St Ronan’s Wells (saline spring), EH44 6RB

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Posted: December 18, 2014

Category: Scotland, View All

Wells Brae Innerleithen, Peeblesshire EH44 6RB
EH44 6RB
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St Ronan’s Well is an interesting example of an early 19th century spa. The well played an important part in the development of Innerleithen from a small hamlet to a larger town. The buildings are prominently sited over the town on steeply sloping ground with the well head sited behind.

The waters of St Ronan’s Well were renowned to have healing qualities since the 18th century. The first St Ronan’s Well pavilion was built in 1826 to a design by William Playfair for the 7th Earl of Traquair for the public to take in the waters. This building was built with subscription reading rooms as a result of a rise in the wells celebrity after of Sir Walter Scott’s novel ‘St Ronan’s Wells’, written in 1824. The St Ronan’s Games which still continue today were also established in 1827; together signalling the beginning a prosperous time for the Burgh. At this time it was also known as the ‘Doo-well’ because of the many pigeons around the well head.

The popularity of the Well declined from its 1840’s heyday, partly due to the dilution of the spring and its healing qualities. The opening of the new Peebles Hydropathic in 1881 so nearby also significantly undermined its popularity.

In 1896 there was a scheme to revive the Well by a new public company, the St Ronan’s Well Mineral Water Co. This involved the building of the new pavilion with waiting rooms, retiring rooms and baths pumped with water from the sulphurous spring. The opening ceremony took place on 10th September 1896.

At the same time a new saline spring was aerated and the bottling plant was built. It was the first pure mineral water to be bottled in the UK and the plant is said to have been capable of producing 1500 bottles a day. The business was sold to Harry Rawson of Joppa in 1906; the Royal Warrant coat of Arms was added to the pediment in 1913. During the 2nd World War production slowed and the building was used as sleeping accommodation for troops after which time it fell into disrepair. In 1954 a caretaker was appointed and a programme of improvements was carried out which included the removal of all the redundant machinery; by this time the business was under the name of Cairns and Rawson of Edinburgh.

The buildings were again refurbished 1991 at which time the former bottling plant was converted for use as a community fitness centre. The buildings are now under the control of Scottish Borders Council and the former bottling plant currently houses a museum covering the wells and local history (2007).

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