Wellstrand Well

Illus: 1862 Ordnance Survey Map showing the Wellstrand Well and the Drain to the north-east.

The northern part of the town of Denny, including Bridgend, was served by the Wellstrand Well.  A strand is a stream or brook; often the flow of water from a spring or well (Reid 2009, 178).  The well stood on the west side of Stirling Road as it veered to the north to pass over Denny Bridge.  It was fed by a spring on the hill to the south and passed along an open drain to the wooded hill slope which was known as Wellbank.  Known locally as the Wellstrand Spring it provided a continuous discharge into a stone-built tank about 2ft in diameter on the edge of the road.  The overflow then drained into a culvert and passed through a culvert under the road to emerge as a small burn heading ENE.  The Ordnance Surveyors in the late 1850s describes it as :

first class drinking water which is made to run through a l” pipe with great rapidity for the purpose of supplying its many customers.” 

It was of considerable antiquity and its reliability made it popular with the public.  Even when the other wells froze over in the winter or dried up in the summer the Wellstrand was available.

By 1876 Dr James Cuthill was scathing about the quality of the water –

Wellstrand Well, I am credibly informed, at a distance of about a hundred yards from its outlet, is an open drain in which the feet and the mouths of the farmer’s cattle are freely allowed to wallow, a condition of things not by any means calculated to exercise a tonic influence on the stomachs of those whose families have been recently visited with diphtheria, of which foot-and-mouth disease is merely a variety.” 

Owing to the prevalence of fever and other epidemics in this district, the Board of Supervision ordered samples of water from each of the wells in the town and neighbourhood to be forwarded to Edinburgh for analysis.  The report was most unsatisfactory and the only one well considered suitable for domestic use was the Wellstrand (Falkirk Herald 15 July 1876, 3). 

Encouraged by this apparent endorsement, in February 1877  James Young gave his

material support to any scheme for the collection of the Wellstrand water, so that the inhabitants of Denny might always have a good supply, and not require to wait their turn, as often occurred, especially in the summer season.” 

A month later the Parochial Board thanked William Forbes of Callendar for the alterations and improvements made in the water supply at Wellstrand (Falkirk Herald 3 March 1877, 3) and that September 1877 an objector to paying for water to be brought in from a distance described the Wellstrand is already “perfect.”  Forbes’ improvements consisted of laying a glazed earthenware pipe in the field from the spring to discharge into a small stone-covered and stone-built tank at the side of the road.  An iron pipe then released the water to the public whilst a ceramic overflow went into the culvert.

In 1879 it was proposed to take part of the water supply from the Wellstrand to a new pump near the post office at the head of the Goat Loan, but this only seems to have been executed in late 1883.  In 1890 a carter complained that the waste water from the new well froze in the winter, making the brae impassable.

1890 saw an epidemic of typhoid fever and it was suspected that the Wellstrand Well was the source.  It nearly proved fatal to one of the medical men of the town and some members of his family who used the well.  The successful opening of the water works to the west of the town that summer meant that there was no longer any necessity to use the well and so it was examined more closely with a view to closing it.  The water analysis was not favourable and yet despite this some people continued to use the well and typhoid fever broke out again.  Many blamed the drains in the area and not the water supply from the Wellstrand.  The water looked fine but further examination showed it unfit for consumption.  Analysis by Mr Wilson FIC, Stirling, on 24 July 1891 had shown contamination from surface or sewage impurities of animal origin and a high presence of nitrates.

The public still refused to allow its closure and so in May 1894 Dr McVail of Stirling was called in.  He reported that in addition to the pipe from the spring, two earthenware pipes took surface and soil drainage from the same field into the stone tank.  The field, he noted, was occasionally dressed with burgh refuse which included the contents of privies (Falkirk Herald 12 May 1894, 6).  Severe frosts that winter caused the other burgh wells to frieze and people flocked to the Wellstrand Well.  So, in 1895 a new cast iron pipe was laid from the fountain head at Wellstrand to the place where the people drew the water.  This provided them with extra confidence in its supply and yet at the same time confidence in the gravitational water from outside the town also grew and slowly the well fell out of use.

(NS 8285 8396)

G.B. Bailey, 2022