CAN an important mineral spring, once revered for its medicinal properties, be restored to its former glory and marketed as a tourist attraction?

This query was put to Barnard Castle Town Council on Monday by the mayor, Coun Margaret Hamilton.

She told how she had been unaware of the red well, which is located on a walking route to the north of Glaxo Smith Kline, and from which the nearby public house derives its name.

It is actually situated in Marwood parish, but a sign at the well indicates it was freed by the Jury of the Manor Court of 1852 so that it could belong to the township of Barnard Castle.

Members heard from their clerk, Geoff Bosworth, that the council had a responsibility to maintain the spring, which was "22yds square" and contained the spring itself and a robust shelter, with a stone wall around the whole site.

They had spent money on it up to 2000 but, because of the foot-and-mouth epidemic, little maintenance had been carried out since.

Mr Bosworth said he had already authorised the council's contractor to carry out the necessary maintenance work, which would cost about £150, but there was no separate budget for the well.

Coun Alan Wilkinson, a local historian, told how it had once been an important public spa with a designated path leading to it.

"Although it's now on a fairly well-used route, it's a shadow of what it used to be, with the surrounding land a swamp," he said.

It had got its name from way the iron in the spring water had turned the surrounding stone red.

Coun John Watson felt the spring would run if it was maintained, with members then agreeing with Coun David Blackie's suggestion that it was worth getting estimates for its refurbishment.