This page describes the garden irrigation discovered in a Victorian garden restored, designed, and created by the author. It also describes additional garden irrigation designed and installed by the author to facilitate garden watering in his contemporary garden inside the garden walls.
The original garden was ingeniously designed around 1880 and incorporates a series of inter-linked Victorian rainwater cisterns running along two sides of the garden’s perimeter. These stored winter rainfall from thirteen greenhouses in the original gardens. The majority of the cisterns have since been filled in over time as the number of greenhouses has contracted under various owners.
The first photograph shows the largest water tank as we found it, the previous owner had told us it was about four feet deep. Imagine our surprise when, after several days clearance work, we were still looking for the base. By which time we had decided to await the digger – since heaving concrete blocks above our heads was asking for trouble!
Originally this garden cistern, located at the lowest point in the gardens, had been eighteen feet square and ten feet deep and acted as the garden sump tank for the garden irrigation.
At some point, around 1980, the tank had been divided into two and the larger section filled in with builder’s rubble and, we suspect, the unwanted remains of the Peach House into a ready-made hole. For a brief moment we did consider bringing the whole tank back into use. The reason we did not was threefold: We did not wish to build a ‘water garden’; filtering such a pond would cost thousands, and finally – we had by then discovered that this one tank was part of a series of inter-connected tanks so we simply had not need for more water storage.
In the space of just one week we had gone from a large garden with a 4ft deep garden (according to the previous owners) to a garden that draw upon 20,000 gallons, with the option of recommissioning additional, ready-made water tanks if we had wanted to!
This picture shows the addition of 8ft lengths of blue slate we had found in the gardens and moved to incorporate in to a garden waterfall. At this point it was discovered the tank had a water leak and could not be filled further.
To view the water tank repairs page click here.
Later, once the author’s repairs were completed and the great tank was brought in to use the area looked very different.
Nearby, a small modern pump house was built and a 2kW swimming pool pump installed with a 40mm draw-off from the big water tank. The 40mm pipework ran along the base of the south-facing wall with take-off points every 4oft. Each take-off was fitted with Geka-Swift couplings.
Click here for details of the garden waterfall shown in the picture left.
So instead of hauling a great long heavy hose around the garden, Mike used a series of 30-50ft hoses that could be easily and simply ‘plugged in’ to any one of the take-off points so he could irrigate the immediate area using a 1″ diameter hose.
Enough of the underground network was uncovered to enable us to discover the layout which used pumps located in the three boiler houses to redistribute the stored rain water to wherever it was needed in the Victorian Gardens. Every greenhouse today contains large galvanised tanks filled by large 1″ bore brass taps. These tanks could be accessed by the gardeners using watering cans and hand sprays. Today, as visitors walk around the garden they can see this Victorian ingenuity has been conserved and is once more as useful in the 21st century as it was in the 19th century.
In addition, some tanks were open to the surface so that gardeners working outside would have ready access to the stored water. One of these was emptied of rubble and brought in to use as a bubble fountain
Garden Evaporative Cooler and Bubble Fountain
What most people generally term as an air conditioner is more accurately known as an evaporative cooler – and this is exactly what we found at Winsford Walled Garden.
Whilst digging out a large Hypericum shrub, we discovered it had been planted in a brick-lined ‘pot’ over 8′ long that had once been a cistern or underground water tank. Only this one was quite different from the others because it was straddled by the remains of the dwarf wall to the 200′ long Peach House. The close proximity of three more tanks compelled us to reconsider the tank was not simply some poorly located tank for irrigation only.
The case that it was once a garden evaporative cooler is shown by the way the front greenhouse wall is aligned half-way across it. Ordinarily, the inner half of the tank could provide easy access to the tank water but, crucially the outer (weather half) of the tank would have wooden covers that could be opened on balmy days to allow incoming air to be drawn over the water (including a fountain or spray bar) to further cool and humidify the greenhouse. It was decided to bring this tank and one of its neighbours back into use to create a bubble fountain.
The restored tank was framed with bull-nose slate edging dug up from around the garden, the top covered with pieces of broken floor slate and a cooling fountain that converts into a pumped irrigation supply with a capacity of over 3000 gallons. Linked as it once was to its immediate neighbours neighbours the storage figure would have been much higher.
The completed bubble fountain comprising 3000-gallon water tank under for garden irrigation.