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Edinburgh, Grassmarket, West Bow, West Bow Well

Fountain (17th Century), Well (17th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, Grassmarket, West Bow, West Bow Well

Classification Fountain (17th Century), Well (17th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Bow Foot Well

Canmore ID 52178

Site Number NT27SE 16

NGR NT 25500 73417

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (Edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes

NT27SE 16 25500 73417

Bowfoot Well (NR) (AD. 1681)

OS 1/500 plan (1895) and 1:1250 plan.

The West Bow or Bowfoot Well was erected in 1674 by Robert Milne, Town Surveyor. It was repaired in 1732. It is a square structure with a pyramidal roof. It bears the following inscription:- "The West Bow Well, erected by the Town council, 1674. Repaired and altered by Richardson Brothers, Merchants, West Bow, 1861".

Information from 'The Scotsman' 22 October 1861

(NT 2550 7342) An inscription on the well, which is as described, states "Bowfoot Well erected by Town Council 1671". No further information obtained during field investigation regarding the discrepancy of dates of Repair.

Visited by OS (J D) 25 December 1953.

This well is generally as described. In the inscription the date is 1674 Visited by OS (S F S) 2 December 1975.

Architecture Notes

NT27SE 16 25500 73417

Text from Newscutting D80911/NC;

'Old well to be rebuilt on same spot

The old West Bow Well - damaged last night after an articulated lorry collided with it - is to be rebuilt on the same spot, Mr F. R. Dinnis, Edinburgh City Engineer, said today.

The lorry, driven by Mr Peter Robinson, of Brockway, London, skidded on the wet road in the Grassmarket and struck the well, which was erected in 1674. Mr Robinson was uninjured.

Mr Dinnis, who was called to inspect the damage, said today that the well had been twisted round on its base.

"Fortunately the damage was not so bad as it might have been."


Mr Dinnis said that scaffolding was today being placed round the well, which stands at the foot of the West Bow. It was his intention to take down the well and rebuild on the same site.

"When we take it down every stone will be carefully marked and it will be rebuilt as it was before it was damaged," he added.

Mr Dinnis said that the stones would have to be repaired and when the well was restored there would be little sign of damage. As far as he was concerned there was no suggestion that it should be rebuilt anywhere else.

The well was part of Edinburgh's old public water system.'


Photographic Survey (15 October 1965)

Photographic survey by the Scottish National Buildings Record/Ministry of Work in October 1965.

Project (1997)

The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association ( set up a National Recording Project in 1997 with the aim of making a survey of public monuments and sculpture in Britain ranging from medieval monuments to the most contemporary works. Information from the Edinburgh project was added to the RCAHMS database in October 2010 and again in 2012.

The PMSA (Public Monuments and Sculpture Association) Edinburgh Sculpture Project has been supported by Eastern Photocolour, Edinburgh College of Art, the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, Historic Scotland, the Hope Scott Trust, The Old Edinburgh Club, the Pilgrim Trust, the RCAHMS, and the Scottish Archive Network.

Field Visit (2 August 1999)

Four-sided architectural structure topped by a tapering stone top and urn with garlands.Coat of arms of Edinburgh in relief on the south side, with a large basin beneath (concreted in). The Edinburgh coat of arms is composed of a shield decorated with a three-towered castle on a rock, surmounted by an anchor and flanked by a maiden and a hind.

On the north side is the coat of arms of Richardson: a shield decorated with a bull's head (top), two fleurs de lis (centre) and a galley (bottom). Above the shield is a helmet in profile with a closed barred visor, surmounted by a hand in armour holding a sword. All flanked by large-leaved foliage.

Inscriptions : On ribbon above Richardson coat of arms (raised letters):

VIRTUTE ACQUI[RI]TUR [H]ONOS (= Honour is acquired by virtue)

On ribbon above Edinburgh coat of arms (raised letters):


On cast iron plaque on east side:


Signatures : None

Design period : 1674

Year of unveiling : 1674 / 1861

Information from Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA Work Ref : EDIN0136)


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