Village pride and cohesion may flow from £60,000 well restoration project

Bowden residents Malcolm and Rosemary Morrison at the Pantwell in the centre of the village.
Bowden residents Malcolm and Rosemary Morrison at the Pantwell in the centre of the village.
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BUILT 150 years ago but not working for at least eight decades, a dilapidated well which remains a key landmark in the centre of Bowden is set to be lovingly restored as part of a £60,000 project.

But the upgrading of the Pant Well, which stands next to an oak tree opposite the old school, will be much more than a structural improvement to a redundant relic, according to Andrea Beavon, secretary of the Bowden Village Committee which has been progressing the venture for the past five years.

“The Pant Well is very much an expression of our community,” said Ms Beavon, whose committee is on the cusp of submitting a bid for a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant.

“It was once the place where past villagers met and exchanged local news while queueing for water each day.

“There are old photographs which show the well embellished with notices and with village children playing around it and these will be included in an exhibition we are hoping to hold later this year.”

According to a structural condition report which the committee obtained grants to commission last summer, the Pant Well is an important relic of the first safe drinking water supply in the village and is the only surviving public water fountain of three that were there in 1900.

The term “pant” is believed to refer to the pan or trough for collecting water and it is thus technically not a well but a cistern with a tank that originally held around 600 gallons of water fed from a natural spring. Conservation architect Robin Kent, who conducted the survey, considers the well “a practical and philanthropic expression of the growing awareness during the Victorian period of the beneficial effects of clear drinking water on public health”.

Its construction, he observes, reflected the influence of the first Public Health Act of 1848, Dr John Snow’s discovery of the link between contaminated water and cholera in 1954/55 and the death, from typhoid, probably contracted through contaminated water, of Queen Victoria’s beloved husband Prince Albert in 1861 – the year, revealed on the raised datestone over the semi-circular trough, that the Bowden Pant Well was erected.

It is believed the well continued in use until around 1930 when mains water arrived in the village.

Repairs were carried out by the National Trust in 1974 and the structure was listed by Historic Scotland in 2003.

“It is now in poor condition,” reports Mr Kent. “We found the main problems were due to inadequate rainwater drainage and water percolating into the walls, resulting in accelerated stone decay and the destabilising of the masonry facings.

“Our report recommends a range of repairs to ensure public safety and arrest further deterioration, preserving and enhancing the significance of the Pant as a public monument and an expression of local community.”

The results of the Kent report and funding options were presented to two well-attended public meetings in November and December.

“The commitment to ensuring the long-term future of the Pant Well as an icon of village life was clear, but we also acknowledged that the scope and impact of the project needs to be widened beyond simply conserving the building, so we can quality for an HLF grant,” said Ms Beavon.

To ensure eligibility, the venture needs “learning” elements and the two recent meetings have thrown up a plethora of ideas on how the project can help people become interested and more knowledgable about Bowden’s rich heritage, including the Pant Well, preferably in the coming milestone year.

These include holding a village fayre to reflect life in Bowden in Victorian times, a permanent interpretation panel about the well and the planting of a time capsule within the structure. Newtown Primary School may be asked to conduct a special project on the well, with the results, like the old photographs, displayed in the village hall.

“These learning elements now urgently need to be agreed and incorporated with the required restoration work into a project plan which can be submitted for lottery funding,” said Ms Beavon.

To that end, a special public meeting will be held in the village hall next Thursday at 6.30pm. “We need to get down to the nitty gritty of what should be included and the meeting will also offer villagers a chance to play an active role in various aspects of the project as it progresses,” added Ms Beavon.

Anyone requiring further information can contact Ms Beavon at bowdenvc@hotmail.com or on 01835 824790.