Bowden’s Pant Well restored

Secretary of Bowden Village Committee, Andrea Beavon conducts the "topping out" ceremony at the newly refurbished Bowden Pant Well.
Secretary of Bowden Village Committee, Andrea Beavon conducts the "topping out" ceremony at the newly refurbished Bowden Pant Well.

Bowden Village Committee held a public ceremony last Saturday to commemorate the restoration of the iconic Pant Well in the village, and mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of clean drinking water in Bowden.

To many locals, the Bowden Pant Well is an iconic monument – its significance derives from its central location in the village square, and its survival as the first safe public drinking water supply in Bowden in 1861.

For more than 30 years, small-scale repairs had been funded by the village committee, but as the 150th anniversary approached, members felt it fitting that the well re-establish its place in Bowden life, and that its history and function be celebrated, recorded and enjoyed by a wider range of residents and visitors.

Water damage had caused the Pant Well to deteriorate, and this year the committee secured £36,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), £15,000 from the Landfill Community Fund and £5,000 from Scottish Borders Council’s Community Grant Scheme to carry out extensive restoration.

The conservation work accompanies a programme of participatory learning activities centred on the Pant Well – Past, Present and Future.

Village committee chairman Jim Doyle said: “We are thrilled to have completed the first phase of the project, and to have the Pant Well back to a condition that we can be assured will last a long time.”

A plaque was also unveiled on Saturday, with a traditional “topping-out” ceremony, and a time capsule was placed inside the Pant Well.

“The time capsule will give future residents of Bowden a real taste of village life in 2012 and we hope they get as much enjoyment from opening it as we all had preparing it,” added Mr Doyle.

The contents represent social, economic and political life in a rural Scottish village in 2012, and all villagers had the opportunity to make suggestions. Two young people in Bowden, Melissa and Stephen, wrote their own diaries, “a week in the life of …”, for the time capsule.

Bowden Digital Camera Club’s images from the restoration are on display in the village hall, alongside work by Newtown Primary School pupils, who learned about the structure of the Pant Well, its role in village life and the water sources on Bowden Common. The pupils are now working on an animation to represent their work.

The Pant Well Blethers are providing intriguing accounts of the history and social context of village life since the early 1800s. The first two blethers brought the audience to 1861, and two more are planned in January and February 2013.

Activities next year also include a public exhibition, an interpretation panel, a full set of materials for archiving, new leaflets and local walks around Bowden linking water courses to the Pant Well.

Head of HLF Scotland, Colin McLean, said: “It is a marvellous sight to see the Pant Well restored to the glory of its heyday.”