FAQ's - Dumfries Fountain Restoration Project


Who owns the Fountain?

The Sun Foundry Fountain on the High Street in Dumfries is listed on the Common Good register,and is therefore owned and operated by Dumfries and Galloway Council for the benefit of the people of Dumfries."

Why isn't the water switched on?

There is currently no equipment within the fountain which will protect against bacteriological risks, including Legionella, sometimes associated with recirculatory water features. Therefore, until such times as a HSE compliant water treatment system is installed, the water will remain switched off for the protection of the public.

Why can't the fountain be cleaned up by volunteers?

This is very precise work and must be undertaken by a specialist in line with the best engineering conservation practice. A 'freshen up' of this Category B-listed monument is no longer an option.

Why can't it simply be repainted?

Layers upon layer of paint over the years have resulted both in detail being lost from the fountain, and the layers of paint, as can been seen on the fountain at present literally peeling off in strips. Applying a further layer of paint would create the same result again in a short period of time.

The key to ensuring better protection for the fountain in future is first to prepare the surface well by stripping it back to the bare iron., A two-part coating system will then be applied to seal the cast iron components and reduce the risk of water ingress. Using modern techniques and materials will ensure that the fountain will remain structurally sound for generations and the finish will last for several decades.

Will shoppers get wet on windy days?

The water sprays can and will be individually controlled to ensure minimum water loss due to wind blow. A simple wind speed controller called an anemometer can also be used to close valves when it is windy.

What colour will it be? 

The fountain will be restored to its original colour scheme.

Using evidence gathered at The Ewart Library archives we have unearthed this wonderful article from the Dumfries and Galloway Standard & Advertiser from December 6th 1882, the day after the fountain was unveiled to the public. The journalist describes the fountain beautifully in vivid detail.

"The boys, the dolphins and the storks are entirely gilded and look to be figures in massive gold. The ground of the fountain is bronzed with some of its conventional details displayed in gold. On four pedestals in the freestone basin are placed as many iron vases holding each a large iron cactus, the vases stone-coloured, the cactus coloured so cleverly after nature that most people who saw the plants yesterday for the first time were under the impression that they were the genuine product of the garden or green-house"

Why is it costing so much?

All of the work to be undertaken is highly specialised. As the fountain has Category B-listed status, a proper and thorough restoration must take place under the scrutiny of Historic Environment Scotland. Any medium to large-scale project should be carried out by an experienced conservation engineering firm or metals conservation firm. Repairs to iron structures require specialist expertise, skills and equipment. The dismantling of the fountain is a precise and painstaking process, and the removal of old layers of paint which are likely to contain lead, which is a hazardous substance if ingested, must be done by skilled professionals in a controlled environment.

The siting of the new underground chamber which will house the water filtration system, pump and lighting controls is a large-scale operation. Digging down through possible medieval layers of ancient Dumfries will also require the expert guidance of Archaeologists to ensure the recording and removal of any significant finds.

Plus, a newly commissioned piece of public art which will mark the restoration, will also be unveiled to the public at the end of the project. It is important that this moment in our collective social history is recognised and acknowledged in this way.

As a comparison similar works were undertaken to the Ross Fountain in Edinburgh, which is a much larger fountain from the Sun Foundry in Edinburgh costing c. £1.5 million. The costs for the Dumfries Fountain are therefore what you would expect for a specialist restoration of this type, and will help safeguard the Fountain for many years to come.

Will there be a breakdown of costs available to the public to view?

The funding for the project is coming from the following sources:

Phase 1 Total: £63,000

Sources of Funding:

  • Town Centre Capital Fund (Scot Govt) £53,000
  • Holywood Trust £10,000


  • Detailed condition survey work on the Fountain
  • Detailed design work for the restoration process to include specification of all repair and replacement parts and new water circulation and filtration system
  • Planning and listed building consents for the "B" listed structure
  • Tender Documentation for the restoration contract
  • Design and specification of interpretation artwork
  • Community Engagement programme 'The Water Story of Dumfries'
  • Design and fabrication of interpretative hoarding panels to be used during restoration process

Phase 2 : Total : £398,355

  • £398,355 has been allocated from the DGC Economic Development Capital Fund subject to approval of the detailed costs being developed in phase 1 prior to going out to tender.
  • The detailed costs will be identified through the pre-tender estimate process (outlined under the timescale section outlined above),and are therefore part of the procurement process. The costs are therefore subject to commercial sensitivity. and cannot be shared with the public.

Will there be ongoing maintenance of the Fountain?

Future maintenance is being considered as part of the overall project, and a Maintenance Plan will be developed to help ensure that the Fountain is appropriately maintained once restored.

Will local firms be able to bid tender for this work?

This is a highly specialist piece of work, and Historic Environment Scotland were not aware of any businesses in Dumfries and Galloway, with the skills and track record of this type of conservation work. If you are a Dumfries and Galloway Business that has experience and a proven track record of this type of restoration work, please contact us know by emailing dumfriesfountain@dumgal.gov.uk

Page last updated: 29/11/2021
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