it. D shows where two or three holes are made in the tube, in order to keep the bottom of the box dry, by gradual draining through of any matter which may collect below the holes of the cone. Sparrows are most industrious collectors of all sorts of odds and ends ; and, therefore, care should be taken to stop carefully the line of space between the lower border of the roof and the edge of the water channel, in order to prevent them from gaining an entrance.
      It will not unfrequently happen, that although no surface-water is to be discovered on lands in other respects desirable for occupation, an abundant store exists below overlaying deposits ; therefore it is that the well-sinker's aid becomes necessary. There are many methods by which a well may be sunk, dependent on the nature of the deposit to be penetrated, and the depth to which the sinkings are to be carried. The simple shaft, sunk in the earth until water is reached, has been had recourse to from the very earliest ages. Then the Chinese, discovering that a small orifice produced water freely, employed a species of shallow pumping borer or bit, which, driven by manual labour applied to a long bamboo lever, kept pecking at the earth, until it was filled through an orifice in the bottom. When charged, it was drawn to the surface, and its contents cast out, and so on, until by the aid of water occasionally thrown into the newly-made well or hole, it was carried to the required depth, to reach the buried supply of water. A bamboo, with a split end, is not unfrequently used to form a small well ; thrust continually up and down in a hole made in the surface-soil for its reception, it gathers together, between the split up joints of wood, such gravel, stones, or sand as may oppose its downward progress. When thoroughly filled, it is lifted from the hole and beaten until relieved of its burden. Wells in sandy regions may be sunk by first building a circular wall of stones. The well sinkers then enter the circle and dig out the sand within, until the wall sinks to the surface level. Another wall is then built on the first, and so on, until by alternate building and digging the required depth is reached. This process, although most ingenious, is extremely tedious.
      There are yet several sources from which a supply of water may be obtained, the consideration of which must be reserved for our next paper.


[--grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, 
(ie. where new page begins), ed.--]

source: Cassells Household Guide, c.1880s