When the first white settlers first came to the Mount Sugarloaf district, the many little creeks around were insufficient to provide the water needed for daily use. The householders needed a more convenient source of water. One of their first tasks to make life more comfortable was to dig wells. Nearly every home had their own well.
These were dug and built in many different styles. Some were just holes dug into the ground and left uncovered. This type were sometimes covered with planks which the settlers hoped would be sufficient to stop people and animals falling into the well when with no help handy, they could not get themselves out to safety.
Some wells were built more substantially, being neatly bricked in with a dome placed on top. There were wells which were squared off in shape, with a cover made with boards nailed together to make a substantial lid.
When piped water was provided to the area, most of the wells were covered over and forgotten, or in instances provided a handy rubbish dump. Some wells in the area still remain. We have some photos of various wells which still existed in the Holmesville area around its centenary in 1998.
A quick look at some early Newcastle Herald records give us this insight into the problems of household wells.
18.4.1900 Wednesday Page 7 West Wallsend
Drowning fatality of 5 years and 11 months old WILLIAM JOHN PALLISTER, drowned in an old tank on vacant allotment near the OMF Church, whilst on a visit with his parents to his Grandfather and he was going with a message with one of his cousins, Robbie Hutchinson. The tank was uncovered except for 2 narrow planks. The boy got onto one of the planks and endeavoured to reach a stick in the water, and he tumbled off into the tank. The cousin, just 9 years old, ran off for help, but did not say which tank. The delay meant that the boy died.
14.11.1900 Tuesday Page 4 West Wallsend
Drowning fatality. 6.30am. SARAH ANN CAMPBELL, wife of Mr Robert Campbell, resident of West Wallsend was found in an underground tank at the rear of her residence. She had prepared breakfast for her son, Joseph Campbell and was last seen by him about 5.45am. Missing her and searching for her, he and his father noticed the lid of the tank open. The 61 year old woman was found, she was said to be very feeble and suffered from rheumatism. It was supposed that the woman accidentally fell into the tank.