Thursday, 15 July 2010

Hargate Well, again.

As contractors struggle to deal with the fluctuating water-levels (see photo) in the now exposed and visible 'historic' Hardgate Well, word comes from the City Historian of Aberdeen City Council (who is a visitor to this blog) that all is not as we had thought...

Hi Other Aberdeen,

I think these [
new wellhead and 1970 plaque] represent the sum total of the developer's intentions: these were always to retain the well in some respect, as well as the plaque. The old facing was I think 20th century.

Intriguingly there is in fact nothing to link this well to the battle on Friday 13 September 1644. There are no actual historical references to the well in the original sources which pertain to the battle. This association seems to have developed in the centuries after the battle.


Christopher P. Croly

This itself raises the next question - does it matter that this well did not, in fact "run red with blood"?

The site of the well remains the only marker of this important event in the life of our city which, in our opinion, tells a story much greater and more complex than that of what happened on that day and the days afterwards. A story which goes to the very heart of the character of our city and us, its people.

It is a story which places us in a context, to this very day.


Julie said...

The thing about a well is that it exposes subsurface water, giving it a way to escape. With a spring line running through this area there will, depending on rainfall, be variable levels of water in said well, often to the point where it will run out the top.

When they were digging out the big hole last year, there were constant pumps running to extract the water (muddy water, which they pumped into the street & which then clogged the drains).

I thought the plan was to cap it?

As to the historical facts, the well itself is a historical feature - was there not a Battle of Justice Mills - a short amble from said well? I'm guessing the well was either a well or a spring back then and whether it 'ran red with blood' or not, was probably used to water those who survived or came to pick up the wounded or dead. Just because no-one wrote it down, doesn't mean it did not feature. We will probably never know regards the battle, but it has been an important geographical feature for many centuries now and should be marked - as the many other wells & springs are around the city.

Paul Taylor said...

I won't be so quick to believe this. Oral traditions often have a very strong basis in fact. Why would anyone ever have thought to link the Hardgate Well with the battle if it had nothing to do with it?

Other Aberdeen said...

Message Rec'd via another medium from Alison Cameron - the archaeologist who excavated the well when it was re-discovered during the development of the hotel:

Interestingly the Hardgate well ran red when I excavated it - the water was very iron-rich and the water and stones were stained red. Whether this is where the 'running red with blood' came from I'm not sure. Shame that this is all that's left of the well. I went by the other day and was very disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Just been past this v. historic part of Aberdeen. The formerly attractive link between Hardgate Brae and Justice Mill Lane has been obliterated and replaced by a bizarre, tacky-looking mess of concrete and metalwork, by way of a main entrance to the Radisson Park Inn.

Other Aberdeen said...

Hi Anonymous,

We agree. The loss of the little bit of greenery with the shallow steps is a big shame. And the new hotel entrance seems to be some sort of bizarre labyrinth designed to bamboozle weary travelers. We think that the hotel entrance is crap.

Having said that, though, the hotel and office complex is a big improvement on what occupied these sites before - ie derelict mid-20th century industrial premises. And you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

On the other hand again, we are worried that such a rapid increase in office accommodation availability will likely further blight upper storeys of the west end of Union Street, and may similarly blight the business areas in Bon Accord Square and Crescent. Also, the increase in hotel rooms will adversely affect the B&B sector in Holburn St and Gt Western Rd.

But all that's off-topic. we might cover it another day...

Back on-topic, what did you think of the well?

Anonymous said...

You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs - what kind of an answer is that? No objection to building an hotel/office complex on this neglected site, but this big? This ugly?

Scarcely noticed the Well, which is overwhelmed by all the surrounding crap!

Other Aberdeen said...

Hi again Anonymous,

Thanks for your contributions. You raise some interesting, if off-topic, questions...

Here at Other Aberdeen, we do not have any particular favourite architectural styles; beauty, or otherwise is in the eye of the beholder and fashions come and go. What we *do* appreciate is quality, authenticity, and integrity. We believe that these aspects cannot be judged instantly when a new building is unveiled - so we're reserving comment on the architectural merit of this complex for the moment. As we said, we might cover it another day.

Without equivocation, we think it's a shame that the very small grass area is away, but we also think that it's a very small price to pay to see the regeneration, after 30 years of blight, of Justice Mill Lane. Omelettes and eggs. Perhaps we'll enjoy a nice omelette in the restaurant of the new hotel. It's being fitted out right now and it looks great.

But, as we've said, that's off-topic. We might cover these issues in a bit more detail another time. The topic we were hoping to discuss here is whether or not it matters that the Hardgate Well figured or otherwise in the events surrounding the Second Battle of Aberdeen.

You can read in the OP what the city historian said. You can read in the comment history what the city archaeologist said.

What do you think?