Water Supply and Drainage

Plan showing position of the water supplyWater is to be found in abundance beneath the shallow gravel-capping of the Silchester spur. From the late Iron Age onwards it was mostly obtained by means of wells dug to a depth no greater than 6m, and often no deeper than 3m. The shafts were generally lined with wood to prevent collapse and the remains of both purpose-built 'box' linings and discarded wine-barrels specifically reused for this purpose have been found. Water was presumably raised in buckets, but there is one example of a wooden force-pump with leaden cylinders which could have delivered about three gallons a minute.

Imported wine barrels re-used as well-liningsThere is no certain evidence of an aqueduct supply to Silchester and this is not surprising given the height of the settlement in relation to the surrounding land. The nearest higher ground with springs and streams that could be tapped is the north Hampshire chalk at least six miles (10 km) distant. However, the existence of one deeply lined wooden water-pipe which ran along the XVI and deep beneath the defences is evidence that some water was brought from outside the settlement. The actual source of water for the pipe is unknown but, if the nearest stream was tapped, the water would have to have been raised to the level of the pipe. A puzzle also surrounds the water supply to the town baths. The latrine suggests the nearby stream might have been exploited, but close by there are also remains of wooden piling, perhaps to carry wooden troughs from a source of water in Insula VI or XXXV.

Apart from their latrines which emptied into a wood-lined cess-pit, the town baths exploited the small adjacent stream to drain waste water while the baths attached to the mansio were drained via a wooden channel through the south-east gate. Otherwise there was no organised drainage scheme to dispose of sewage and waste water from Calleva. To be effective drainage systems depended upon a continuous supply of running water and that, as we have seen, was not available to the citizens of the town. Refuse and night-soil was either disposed of in pits in back yards or taken out by cart from the town.

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