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Bridge Of Allan, Mine Road, The Well House

Water House (19th Century)

Site Name Bridge Of Allan, Mine Road, The Well House

Classification Water House (19th Century)

Canmore ID 317260

Site Number NS79NE 254

NGR NS 79504 97686

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/317260

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Stirling
  • Parish Logie (Stirling)
  • Former Region Central
  • Former District Stirling
  • Former County Stirlingshire

Site Management (12 December 2011)

Single storey, rectangular-plan former well house, with centre door. Cement render with stone margins. Ogee-moulded skewputts. Timber bargeboarding to gables. Grey slates, pitched roof. Ashlar and coped stack to east gable.

The well house at Bridge of Allan could be amongst the earliest buildings of this type in Scotland, predating the hydropathic movement. The mineral springs and their medical qualities were decisive in the development of Bridge of Allan and this well house is one of the earliest surviving buildings in the village associated with this important industry. It is, therefore, a significant part of the area's social and economic history. The village of Bridge of Allan, formerly part of the Airthrey estate, developed as a result of the discovery of mineral springs in the early 19th century. Although the medicinal qualities of the water were known by the local labourers in the mid-18th century, (Roger, p5), it was not until Sir Robert Abercrombie purchased the Airthrey estate from the Haldanes Family in 1807 that the water from the metal ore mines was analysed by Dr Thomson, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow and the results published. This discovery transformed Bridge of Allan 'from the sequestered retreat of rural life to the favoured resort of elegance and fashion' (Roger, p3), with the springs one of the highest quality in Great Britain (Statistical Account, 1841). These mid-19th century accounts demonstrate the importance of the mineral waters to Bridge of Allan. The well house is the earliest surviving building associated with this spa town. A mid-19th century account dates the building to 1821 (Roger, p7), which is consistent with its functional design and map evidence. The building is first evident on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1861), and the footprint is shown as three components, understood to be the well room, which accommodated the pumping machinery required to pump the mineral water up a 110 foot shaft; the sale room, for the receiving of the mineral water, and an ancillary block to the rear, the use of which is unknown. To accommodate the increasing number of visitors to the area, the upper town, in which the well house is situated, was feued and villas were constructed. Following the introduction of hydropathics to Scotland in 1843, a hydropathic was constructed in Bridge of Allan, circa 1860 (enlarged 1868) and a new well house (1861), to improve and increase spa facilities (see separate listings). The drinking of chalybeate water, or mineral springs with a high iron content, for medicinal purposes was a fashionable pastime in Scotland for the wealthy from the 18th century. Housing for such springs, and in particular to accommodate the pumping equipment required to raise the water, was typically small and plain in design. The concept of hydropathics, which built upon this idea of using water for pain relief and treatment, was introduced to Scotland by Dr East and Dr Paterson, when they opened their hydropathics in Dunoon and Glenburn in 1843. Their hydropathics were based on that at Grafenburg, Austria, founded by Vincent Preissnit, in 1826, which is considered to be the first modern hydropathic in the world. As well as the benefits of water, such hydropathics promoted the benefits of a healthy environment including recreational facilities and a plain diet, and as such, larger buildings were required. These were commonly constructed in areas with chalybeate waters. (Historic Scotland)

Erskine's Guide to Bridge of Allan (1901) notes that Sir Robert Abercromby had the waters which flowed through the copper mine (disused since 1807) tested in 1820 by the University of Glasgow, their value reputed to have been locally recognised by at least the 18th century. Having had the water's therapeutic values confirmed, Sir Robert built and opened to the public a well-house in 1821. In 1861 a new well-house nearby was constructed, along with a Turkish Bath, joined in 1864 by a Hydropathic Hotel (now flats).

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