Well, well, well! What do we have here?

Published on 08 October 2021

Photo of a well discovered during construction of the Queanbeyan Civic and Cultural Precinct

After recently salvaging a historically significant stained-glass window from a building at 10 Rutledge Street, Queanbeyan, contractors have now unearthed what could be a more significant historical find beneath the building.

10 Rutledge Street had long been slated for demolition as part of the construction of the new Queanbeyan Civic and Cultural Precinct. The building, built around the late 1940s on the site of a former cordial factory, had been previously assessed as not having sufficient heritage merit to warrant retention.

However, a stained-glass window in the building was significant for its association with the architect Ken Oliphant. The window was recently salvaged and provided to the Queanbeyan Museum.

As demolition work has continued on the site, contactors have found a well-preserved, brick lined well beneath the concrete floor of the old building. The well had been covered over with a sheet of metal and simply concreted over, keeping it protected.

Initial investigations suggest the well could potentially date back to the 1870s.

A Queanbeyan Age article published on Saturday 10 October 1874 referred to a journalist undertaking a site tour of a new "aerated water manufacturing business" that had just commenced operations at the location. The article referred to water used at the facility as "....a vast quantity being necessary for cleansing, rinsing, and besides that converted into agreeable and wholesome summer drinks - is procured from a newly-sunk well, thus avoiding the animal and vegetable impurities inseparable from river or other surface water."

Following the discovery, Council has commenced further investigations into the well, including considering the possibility of restoring it to some degree and retaining it if possible.

The well is about one metre in diameter and about nine metres deep. It is in surprisingly good condition and given its straight and neat character is presumed to have been built by someone with experience. The bricks appear to have been fired locally.

Closer study of the bricks and comparison with sample bricks at the museum (and possibly elsewhere) may shed further light on their origin and age.

The well is located just beyond the proposed ramp into the basement car park of the new Queanbeyan Civic and Cultural Precinct and may be able to be retained in situ. It will be inaccessible to the public and protected from any potential damage during the construction.

Following advice from a heritage advisor, Council has engaged an archaeologist to undertake further investigations. Reports of the findings of those investigations will be presented to the QPRC Heritage Advisory Committee and to Council in the coming weeks. 

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