Tue 27 Sep 2016
Over the weekend it was Doors Open Day in Edinburgh, where many buildings that are usually closed to the public open their doors for free. It’s a wonderful event, which gives us the chance to discover something new.
St Bernard’s Well in Stockbridge, which dates from the 18th century, has been closed to visitors for many years. It used to be open on Sundays for a while, but now only at times such as Doors Open Day. So we took our chance to have a look around it.
Located on the banks of the Water Of Leith, it’s an impressive building. The design is based on the ancient Roman Temple of Vesta. Inside the round building is an ornate drinking well with a pump, which uses water from a natural mineral spring. There is a beautiful mosaic pattern covering the ceiling, walls and floor. Above is a statue of Hygeia, Goddess Of Health, surrounded by columns and covered with a domed roof. We were able to go inside to see the well, have a go with the pump, and walk up the stairs to the statue at the top. It was great to get such a close look at it, after passing by so many times on the path.
We also learned a little of the history of the well, from the discovery of the spring by three school boys in 1760, to the construction of the well in 1789 and its restoration in 1888. Over the years, many people claimed the water from the well could cure illness. It remained popular until the 1940s when it closed. Restorers worked on it again recently in 2012, although it remains closed and the council no longer recommended you drink the water.
If you want to visit St Bernard’s Well, you’ll have to wait about a year unfortunately, until next Doors Open Day. It’s certainly worth a look though!
St Bernard’s Well, MacKenzie Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6TS