THE restoration of a historic well in Bowden is due to begin in the spring after the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) confirmed this week it was granting £36,500 to the ambitious community-led project.
Built 150 years ago, the Pant Well is an iconic feature of the village, standing proudly next to an oak tree opposite the old school.
It was the place where, in bygone times, villagers met and exchanged local news while queuing for water each day. But it has not been functional for at least eight decades and its deteriorating condition, with its stone and masonry decaying after years of water percolation, has been a longstanding concern for Bowden village committee, which has funded small-scale repairs during the past 30 years.
Plans to restore the landmark were first discussed five years ago and in 2010 the committee won grant funding to commission a professional, independent survey.
Conservation architect Robin Kent confirmed the structure as “an important relic of the first safe drinking water supply in the village” and the only surviving public water fountain of three that served residents in 1900.
The term “pant” is believed to refer to the pan or trough for collecting water and it is therefore technically not a well, but a cistern with a tank that originally held around 600 gallons of water fed from a natural spring.
It was, observed Mr Kent, “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 concluded, 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 1854-55 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 date-stone over the semi-circular trough, that the Bowden Pant Well was erected.
That historical context will form part of a full and ongoing programme of activities, entitled Pant Well – Past, Present and Future, beginning this year and culminating with a public exhibition in the autumn of 2013.
In addition, an interpretation panel will be installed at the well and there will be a schools project linking areas of the curriculum associated with the Victorian era. A time capsule will be buried, local walks highlighted and informal talks – so-called Pant Well Blethers – organised on the fascinating history of the monument.
All that, along with the physical restoration of the well, will be underwritten by this week’s grant, the village committee having already secured match funding of £5,000 from Scottish Borders Council’s communities grant scheme and £15,000 from the Landfill Community Fund. The committee’s own fundraising has raised the balance of a project worth a total of £60,000.
Village committee chairman Jim Doyle told us: “We are thrilled to receive the Heritage Lottery Fund support and confident the project will result in a fully-restored Pant Well and many opportunities for people to get together and enjoy learning new things about our village.
“We were fortunate to have had the support of SBC’s external grants officer Jean Robertson who gave us guidance, advice and helped maintain our focus during the whole funding process.”
Colin McLean, head of the HLF in Scotland, added: “This is an exciting project driven by the people of Bowden which demonstrates how our heritage can be part of a community bringing people together to learn from and enjoy their shared identity.”