What is a Hydram?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2019
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The hydraulic ram pump, or hydram, is a type of cyclic pump that operates with the use of water as the means of supplying the source of power for the unit. Hydrams have been around for a long time, and before the advent of electrical wiring in public buildings in the latter 19th century, were one of the major means of producing energy for use in the manufacturing process. Here is some information about the history of hydraulic ram pumps, including the resurgence of use in today’s modern world.

The hydram has its origins in late 18th century France. Joseph Michel Montgolfier created a design for a hydraulic pump that was inspired by a design for a water and air powered small engine that was in use in the United Kingdom. Montgolfier installed the new device in his paper mill at Voiron, and found the hydram to be very effective. The English patent on the device was secured on Montgolfier’s behalf by his friend Matthew Bolton in 1797. The hydram was further refined in 1816, and rights to the device were ultimately acquired by Josiah Easton in 1820.


The Easton family owned one of the more important engineering manufacturers in the United Kingdom, and quickly made excellent use of the hydram in their designs for municipal sewage and water systems. The hydram also proved to be an asset in preparing customized designs for land drainage as well. Over time, the applications grew to include creating private systems for country estates, as well as irrigation systems for farming communities. Usage of the hydram remained popular until the latter part of the 19th century, when the harnessing of electricity made the use of electric pumps more cost efficient.

During the latter part of the 20th century, the hydram began to reappear in some locations. Part of the motivation for the revival of the hydram had to do with the Back to Basics movement, where individuals and small communities chose to simplify their lives by seeking energy alternatives that were considered to be more environmentally friendly. To this end, the hydram found increased usage in several ways. Organic farming would often include the use of the device as a means of irrigating fields. Homes built of natural materials began to utilize the hydram as a means of creating water flow into the home from a spring or well.

Today, many people who are seeking alternative sources of energy continue to create designs that include the hydram. In some cases, this is taking place in developed countries as a means of conserving limited natural resources. In other parts of the world, the hydram is an important part of the process of providing clean water that can be used for drinking, hygiene, and cooking. While the hydram is not likely to ever reclaim the status enjoyed during most of the 19th century, there is no doubt the pump will be around for many years to come.


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