Curiosities from 150 years of The Engineer archive

A visit by TheEngineer to the Royal Agricultural Society show in Warwick uncovered what could be regarded as the Victorian equivalent of a Dyno-rod system.

A neat, technical alternative to that time-honoured tradition of sending small children into dangerous holes, Wood’s well cleaner and underwater grab was developed to take the danger and hard work out of the problematic business of well-unblocking. Describing the story behind the device’s development The Engineer wrote: ‘As manager of a very large estate, Mr Wood has frequently found the necessity for means of clearing out deep wells or raising articles from them, and the danger and slowness of the work when performed by sending men down.’


Depending on the nature of the blockage the tongs or body of the apparatus may be fitted with grabs or scoops. In operation, the lowering rope is attached to an arrangement of eyes and pins that hold the grabbing mechanism open. When the device touches the bottom of the well, a pin drops out of a socket and causes the grabber to close and ‘firmly retain’ any objects that may be blocking the well.