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Linlithgow, The Cross, Cross Well

Fountain (Period Unassigned), Market Cross (Period Unassigned), Well (16th Century)

Site Name Linlithgow, The Cross, Cross Well

Classification Fountain (Period Unassigned), Market Cross (Period Unassigned), Well (16th Century)

Canmore ID 49178

Site Number NT07NW 11

NGR NT 00216 77170

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council West Lothian
  • Parish Linlithgow
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District West Lothian
  • Former County West Lothian

Recording Your Heritage Online

Cross Well, 1807, James Haldane

Remarkable for the richness and intricacy of the carving, it excites the envy of the citizens of Edinburgh for the copiousness of its supply of water. The design was an accurate replica of its crumbling 1628 predecessor by John Ritchie. Outstandingly flamboyant crown-well sitting upon an octagonal plinth, grouped columns at each corner. Above there is a riot of strapwork, punctuated by amazing squashed stiff-flower finials sitting upon a plinth decorated with animal heads and other carvings. Cusped flying buttresses lead to the second tower in which the corners are marked instead by statues on strapwork plinths: cusped flying buttresses then lead to a domed top decorated with heads, surmounted by the Royal Unicorn. Carved by Robert Gray, a one-handed stonemason, who worked with the mallet strapped to his left stump. Restored by Bob Heath Architect, 1997. Figures from the original well were recently rediscovered and, following conservation, are now on display in the Annet. Adjacent is a contemporary pedestal with a gargoyle with the town's arms and dates, and an inscribed slab by Vincent Butler RSA commemorating the town's 600th anniversary as a royal burgh.

Taken from "West Lothian: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Stuart Eydmann, Richard Jaques and Charles McKean, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press

Archaeology Notes

NT07NW 11 00216 77170.

(NT 00216 77170) Cross Well (NAT) on the Site of Market Cross (NR)

Solemn League and Covenant publicly burnt here (1662) (NAT)

OS 25" map (1856)

A spring well, covered by a fountain shaped like an imperial crown, erected in 1807. It is a facsimile of the original Cross Well, built in 1620, which was formerly situated a little S of its present position but was removed when the market cross was taken away, and it now covers the site of that object. The supply of water is derived from a fountain-head near Rivald's Green. The Solemn League and Covenant was publicly burned here on the anniversary of the Restoration, in 1662.

Name Book 1856

The Cross Well is as described. The water now comes from the mains.

Visited by OS (BS) 21 March 1974.


Publication Account (1981)

The Cross Well was built in 1535 and suffered damage during the Cromwellian occupation. It was repaired in 1659 but in 1807 a copy of the original was installed (Powell, 1974, 9). The Cross Well was badly damaged by a runaway lorry in 1972 and was removed for repairs. Parts of it are wholly modern.

Information from ‘Historic Linlithgow: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (1981).

Publication Account (2000)

Linlithgow was renowned for its wells, the early eighteenth-century saying being 'Glasgow for bells, Linlithgow for wells'. Cross Well was the most important well in the town, standing as it did in the very heart of Linlithgow. Lead piping supplied the well from as early as 1629. Contemporary visitors to Linlithgow were very complimentary about the townscape. Sir William Brereton commented, in 1636, on the 'dainty conduit in the middle of the street [the Cross Well]'. It was rebuilt after the Cromwellian occupation, in 1658 (seep 3 7), by James Thomson, mason. It was essential that the Cross Well be kept in good repair, and in 177-4: the council decided to rebuild it 'of new'. In 1794, an iron railing was put round it, replacing a ruinous stone rail. In 1807, it was 'reedified', but according to its seventeenth-century appearance. It was to need further repair work in 1972, after being hit by a runaway lorry, but it still retains its original design and shows the 'black bitch' of Linlithgow looking, unusually, to the right. In 1997, carved figures from the original well were discovered. These are in the care of West Lothian Council.

Information from ‘Historic Linlithgow: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (2000).


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