Wellow Dam
Wellow Village | Nottinghamshire
Wellow Dam
Origins and history The    earliest    reference    to    Wellow    Dam    in    documents    is    in    the    reckoning    of "Landes   and   cottages   within   the   Lordship   of   Welley   in   the   County   of   Nottingham, belonging   to   the   Honorable   Sir   George   Savile,   Barron,   taken   in   the   latter   ends   of August   in   the   year   of   our   Lord   1657",   and   the   earliest   map   showing   the   dam   is dated 1738. It   is,   however,   widely   believed   to   be   much   older,   and   to   have   gone   back   much closer   to   the   origins   of   Wellow   itself,   around   1145AD,   and   a   variety   of   theories exist   on   its   purpose. Although   these   theories   must   largely   be   conjecture,   they   are examined here, so that the reader may form his or her own judgements. The   Dam   is   man   -   made,   and   would   therefore   have   been   dug   out   with   one   or   more   specific   purposes   in   mind   -   we   don't know   whether   the   original   excavation   was   the   same   size   as   now,   or   whether   it   was   made   bigger   over   time.   But   it certainly was not made for fun, and would have taken a considerable amount of hard work to complete. Legend   has   it   that   the   Dam   was   made   by   the   monks   of   Rufford   as   a   fish   pond;   given   that   it   is   a   long   way   from   the Abbey, and   that   they   already   had   plenty   of   scope   for   fish   stocks   there   ,   this   doesn't   seem   too   likely   -   particularly   when   you consider   that   the   stocked   pond   would   be   much   closer   to   the   fishermen   of   Wellow   than   the   monks!   But   remembering   that the   village   grew   up   from   the   ex   -   settlers   of   Rufford   and   Cratley,   it   is   not   impossible   that   the   men   of   Wellow   made   it   with fish in mind (although that might not have been the prime purpose). It   might   have   been   excavated   for   the   clay;   given   that   the   early   dwellings   in   the   village   would   have   been   made   of   mud and   clay,   there   would   have   been   a   ready   source   there   for   the   early   houses,   or,   later,   to   be   used   to   make   bricks.   The amount   of   clay   coming   from   the   Dams'   present   size   would   have   been   far   too   much,   though,   for   the   original   size   of   the village. But   to   state   the   obvious,whoever   begun   the   first   excavation,   did   so   deliberately   in   the   path   of   a   stream,   in   the   knowledge that   the   hole   they   made   would   fill   with   water.   If   the   only   purpose   had   been   to   get   at   the   clay,   presumably   the   hole   could have   been   dug   somewhere   a   little   drier!.   So   the   theory   that   the   purpose   was   for   a   water   supply   for   the   settlers   is   also valid. More   likely,   perhaps,   that   there   was   a   dual   need,   for   water,   and   for   clay,   and   that   this   spot   met   both;   perhaps   with   the later   addition   of   a   supply   of   fresh   fish.   It   is   likely,   too,   that   the   original   dam   was   much   smaller,   and   was   expanded   over time. This   still   does   not   help   us   with   a   date,   and   despite   best   efforts,   none   has   been   forthcoming.   So   somewhere   between 1145AD and 1657AD is the answer - and this is, admittedly, a very wide window of probability. Looking   at   Wellow   through   the   ages,   there   are   times   when   it   is   possible   to   see   a   very   distinct   advantage   in   having   that water   source,   outside   the   village,   and   independent   of   the   (plentiful)   water   supply   within   it.   It   would   be   particularly beneficial   to   be   able   to   water   stock   there,   not   only   locally-owned   livestock,   but   also   the   travelling   animals   on   the   way   to market,   and   passing   through   Wellow   because   of   the   village's   position   on   an   important   main   road.   Perhaps   the   livestock stayed overnight, whilst their keepers sampled the delights of Wellow's numerous pubs, and brought trade to the village. So   although   the   origins   are   still   a   mystery,   we   can   be   sure   that   over   the   centuries,   the   dam   has   provided   practical benefits,   but   also   fun   and   recreation.   We   know   this   for   the   20th   century   -   why   should   it   not   be   so   in   earlier   times? Children, despite hard times, would hopefully have had some time to play. Records   show   that   in   1928,   the   then   Lord   of   the   Manor   gave   his   permission   for   the   dam   to   be   let   out   to   a   fishing   club, and   he   waived   his   rights   to   the   income   from   this,   on   condition   that   Toftholders   used   the   fees   to   maintain   the   banks   and the   greens.   But   he   stipulated   that   this   should   not   interfere   with   the   rights   of   local   children   to   enjoy   the   water.   And   it   is clear   from   the   memories   we   publish   in   this   booklet,   that   they   certainly   did   that!   The   fact   that   so   many   memories   revolve around   skating   on   the   dam   brings   home   how   much   more   severe   the   winters   must   have   been   then   -   the   water   is   hardly ever frozen these days, and then not thickly enough to make the ice safe. And   what   an   evocative   memory   of   the   plough   horses,   after   a   hard   days'   work   in   the   fields,   having   their   legs   washed   and splashing around in the cool water. So   the   Wellow   Dam   is   just   as   much   a   piece   of   history   as   any   fine   building   or   statue   -   and   much   more   useful;   we   should be glad we have it.
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