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Abstract

In the latter part of the 18th century some of Britain's eastern coastal defences, although strategically well-positioned, were vulnerable because of the lack of a secure water supply. The military engineer Captain Thomas Hyde Page was tasked with identifying any water resources within the confines of the forts and garrisons that might be developed. At Sheerness he supervised the sinking of a deep, large-diameter well through the London Clay, which tapped water in underlying sands. The idea of a deep well was possibly influenced by the results of deepening a well at nearby Queenborough Castle some 60 years before. At Landguard Fort he constructed an infiltration gallery that skimmed water from the upper surface of a thin freshwater lens. At Harwich he sank two simple shallow wells to abstract water from beneath the London Clay. At each locality he used a different solution appropriate to local hydrogeological conditions. Although some of his ideas were outdated, he recognized that fresh water appeared to be floating on underlying salt water and speculated that this might be the result of differences in specific gravity. His work was important in publicizing the use of groundwater and foreshadowed the major developments of the following century.

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