The New Inn Well House....
The well house at New Inn is an eighteenth-century Grade II Listed Building. In the last 50 years, since the well house stopped being used to supply water to the former public house, the building had deteriorated to a fragile condition and was in danger of being lost. The front wall had collapsed and the roof had become overgrown and near to falling in. The owner had battled to preserve as much as possible, but with limited funds.
In 2004 the newly formed Village Alive Trust, as a Building Preservation Trust, took on the task of raising funds to restore the building, to make it safe and accessible, and to preserve this rare and unusual example of our rural heritage.
Working from photographs taken when the building was standing, the New Inn well house has been restored using traditional methods and materials. The penetrating roots of the overgrowth have been removed. The original building stones, fortunately retained on site, have been re-used and, with lime mortar, render and wash the well house has been restored. The specialist contractor's mason has rebuilt the roof and front wall to its original design. The project has been overseen by a conservation architect and was completed in August 2005.
The well house before restoration ...
New Inn farmhouse was originally a coach house. The New Inn, built about 500 years ago on the main route from Monmouth to the Abergavenny-Grosmont road. In 1954 the Graig Estate sold off its land holding in Monmouthshire as smaller parcels of farmland, the then landlord living in Australia. The New Inn, as a public house and farm, was purchased by the parents of the current owner. The well house formed a part of that parcel and continued to be the main water supply to the public house. The following year the New Inn ceased trading as a public house and concentrated on its farming business. It still relied on the well house for its water until the mid 1960's, when the supply became inconsistent. Other arrangements were sought until mains water was introduced in the 1970's.
The well house, now about 200 years old, had started to fail. The fresh water was leaking away and ground water seeping back in from the surrounding soil. Without proper maintenance the structure started to deteriorate, became overgrown and eventually unstable. The front wall collapsed. However, the collapse of the front wall has provided a view of how the building was originally put together.
Internally the well house measures 3.5m x 3.2m and is over 2m below ground level at the rear wall. The water level came to about 1.5m deep, providing a reservoir capacity of about 17,000 litres (3,700 gallons). The structure is of stone build, probably locally quarried Old Red Sandstone, the lower walls formed in 'random rubble - brought to courses' held together with a traditional lime mortar. The cistern was lime plastered to just above the maximum capacity level. The lime mortar and render would have had a water-resistant additive, such as tallow. Lime is antiseptic, which would benefit the quality of the water. The ceiling was lime-washed, again the properties of the lime providing an anti-fungal finish.
The vaulted ceiling is constructed with pitched stonework, above which is a triangular void running the full length of the building. This may have been a method of reducing the amount of stone needed, or it could have been part of an ingenious method of moderating the temperature inside the building. The outer roof slopes are also of pitched stone, helping to key-in the masonry with its rubble core. The ridge is formed with a 'dressed' capping. On reconstruction a tiny cross was discovered carved into the face of the front stone.
The building itself is intriguing. It was clearly built to serve the coach-house. But close to the road opposite the house is a small well, which once had a pump, and the horse troughs are still visible. This small well is independent of the well house, fed by other springs from the hillside, suggesting the well house water was perhaps 'different' to the horses' water supply and maybe even special. There are local tales about 'special' water connected with New Inn.
Old photographs of the well house taken before the front wall collapsed show the rectangular niche that has been reconstructed above the opening. We are unsure of its purpose and can only speculate at this time, but it may have housed a statuette of a local saint or possibly St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers. The Baylis family, owners of the well house, and the Trust commissioned a sculpture to fit in the niche at the front of the building. This interpretation of St Christopher is by the sculptor, Philip Chatfield, who has also carved a Virgin and Child for St Mary’s Church, Monmouth, and figures for the town’s restored St Thomas’ Cross.
Well House Official Opening
The well house at New Inn Farm was officially opened on 28 August 2005, when the owners and the Village Alive Trust signed a 10-year agreement allowing public access to the site.
This project has been financed by the Welsh Assembly
Government and managed by the Welsh Development Agency
under the Article 33 Rural Development Plan for Wales.
Ariennir y prosiect hwn gan Lywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru ac
fe'i rheolir gan Awdurdod Datblygu Cymru dan y Cymllun
Datblygu Gwledig Cymru Erthygl 33.