The History of Leith

September 27, 2005

Well House Tower gets facelift for its eighth century

One of the city’s oldest buildings is undergoing conservation work in a bid to rescue it from ruin.

The Well House Tower in West Princes Street Gardens was built in 1362 and formed part of Edinburgh Castle’s defences. It guarded the St Margaret’s Well, which supplied the Castle’s residents with water and was named after the 11th Century Queen of Scotland.

Work to restore and conserve the tower commences this week at a cost of around £40,000 and is jointly funded by the City of Edinburgh Council and Historic Scotland.

John Lawson, City Archaeologist for the Council, says: “The Well House Tower has suffered from benign neglect and it’s not presented in a manner which demonstrates its important role in the city’s heritage. Tourists and locals alike could easily walk past the tower every day with no idea of its history and significance.

“The work we’re undertaking will remedy that and enable us to repair some of the damage to the tower. We will also conduct a comprehensive programme of building recording and conservation. The medieval site has never been formally excavated before so we are taking the opportunity to dig some exploratory trial pits. All of the information gathered will aid us in interpreting the Well-House Tower for modern audiences.”

The work is expected to take two years to complete.

– Built in 1362 during the reign of David II (1329-71)

– One of the oldest buildings in the city, it formed part of Edinburgh Castle defences at the northern foot of Castle Rock

– Guarded/attached to the earlier St Margaret’s Well named after/associated with the 11th century Queen of Scotland and mother of David I.

– The well and tower were restored in 1873 by the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders.

-The Nor’ Loch, which was previously in Princes Street Gardens, was fed by springs issuing from the Castle Rock and the Well House Tower and made a significant feature in the city’s landscape for three centuries.

– The Well House Tower is an important feature in the west section of the Gardens.

– A sandstone Pictish symbol stone, measuring 3’8″ x 2’3″ x 7″, was found in Princes Street Gardens in the 19th Century near the Well House Tower. Remarkably, it was being used as part of a footbridge, and is now housed in the stores of the National Museum of Scotland. The existence of this stone in Edinburgh remains a mystery.


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