BENENDEN AND IDEN GREEN WELLS
Sometimes we don’t notice parts of our landscape, that is…until it’s gone or damaged. Sometimes elements of landscape, whether natural or man-made, are just there and barely get a glance as we drive, walk or ride past them every day. This is true of the fine Grade II Listed Victorian wells situated at the crossroads in Iden Green and Benenden.
The Queen’s Well in Benenden was erected in 1887 for the Golden Jubilee and the Pump House in Iden Green in 1897 for the Diamond Jubilee. Both feeling and showing their age as the timbers were rotting, the stonework compromised, and both requiring a roof overhaul.
In July 2021, the Parish Council went out to tender and Anthony Hicks returned the most comprehensive quote. Both Well structures required substantial repairs but at the outset it seemed that the Benenden structure required more attention.
Initially, the Parish Council was just expecting to replace the timber which had infestation and some rot. However, it became apparent that the plinth stones on which the Well structure sits had a steel locating pin, protruding from the top of the stones, which had rusted over time, expanded and cracked the stones. Not only would the infested timber need to be cut out and new timbers spliced in position, but a method of locating the structure on the stone plinths needed to be agreed.
As a listed structure any work carried out needed to be agreed with the Tunbridge Wells Conservation Officer and Listed Building Officer.
The work was to be completed in situ and Anthony Hicks contacted a stone mason to provide a quote for either replacing the plinth stones or repairing them.
Added to the requirement of decay repairs was the requirement to provide repair drawings and specification for Listed Building approval. A structural engineer was employed to verify the proposed repairs would be structurally sound because the structure had a considerable weight of approximately 4 tonnes.
In June 2022 the Queen’s Well sustained severe damage when a lorry trailing a length of heavy-duty cable (stolen) took the whole structure off its stone plinths. Following assessment of damage to the structure, an agreed repair proposal was approved by the Conservation Officer and it was decided to carefully record and dismantle the Well frame completely, repair the structure off site and return to re-erect it. This additionally took away the worry of an unsafe structure as not only were roof tiles hanging precariously but the structure was now split in several places.
The Well structure was dismantled in September 2022 and work proceeded at the Anthony Hicks’ yard. The timber repairs are complete, and the timber elements are wrapped and sitting on pallets. The Conservation Officer requires the existing plinth stones to be repaired rather than replaced and this specialist work is underway before the structure can be re-erected on site.
Iden Green Well
Work has been halted on the Iden Green Well structure until sufficient funding can be raised to proceed with the works that Anthony Hicks priced.
Benenden and Iden Green have many Listed Buildings ranging from graveyard tombs to manor houses, from telephone boxes to wells. They are all precious heritage assets and belong in the landscape that we cherish so much.
The wells are part of Benenden and Iden Green, we see them every day; silent sentinels that stand at their respective crossroads and watch the years go by. Whilst our historic houses are often hidden from view, the wells are in prominent locations beside the roads that we travel on.
The wells have special architectural and historic interest and sit at the gateways to the villages in prominent locations, beside historic settlements and ancient routeways. Added to this is the AONB landscape of the High Weald which is described as ‘one of the best-preserved Medieval landscapes in North West Europe’. The natural beauty of the High Weald comprises five defining components of character: geology, landform and water systems; settlement; routeways; woodland; and field and heath. Other qualities enrich the character components, such as locally distinctive historic buildings, historic parks and gardens, veteran trees, and orchards. Our wells do exactly that, enhancing and enriching the landscape as we know it.
Whilst the Wells are present in the landscape, they no longer serve a purpose or have a function and cannot be repurposed. Partly because of this fact, the avenues for funding their repair and restoration are closed, and many funding sources preclude a parish council from applying for grants.
Our funding search continues for the Standen Street Pump House, but we still also need funds for the Queen’s Well.
The cost for the Benenden Well is in excess of £30,000 and for Iden Green in excess of £15,000 and the Parish Council is seeking donations.
Please donate any amount that you can in the following ways :
By cheque – please make cheques payable to Benenden Parish Council and send to the Community Office, Benenden Village Hall, The Street, Benenden, TN17 4DE
By BACS payment – Unity Trust Bank; Account Number : 20398394; Sort Code : 60 83 01
Through the fundraising page www.wonderful.org