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10 cool facts you might not know about the Wellgate

The Wellgate is one of the most notable areas in Dundee, and its history spans a long period of time, from housing a well, a throughfare, steps and now a shopping centre. Here are ten cool facts that you might not know about the Wellgate!

It dates back to the 15th century

The Wellgate dates back to the 15th century. It was referenced in a document that was dated 1409, and it also appears in a drawing which dates back to 1590, according to Leisure and Culture Dundee.

The Wellgate is named after the Lady Well

The Wellgate was originally the location of the Lady Well which was located at the bottom of the Hilltown. It was regarded as an important source for water in Dundee at the time. The Wellgate's name comes from the Lady Well...well, the first half. The '-gate' term derives from the word "gata" which is an Old Norse word which means "road" or "street".

The Wellgate Steps were never intended to be built

The Wellgate Steps in Dundee were originally not planned to be built, but they were constructed when Victoria Road replaced Bucklemaker Wynd in the 1870s, resulting in a steeper slope. This led to the Wellgate curving at the top to meet the new street, forming the iconic Wellgate Steps.

The Wellgate was a bustling shopping hub before the centre's construction

The Wellgate shopping area in the 1960s was a bustling hub with popular stores like Wm Hunter for fabrics and fashion, Johnston’s Stores for various products, Grafton’s Sportswear for athletic gear, and Henderson & Co for homeware and gifts. These stores shaped a vibrant retail environment, catering to diverse local needs and creating cherished memories for visitors.

The Wellgate Clock wasn't in operation until five months after the shopping centre opened

The Wellgate Clock was installed five months after the Wellgate Centre opened in 1978. The centre opened on 4 April 1978, but the clock wasn't in operation until 4 September of that year. The clock was built by Haward Horological Ltd. who also built another shopping centre clock in the Eastgate Centre in Inverness.

As of today, Mr Footman has rolled the music box over 400,000 times

Since going into operation on 4 September 1978, Mr Footman, the man who's job it is to bring the Wellgate Clock to life, has rolled the music box over 400,000 times which has simply an incredible achievement for an animatronic over 45 years.

Clock's bells were cast by the same foundry that cast Big Ben and the Liberty Bell

Another cool fact about the Wellgate Clock is that their bells were cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, the same bell foundry that cast Big Ben in London, and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Many who don't live in Dundee anymore question whether the clock is still there, and if it is even in operation. The answer is YES! And it has always been running non-stop, with the exception of repairs, for over 45 years.

Money from the Wellgate Fountain went to charity

The Wellgate fountain was a very popular spot in the centre back in its early days. Folk used to throw coins into the fountains to make wishes, and at the same time, helping charities in need, as the coins that were thrown into the fountain were hauled out, dried and given to charity.

The Central Library was in the McManus before it moved to the Wellgate

Three months after the Wellgate Clock was first installed, the Central Library opened in December 1978. It was originally located within the McManus Galleries before its move to its current site. The library is now accessible from the top floor of the Wellgate. The new Central Library introduced new departments for art, music, and business, along with a record library and Dundee's first mobile library service, after outgrowing the McManus.

The Wellgate may one day return to being a throughfare

As Dundee undergoes redevelopment efforts, the future of the Wellgate is being called into question. According to the 2050 City Centre Redevelopment Plan, proposed by the council, one potential future scenario for the centre is its demolition and restoration as a throughfare, reminiscent of its past state. It has been emphasized by many that if this were to happen, the preservation of the Wellgate Clock and Steps is essential.


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