PRINCE Charles made a whistle-stop visit to Cumnock last week to unveil a historic well.

The well on Dumfries House Estate had been destroyed during World War II but has been reinstated by participants of a training programme on traditional building craft skills.

The Lady’s Well was dug prior to the East Ayrshire country house being built for William Crichton-Dalrymple, the 5th Earl of Dumfries between 1768 and 1772.

Originally, the well served Leifnorris House but was destroyed by World War II explosives planted by soldiers stationed on the estate who were reportedly smarting after being romantically spurned by a woman from Cumnock.

A small team of skilled apprentices reinstated both the well and its overhead stone structure to its original design as part of a 16-month project.

Those who worked on the structure have honed skills that are valuable to the conservation of many of the UK’s historic buildings, and the fruits of their labour represent the resurrection of a significant part of the history of Dumfries House and will be admired by some of the 140,000 annual visitors to the estate near Cumnock.

Gordon Neil, deputy executive director of The Prince’s Foundation, explained: “The Lady’s Well was a structure that existed on the estate before Dumfries House was even built.

“We delved into the fascinating history of the structure and His Royal Highness was very enthusiastic about our stonemasons having the opportunity to hone their skills and play a significant role in reinstating an important feature of the estate. We are delighted with the result of the considerable efforts of the team to complete it.”

Auchinleck craftsman Daryl MacMurdo oversaw a small team of building craft apprentices who have previously taken part in traditional craft skills training programmes at Dumfries House.

He said: “I jumped at the chance to work on such a historic project, and it’s been great for everyone who has worked on it. Most of the work of our team has been as bankers, working on a bench and shaping the various parts that form the structure. It has been rewarding seeing it all come together.”

The Lady’s Well project is part of a series of ongoing training initiatives run by The Prince’s Foundation across the UK which aim to preserve traditional craft building skills such as stonemasonry, thatching, dry-stone walling and pargetting for future generations.

Ollie Clegg, a stonemason by trade, was offered a position as an apprentice on the project after impressing staff with his contribution during The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community’s ten-week ‘live build’ project at the estate last year. Through the training programme, Ollie played had previously played a significant role in designing, building and installing two pergola shelters in Dumfries House’s Queen Elizabeth Walled Garden.

The 22-year-old said: “As I am originally from Bath, I grew up surrounded by traditional buildings and so I always wanted to be a stonemason. Through The Prince’s Foundation, I’ve been able to gain invaluable experience working on a number of heritage sites including the Tullich Kirkyard on Royal Deeside and Canterbury Cathedral. I’m really looking forward to reinstating Lady’s Well as getting the opportunity to work on historic sites such as this was why I wanted to enrol on the programme in the first place.”

Jack Whaldon and Christian Accolla were also part of the build team during the early part of construction.

Christian, 49, said: “I am very proud of the work that our team has carried out to restore a stunning historical structure such as The Lady’s Well. When I first came to Dumfries House three years ago as part of a traditional building craft training course, I worked on building structures on the education farm, so there are now some examples of my work across the estate.

Christian, from Wiltshire, is now passing on his skills to the next generation of students on stonemasonry courses at The Prince’s Foundation’s workshops at Trinity Buoy Wharf in London.

“When I was on the Prince’s Foundation course myself, I was able to pass my existing skills on to my fellow students. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed.

“Especially in the UK, there are lots of examples of crafts that are dying. People going into a trade will go into carpentry, joinery, plumbing, electrics, but it’s important to keep alive these more traditional skills to save them being lost forever and to conserve, repair and maintain many of our older buildings throughout the UK.”

Dumfries House estate was saved for the nation by The Prince of Wales in 2007 and is now used to help people engage in learning experiences that promote confidence and personal development, as well as offer training in real-life skills to open up future employment opportunities. The Prince’s Foundation, formed last year as a result of the consolidation of Dumfries House Trust and other charities, has its headquarters at Dumfries House. The Prince’s Foundation is now the second-largest employer in East Ayrshire with more than 200 full-time and part-time staff across the house, estate and education and training programmes.