Formby Wells

Barbara Yorke  – July 2006

The crumbling remains of an old well is still to be seen on the beach near the old Lifeboat Station and formerly provided the Cox’s family with water. Such structures were once common in Formby but are now ‘lost’ or filled in. 

We gather however that Formby Golf Club is in the process of improving its water supply from its own modern well system. Originally, every household obtained its water from local domestic wells dug into the sand, not necessarily very deeply as the water-table or “ream.” as it was called locally, was only one to two metres below ground level.; in winter even less! .Formby thus differed from many other areas where general water supplies were often taken from local streams or rivers and frequently highly contaminated. After filtering through our sandy subsoil most Formby wells seem to have originally produced water of adequate quality.

The first of a series of cholera epidemics broke out in England in 1831 and on 22 May 1832 it was officially announced that cholera had reached Liverpool. Speaking from the pulpit of St. Peter’s Church the following Sunday the Rev. Richard Formby warned of the possibility of the spread of the dreaded disease to “our own hitherto most favoured Chapelry.” He exhorted. the congregation “to adopt all means of prevention within their powers” and “hold no communication with persons who wander from their homes covered with dirt and filth who mix with idle characters in disorderly and noisome scenes.” He recommended the greatest degree of cleanliness as the best possible antidote against infection and to “abstain from all excess and avoid the use of ardent spirits.” Formby cholera victims were to be speedily removed to a “neat house in an airy situation” where they were to receive “watchful assiduous care and adequate medical assistance”. In the event, although over 1.500 victims died in Liverpool. the expected outbreak did not occur in Formby.

The Southport Waterworks was formed in 1852 and by 1856 had completed a piped supply to Southport. The first Main to Formby was constructed about 1881/2. the source being two deep wells bored in sandstone. 180 ft.deep in Ormskirk. Progress was however slow. In 1890 Richard Formby was fined 20 shillings and costs at the instigation of the Ormskirk Rural Sanitary Authority for permitting a new farm-house in Ravensmeols Lane, of which he was the owner, to be occupied without a certificate from the authority “testifying to the wholesome quality of the water supplied to the inmates,” In 1897 it was reported that one tenth of Formby houses were still without a mains supply. Water from four shallow wells was found to be polluted.

Although now mainly covered and only used for watering the garden during dry summers some of the original Formby domestic wells must still survive. It would be interesting to know of their existence. For those few members whose homes were in existence before 1848, we will be able to tell you where your well should be found as they were then all marked on the six inch Ordnance Survey Map of which we which we have a copy  in our archives