Water supply to Britain's eastern coastal defences in the 18th century and the work of Sir Thomas Hyde Page (1746–1821)
John D. Mather, 2012. "Water supply to Britain's eastern coastal defences in the 18th century and the work of Sir Thomas Hyde Page (1746–1821)", Military Aspects of Hydrogeology, E. P. F. Rose, J. D. Mather
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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 Although some of his ideas were outdated, he recognized that fresh water appeared to be floating on underlying salt water and speculated that this might be the result of differences in specific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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This book, generated under the auspices of the Geological Society of London’s History of Geology and Hydrogeological Groups, contains 20 papers from authors in the UK, USA, Germany and Austria. Historically, it gives examples of the influence of groundwater on battlefield tactics and fortress construction; describes how groundwater was developed for water supply and overcome as an obstacle to military engineering and cross-country vehicular movement by both sides in World Wars I and II; and culminates with examples of the application of hydrogeology to site boreholes in recent conflicts, notably in Afghanistan. Examples of current research described include hydrological model development; the impact of variations in soil moisture on explosive threat detection and cross-country vehicle mobility; contamination arising from defence sites and its remediation; privatization of water supplies; and the equitable allocation of resources derived from an international transboundary aquifer.