Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Twelve Monuments Project Update

Medicinal waters and mysterious twins come to light as St Bernards Well and Charles II statue become the focus of the Twelve Monuments Project.

Feb 7, 2010

The ongoing appeal for donations to help restore the Charles II statue in Parliament Square was recently heard by the Charitable Trust of the Society of High Constables of Edinburgh, one of the city’s oldest institutions. The statue is Edinburgh’s earliest, dating from 1685 and was recently attributed to Grinling Gibbons.

Robert Forman, former Moderator of the Society of High Constables, said: “The Society which is regularly involved in Ceremonial Processions in the Royal Mile is delighted to support this initiative to assist in preserving the oldest statue in Edinburgh which statue is slightly younger than the High Constables who were founded in 1611!”

There is another statue of Charles II astride his horse in this pure classical style at Windsor Castle. It is nearly an identical version in bronze and has been attributed to Josias Ibach, though it is likely to be by Grinling Gibbons who worked at Windsor from 1676 onwards. This would imply that the statue in Edinburgh is one of the earliest examples of sculpture in lead.

Please Help Restore Edinburgh’s Oldest Statue!

If you would like to help please make your cheque payable to Edinburgh World Heritage, and send it to EWH, 5 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh EH7 5JX.

EWH is a registered Scottish Charity (SC037183). Further information and a gift aid form is available from info@ewht.org.uk or by calling 0131 220 7720.

St Bernard’s Well was built in the late 18th century, but has been closed since the 1940s. The spring was a popular visitor attraction for the alleged healing powers of the waters. The required works include a new lead roof, repointing and repair of stonework, removal of graffiti and renovation of the timber door that leads to the pump room below the main structure.

The interior room housing the pump is in a remarkably good condition with delightful mosaic tiling. These decorative details will nevertheless also need attention to safeguard future enjoyment. The pump is in a good working condition but the led pipes make the water unsuitable for drinking.

St Bernard’s Well history

The natural spring was discovered by three boys from Heriot’s School in 1760 and it soon became a popular visitor attraction. The spring minerals were believed to have healing powers and people flocked to “take the water”.

Lord Gardenstone, a rather eccentric Law Lord with a pet pig and an excessive fancy to snuff, bought the well and commissioned Alexander Nasmyth to design a building for it in 1789. Nasmyth drew inspiration from the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli and placed a sculpture of Hygiea, the roman goddess of health on the upper level.

Lord Covenstone also appointed a keeper for the well who would be responsible for charging the visitors their due fees for the water, and control the specified opening times. Subscribers were welcomed in the morning and the afternoon, all others in the hours between. However, “Upon a proper certificate from any regular physician surgeon, or apothecary of Edinburgh, the keeper shall supply poor persons with water at any time prescribed.”

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