Thursday, July 4, 2013

Wells and Springs in Eastern Newfoundland

Lion's Head Spout from The Battery, 1975

Last month’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Update for Newfoundland and Labrador mentioned that the job search for a new project on traditional wells, springs and water sources had begun. Well, the hunt is over, and I will be the researcher for this very interesting project over the next few months!

My name is Sarah Ingram, and I am an archaeologist by trade, just finishing up my graduate degree in Historical Archaeology at Memorial University. Although I have focused my career on archaeology I have always had a passion for folklore, local traditions, and how the past influences and effects the present. Traditional water sources are one of these things that can carry into the present, and are surrounded with lots of stories of where they were, which ones were better for making tea, and how throwing trout down into the well would help to keep them clean. In fact, old stories of a well in Ferryland, Newfoundland, where I did my graduate research, helped the archaeologists’ years ago find the lost well on the site!

This project has a couple of goals. The first is to gain a better knowledge base of the water resources that we have around here, some of which may not have been in use for years, and many of which are not publically known about. The second is to learn about the use and management of these local water sources, how they both were used and still are used, and how people in the community care for, clean, and maintain their water. The third, and the most easily lost aspect of knowledge we want to uncover surrounding water resources, are what people value about the wells and springs they remember and used, and what the community feels their significance was and is. We hope that this information can help to inform governmental projects, folkloric research, and community use of these traditional places!

I’ve been in the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador offices for a week now, beginning some preliminary reading, Internet scouting, and making myself as familiar as possible with any stories, traditions, or uses for wells and springs that I can find. Already I have come across some really great stories and images initially collected by Dale Jarvis from the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador and Philip Hiscock from Memorial University.

Soon I will be contacting some people who have already expressed interest in sharing their stories with Dale and Philip, and hopefully learn much more than what is already recorded. Once I have gathered enough preliminary information, have spoken to some people about what they remember, and have some places in mind, I can get out in the field, look at these water sources, and hopefully get my hands dirty while recording them!

If you have any memories about using wells and springs, or know where there are some out in the community, I would love to have a chat with you! You can contact me at or give me a call at 739-1892 ext 7.

No comments: