A Brief History
The Wash House in Scotlandwell was constructed as part of an ambitious village enhancement scheme conceived and funded by Thomas Bruce of Arnot, a local landowner, between 1857 and 1860.
The eminent Victorian architect David Bryce, whose commissions included Fettes College and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, was employed by Bruce to draw up plans for the creation of an ornamental Well and neighbouring Wash House, an unusually elegant building for its purpose. As part of the upgrading project a large and beautiful walled garden containing exotic trees and shrubs was created between the Wash House and the main road on the former Peat Hill, the land where the villagers had once stacked their peat to dry. A communal bleachfield, known as The Green, was laid out.
One section of the handwritten ‘Notes on the Bruce Family’ compiled by Thomas Bruce records the following – Before the well and the wash house were built the precincts of the well formed an almost unapproachable slough of mire and filth; whilst a half ruinous building used sometimes as a wash house and sometimes as a slaughter house occupied the site of the small shrubbery to the rocks of the wall.
The first and essential stage of his remarkable undertaking was the acquisition of the shares in the Peat Hill owned by other villagers.
Bruce had spent thirty years in the Bengal Civil Service, during which time he married his wife, Henrietta Dorin, the daughter of a London East India merchant. He came back to Britain in1855, his wife having returned the previous year due to poor health.
Her condition continued to deteriorate and she eventually died in 1859 before the completion of the project. Bruce dedicated the well to his wife and on either side of the water spout are carved their respective initials, TBA and HD.
Great celebrations were held in the village to mark the official opening of the well on 3 July 1858.
The Wash House, which bears the initials TBA, was completed two years later, in 1860, for a total cost of £117.
Following the introduction of piped water supplies to the houses in the village, the use of the Wash House gradually declined. It has not been operational since the early 1960s. Despite the fact that it is need of a considerable amount of repair it retains a distinguished look.
The Wash House, the Well, the bleaching green and the walled garden were given to the village in 1922. The garden, which is now in private ownership, remains an attractive feature of the village centre. The Wash House, the Well and The Green (now a recreational area) have been the responsibility of successive local authority bodies since the late 1920s. Together they form an important part of the heritage of the village and an example of the work of a renowned architect whose creations should be preserved for future generations.