Historic Dumfries Fountain Set to Be Restored to Former Glory

Dumfries Fountain is one of the main focal points of the town centre, a well-known local landmark that appears in every tourist’s photographs of the town. Originally unveiled in 1851 and replaced in 1882 with the current fountain.

The fountain was built to commemorate the piping of clean, fresh water into the town (from Lochfoot) following the terrible Cholera epidemics of the 1830s and 1840s. Over the last few years the fountain has fallen into disrepair and many locals highlight the fountain as something that currently brings down the look of the town when it should be one of the jewels in the crown of a revitalised town centre.

A partnership has come together between Dumfries and Galloway Council with community groups The Stove Network and Dumfries Partnership Action Group. The vision of this partnership is to carry out a full restoration of Dumfries’ fountain and return it to full working condition, the deep restoration being an investment for future generations of Doonhamers for whom it will be another 100 years before another similar overhaul is required. This vision is inspired by similar recent projects to fully restore historic cast-iron fountains in Paisley, Stirling and Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens. In these places the restored fountains have helped restore local pride and become tourist attractions.

Initial inspections of the Dumfries Fountain have revealed that it is structurally sound, but requires deep maintenance and repairs to the water circulation and detailed decoration. Additionally, a completely new water pumping and filtration system is required to meet current regulations and return the fountain to fully working condition. Funding has now been found to commission a detailed design for the restoration work and it is estimated that the final work will cost up to £400,000 a strategic investment in the future of the town recognising the historic significance of the fountain. Originally the District Council funded the purchase of the new fountain, while donations from the townspeople of Dumfries paid for its decoration. A total of £191.0s 6d from 221 subscribers was raised.

The restoration work will involve the fountain being dismantled and removed temporarily – during this period hoardings will be erected that will be decorated as part of a community arts project that tells the story of the fountain and the watery history of Dumfries. The hoardings are part of a wider community engagement project led by local artist Kirsten Scott working with The Stove Network. Kirsten will work with local schools and care homes to explore the story of water in Dumfres and run workshops in metal casting to engage local people in the process of the restoration of the fountain.

Kirsten Scott has already carried out extensive research into the story of the fountain – uncovering fascinating facts such as the 4 cast iron cacti that originally graced the base of the fountain and the fact that the exact same fountain also exists in Kandi, Sri Lanka. Kirsten has uncovered the original colour scheme for the fountain and how it has changed over the years. The current restoration proposal will include stripping back the layers of old peeling paint and professionally restoring it to its original colours, which were gold and bronze with cacti painted to appear real. Once reinstated the refurbished fountain will achieve Listed Building status. The community engagement phase of the project which has been funded by the Holywood Trust. The completed project will include some of community research permanently etched into the paving near the fountain to record something of the uncovered history for future generations to see.

The collaborative project has now started and the first phase will run until 30 September and involves detailed condition surveys, design work to bring the current water system up to safe modern standards, securing relevant consents and development of artists commissions.

Rob Davidson, Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy and Resources Committee said: said: “It is wonderful to see that this local landmark will be returned to its former glory. It is at the heart of the community in Dumfries and I very much hope that the local community will engage in the Stove Network’s proposals and help shape the surrounding area for future generations”
Vice Chair, Archie Dryburgh said: “I’m pleased to see this well-known fountain being restored to its former glory and my thanks to Kirsten Scott and The Stove for all the research they have done this far to find out what it originally looked like.”

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