Saturday, 19 February 2011

Hardgate Well, and Another Hardgate Well

All the little and big stories, all the little and big artifacts, all the places and all the people. Woven together where the past meets the present and gathers its forces to generate the future. That's "Other Aberdeen"; that's what the psychogoegraphical toolbox we're building is intended to disclose. We are all part of the process, tools in the box, part of the story of the town.

That's why we're really pleased that 'Other Aberdeen' has inspired a reader to share his story of a place, an artifact and of people. It brings it all together - that's what Other Aberdeen's for. Today, many people seem to think that a town is merely the sum of all the business activity within it. Part of Other Aberdeen's mission is to demonstrate that this is wrong. Reader Bill Watt has joined in by clicking the e-mail link to the left of the page and sending a message to with this story and photos:

When I first became aware of the intended destruction of a local landmark ‘The Hardgate Well’ I shot off the following series of photographs for posterity. 
Readers may find it interesting to know that the Hardgate Well had a brother/sister well just across the road which I very nearly fell into back in the early 1980’s.
 How I almost fell into the well; My Father (Bill Watt Senior) was employed by the owner of a house just across the road from the ‘Hardgate Well’ to renovate his basement. Part of the renovation involved lifting all the granite flagstone flooring in the basement rooms and hallway.
The need to remove the flagstones was caused by rats or voles, not sure which, tunnelling everywhere just under the flagstones causing the flagstones to sink and tilt in all the rooms and hallway, the intended solution was to remove all the flagstones, level the ground and pour in 4-6 inches of concrete to replace the flagstones thus preventing the rats/voles from returning, question being how were the wee devils getting under the flagstones in the first place.
 As my father was getting on and didn’t want to carry out the heavy work of lifting and removing all the large granite basement floor flagstones he approached me (Bill Watt Jnr) to assist him.
We estimated the removal would take a couple of days as the flagstones covered a couple of rooms and a hallway, each flagstone was about 2’ x 3’.
My job was to lift each flagstone and walk it out the back door and onto the Hardgate there the flagstone would be stacked until someone collected them to be re-used, probably in someone’s garden..
Removing the flagstones took two full days. To complete the job ready for the concrete delivery I worked into the evening of the second day, no electricity, no one to help me, I was all alone and the basement was getting dark, finally I had just one last flagstone to remove at the end of the hall.
The procedure was the same for removing all the flagstones, it was, dig my pickaxe just under the edge of the slab, prise it up just enough to get my fingers under the stone then with all my strength lift the slab and take a step forward to get my body behind the slab for the last shove to get it upright against the wall, as I had done with all the other slabs, except this time as I lifted and was ready to take my step forward I heard a small plop, like a small stone dropping into water! This noise saved my life, if I had taken the step forward I would have dropped down into a well with the slab slamming shut on top of me, crushing me and or knocking me out, once in the well I doubt if I could lift the slab again as the well was 4’ to 5’ deep with slippery walls and three quarters full of crystal clear water.
Could this be where the rats or voles were coming from? We never did find out. Next day I showed my father and the owner of the house the well, I managed to get a photograph before I was instructed to fill the well with rubble before the cement arrived. You may think from the picture that the hole is an old drain, which is possible, however this does not explain why the hole is so deep and why the water so clear, in addition no one knew it was there as it had been covered by granite flagstones for a number of years, probably since the house was built which was at least 200 years ago.

With our grateful thanks to Bill Watt for the story and photos. He retains all rights.

The well(s) of this slope featured in the notorious Battle of Justice Mills (pdf) during the Civil Wars, the battle being a curtain-raiser on a dark period of occupation for and atrocities against the then people of Aberdeen.

The original Ordnance Survey of 1867 shows many wells along the spring line at Justice Mill Lane and Bon Accord Terrace on the southern facing slope of the Glen of the Holburn (or Ferryhill Burn, or Howburn or Justice Mill Burn), today's Union Glen. It makes a fascinating connection to the past that Bill and his father discovered one of these wells while making a property fit to face the future. It's all the more gratifying because today we can spread the story in this most modern of ways.

We've heard that locally-headquartered multinational oil service company Wood Group has leased space in the new office block development which now occupies the site of the derelict buildings shown in the first of Bill's photos above.

We're pleased that commerce/industry has returned at last to this historic part of Aberdeen. Now, it has a future.

1 comment:

Russell said...

A well was also uncovered in my garden during building works. The well is about 5 metres deep, diameter about 50cm, again with clear water at the bottom.

Our house is on Broomhill Road and was build during the 1880's.

I wonder how many other wells are scattered around Aberdeen, just waiting to be accidentally uncovered.