Well house

Well house

Well house in Tel Aviv
Well house near Bnei Zion

Well house (in Arabic: Biara) is a term for a type of buildings erected in Palestine in the 19th century around water wells, especially near orange groves.


During the 19th century the process of development began outside the city walls of Jaffa. Farmers began to live in the orchards, and built their homes near the wells. The entire orchard was surrounded by a wall for protection, thus forming areas with residential buildings surrounded by green gardens. The houses were usually stone, and at first were one story. Towards the end of the 19th century it became more acceptable to add a second story, and sometimes even a separate building. That created a separation between the owners (who lived on the second floor or nearby villa) and the workers, animals, and warehouses. Trading activity sometimes occurred on the ground floor. Richer workers plastered the simple sandstone walls, and added roof tiles, iron railings, and decorative tile floors.

Wells were dug at the well house. Water was pumped through two sets of wheels—horizontal and vertical—moved by camels or mules. Modern systems have since been established, driven by diesel-powered engine. A storage pool would be established near the well, and water flowed to canals to irrigate the orchards, using gravity. Some wells were transferred to Sebils established outside the walls.