Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet

Water supply to local farms


The water supply to local farms before the 1960`s was usually sourced from a local stream and pumped using a hydraulic ram.

Cambridge Brook which flows into the River Stour near the recreation ground in Bures, was used by many farms for their water supply.

Hydraulic Rams use no electrical or machine driven parts, they solely rely upon water pressure to pump water to a greater height or distance. Although their use in this country has all but vanished, they are still widely used in parts of the world, where there is no fuel supply to run a conventional pump. ie, Africa, North America and Canadian mountain areas etc
The only maintenance required is an occasional visit to bleed the pump of air.

Hydraulic ram pumps are a time-tested technology that use the energy of a large amount of water falling a small height to lift a small amount of that water to a much greater height. In this way, water from a spring or stream in a valley can be pumped to a village or irrigation scheme on the hillside.
Depending on the difference in heights between the inlet pipe and the outlet pipe, these water pumps will lift 1-20 percent of the water that flows into it. In general, a ram can pump approximately one tenth of the received water volume to a height ten times greater than the intake.
Since ram pumps can only be used in situations where falling water is available, their use is restricted to three main applications:

(a) lifting drinking water from springs to settlements on higher ground.
(b) pumping drinking water from streams that have significant slope.
(c) lifting irrigation water from streams or raised irrigation channels.


This section of map taken on the road between Ravensfield Farm and Daws Cross clearly shows two Hydraulic Rams working on Cambridge Brook.
The Brook runs North to South.
The top ram fed water to Ravensfield Farm and the lower ram to Daws Farm.

The Ravensfield ram ceased operation during the 60`s due to pollution from a nearby slurry. The water supply was replaced by a borehole.

Location of other five Hydraulic Rams on Cambridge Brook.

1. Adjacent to Whites Farm - It is thought the ram only supplied water for orchard & crop irrigation. Domestic water was obtained from a nearby `well`

2. Adjacent to Valley Green Farm - may have supplied the farm with water.

3. Adjacent to Rye Fen Farm, Daws Cross -may have supplied the farm with water.

4. Adjacent to Ravensfield Farm - see above

5. Adjacent to Daws Farm - see above

All of these sites have long since been demolished, the water source now provided by mains or artesian boreholes.

Hydraulic Ram located on the brook running alongside Ferriers Lane.

parsonage ram laying pipe
Hydraulic Ram being installed in Ferriers Lane brook to supply Parsonage 1935.

Photo courtesy of Peter Richards.
Laying pipework across from Ferriers Lane to Parsonage Hall.

Photo courtesy of Ivy Hicks

In Bures St Mary there is still evidence of a Hydraulic Ram located between Moat Farm and Gt Ropers Hall.
This was abandoned during the 1960`s, it fed water to Gt Ropers Hall and Gt Ropers Hall Farm. In its latter years the supply was so poor and was only suitable for feeding cattle.
Today the stream is only about 2 inches deep and totally unsuitable for pumping. No doubt land drainage over the years has caused the stream to dry up.

Hydraulic Ram in ditch
Located further along the ditch this was the outlet pipe which fed the water to the farm

Pump Operation:-
Despite the complex hydraulics of the ram, its operation can be outlined simply; first falling water from the source, a stream or artesian well...is funneled into a drive pipe connected at (A) until a necessary minimum volume is achieved. Water flows down the drive pipe until it reaches a specially designed poppet valve (B). At this point water escapes through the waste valve opening until it builds up enough pressure to seal the opening of the poppet.
Since the flowing water in the drive pipe can no longer escape through the waste valve opening, it is forced to open a mid-range inline check valve (C).

Water continues past the check valve and starts compressing the trapped air in the vertical compression chamber (D). Water continues to push against the air in the chamber until the compressed air cushion acts like a piston, pushing water back down and out of the air chamber.

This action, in turn, closes the one-way check valve causing water to be forced out of the ram and up the delivery pipe, which is attached at (E).

Meanwhile, the closing of the check valve creates a slight vacuum or suction which permits the waste valve poppet to drop open again. This allows water from the drive pipe to escape through the waste valve opening, creating a new cycle. There are about 60 such cycles per minute.

Numerous variables, such as vertical fall, vertical lift, rate of ram pulsation and length of pipe on intake and discharge, will affect the amount of water a ram will pump at your site.

Output range is 700 to 1,800 gal./day for a 1-inch ram; 700 to 3,000 gal/day for a 1.5-inch ram; 700 to 4,000 gal/day for a 2-inch ram and for a 3-inch ram, up to 16,000 gal and more.

Generally with a ratio of 1-foot drop to 10-foot lift, your pump will deliver approximately 15 to 20 percent of the water that it uses.

Perhaps as early as the Saxon era, the power of water was harnessed on Cambridge Brook in Craigs Lane, Mount Bures.

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In the year 1772 the first suggestions of raising water by means of a Hydraulic RAM were made by John Whitehurst, but it did not become a practical machine until Joseph Montgolfier, the French inventor of the fire balloon, succeeded in 1796 in making an automatic RAM.

Early in the nineteenth century Mr James Easton purchased Montgolfier's patent and introduced the machine into England, also purchasing the fledgling hydraulic RAM business of John Whitehurst and as the founder of Messrs. Easton & Amos, was responsible for the installation of large numbers of these machines all over the British Isles, in fact more than 1000 prior to 1860.



Today they are still manufactured by "Green and Carter Ltd" of Somerset who acquired this old-established business in 1929, having been actively engaged in the manufacturing and installation of the well known Vulcan and Vacher RAMs for well over 100 years.

Most RAMs, installed prior to 1800, are still working as well as the day they were installed, and they still maintain a stock of all parts on the shelf.

The general principles involved have become the basis for all the hydraulic RAMS since that time, although subsequent improvements by Green and Carter have made them more highly efficient.
RAM hydraulic (power free) pumps are mainly used for irrigation, agriculture etc.

Hydraulic Rams are coming back into use all over the UK as they are so environmentally friendly, with mains water and boreholes being so expensive.
The eco friendly solution to water transfer by ram pump system.

The Vulcan RAM for instance, is ideal for remote situations. Having no moving metal parts it requires only minimal maintenance and can usually cope with some degree of sediment and debris in the water. It does not require constant filter changing.
They can operate with very low falls or with extremely high falls, pumping to heads of more than 300 metres (1000 feet).

Link:- www.greenandcarter.com

16/09/05. Updated with Bures St Mary ram
31/11/05 Update with Green and Carter