Public pants which once provided a ready source of water to the people of Alnwick are to form part of a new tourist trail of the town.
Alnwick Chamber of Trade (ACT) has joined forces with the Civic Society and the Bailiffgate Museum to identify, assess, preserve and promote the town’s pants, pumps and wells as a means to support and develop the local economy, as well as to recognise and celebrate local heritage.
There are 15 water-sources listed in Alnwick, some dating from as far back as the 17th century, although two no longer exist, having been covered over. They have all now been compiled onto a map, which the group will use as the basis for its project.
The most impressive are Robertson’s Pant on the cobbles on Bondgate Within, which was erected in 1890, and St Michael’s Pant, on Market Street, which was built in 1755.
ACT chairman Carlo Biagioni said: “We have decided to take this project forward together because the pants are an interesting part of Alnwick’s history. The idea is to get all the old pants around Alnwick working again, or at least tidied up.
“We’d like to start with Robertson’s Pant because it is so visible and it is Grade II-listed. In the end, we’d like to do a trail of all the pants around the town because they really are fascinating.”
Alnwick’s water was originally supplied by streams and a couple of wells, but as the streams were covered over, the water was routed through pipes to public water fountains. In 1822, there were 10 working pants, two of which belonged to the Duke.
Until the 1850s, all domestic water had to be transported from these pants and wells. It was normally carried on the head, in a wooden pail called a ‘skeel’ which held about six gallons.
However, in 1849 there was a cholera outbreak. Most of the deaths were in the Clayport area – in 40 per cent of cases, the nearest pant was the one that no longer exists at the end of Tower Lane.
By 1858, around 90 per cent of properties in Alnwick had been connected to the water mains.
The project will begin with an audit this winter of all the pants in Alnwick, followed by restoration and improvements next spring.
The trail, alongside leaflets and a website, will be developed in the summer.