We’re delighted to hear that the restorations of Linlithgow’s Cross Well and Torphichen’s Jubilee Well have both been nominated for a Scottish Civic Trust ‘My Place’ Award (http://www.myplaceawards.org.uk/galleries/2017-gallery-of-entries/-a-tale-of-two-wells-a-one-handed-sculptor-and-a-dog-restoration-of-the-cross-well-linlithgow.aspx)
A Tale of Two Wells, a one handed sculptor and a dog – restoration of the Cross Well Linlithgow
The original Cross Well, at the centre of Linlithgow and at the front of the Burgh Halls on the High Street, was a dipping well and the town water supply and erected c1535, but was then rebuilt in 1628 by John Ritchie of Edinburgh. The structure was damaged during the occupation of Linlithgow by Cromwell’s troops and subsequently repaired after the 1660 restoration of Charles II. Carved figures form the 17th Century well-head are exhibited at the Linlithgow Story Museum in Annet House.
In 1807, the Town Council commissioned Robert Grey, a one armed Edinburgh stonemason, who apparently carved by strapping a mallet to the stump of his left handless arm, to build an exact replica of the earlier well. It is now Category B listed. The Cross Well takes the form of an elaborately carved crown well surmounting a stepped base and tall hexagonal plinth with grouped columns at each corner. Above this are two distinct decorative stages; the lower featuring a decorative plinth displaying animal heads and other carving, topped at each corner by stiff flower finials. Smaller grouped columns feature at the inside corners adjacent to the central decorative panels, while cusped flying buttresses extend towards the upper stage where each corner is surmounted by statutes of local figures. Mask gargoyles feature at both stages with leaded downspouts. Finally, cusped flying buttresses extend up to a circular cupola supported by six small single columns upon which sits a unicorn holding a scroll bearing the rampant lion. In Autumn 2011, a technical Conservation Assessment Report was commissioned by the council. It covered the condition of the stone, damages through environmental pollution such as biological growth, bird guano, insect deposits, graffiti as well as scaling, delamination, cracks & pits in the stone, salt efflorescence, ferrous fixings, previous repairs, loss of detail and construction joints.
From the Conservation Assessment Report, a specialist conservation architect and quantity surveyor were appointed via the council’s procurement framework. Discussions were held between Planning Services, Construction Services, Street Lighting Unit and Linlithgow Town Centre Management and the specialist consultants about the various options for restoration of the well.
After careful consideration of various options, it was proposed to:
• restore the stone works with minimal cleaning following best practise stone conservation;
• replace the floodlighting on the structure; and
• restore the water supply and return the water works to the well.
A local Linlithgow company, Architectural Conservation Limited, won the contract and restoration work was undertaken over an 8 week period from September – October 2016. (Both local architect, EK:JN Associates, and contractor also won the tenders for the similar Jubilee Well, Torphichen restoration project).
A time capsule was installed in the underground chamber below the well. Local organisations such as the Town Centre Management Group / Town Centre BID who funded the restoration, provided material for the time-capsule but also included other related local groups such as the Deacon’s Court, Community Council and Linlithgow Academy and Low Port Primary School. Copies of the original 1806 contract and correspondence between the Town Council and the stone mason were also included. The sealed canister was lodged under the well by P6 & P7 pupils from Low Port Primary and West Lothian’s Provost at a short ceremony in mid-November 2016.
An inscribed lead plug, taken from the stone to determine the stone match was reinserted and carved to describe when the time capsule was laid and where it is located.
A large interpretation board will be installed on the west side of the Cross, similar to the board outside nearby County Buildings, to give further details about the well to locals and visitors.