Borough Council of Wellingborough

Historic town centre mosaics to be restored

Published Monday, 24 August 2015

Wellingborough’s town centre mosaics are being restored next month. The familiar landmarks, in the town’s busy Market Street, have deteriorated in recent years because of weather damage and delivery vehicles driving over them.

Work will start on 1 September to extensively repair the mosaics, and measures will be put in place to limit damage occurring in the future.

The mosaics represent significant aspects of the town’s history. The smaller one at the top of Market Street, just outside the entrance to the Swansgate shopping centre, symbolises the twinning of Wellingborough with Niort in France and Wittlich in Germany.

The larger ‘five wells’ mosaic at the bottom of the street depicts the spring waters that were first captured by medieval settlers and helped the town to prosper. Although the town had lots of wells, the five featured on the mosaic are Red Well, Whyte Well, Burymoor Well, Stan Well and Rising Sun Well.

The most well-known is the Red Well, which received royal approval when King Charles I visited in 1628 after hearing of the spring’s fertility properties. The king and his young bride, Queen Henrietta, camped by the water for a whole season, drinking from the spring, and the queen went on to have four children in quick succession.

Council leader Cllr Paul Bell said: "These mosaics represent really important parts of our historic identity and they’re enjoyed by local people and visitors alike. Their preservation is very important.

"Unfortunately they have deteriorated over the last few years, with the twin town mosaic being worse off as it’s on the delivery access road. Together with normal wear and tear and exposure to the weather, these important features are not looking their best, with the surface grout damaged and some tiles lost.

"It’s not a straightforward repair as this is specialised work, so it’s taken a long time to get to this stage, but I’m delighted that our town centre mosaics will be restored to their former glory next month."

Minor repairs on the mosaics were carried out in 2009 and the council first started looking at a full restoration in 2012. The original contractor was not able to take on the work and stocks of the original tiles were no longer available.

After several years of trying to source an appropriate company to carry out the work, including asking highways contractors and approaching Moulton College, independent specialist company Victorian Mosaics has been appointed.

Work will start on the five wells mosaic between 1 and 15 September and on the twin town mosaic between 16 and 31 September. While work is carried out on the twin town mosaic, Market Street will be closed to delivery traffic.

Measures will also be put in place to help prevent future damage.

Cllr Bell said: "Once we’ve restored these important features we want to keep them looking their best for as long as possible.

"We can’t change the location, which is particularly damaging to the smaller mosaic within the delivery access road, but there are things we can do to help.

"As part of the repairs, a new steel rim will be added to reduce movement of the tiles. After that, we will strictly prohibit events taking place on the five wells mosaic and we will restrict loading and parking on the twin town mosaic."

The restoration will cost £26,790 and will be paid for out of capital funds that have been designated for public realm projects.