Today, I was [again] humbled by [another] happenstance reminder of how little I really know about the world that surrounds me!
This reminder happened in the natural course of the Welsh Trust meeting where conversation turned to an insignificant-looking small building that has long been in decline. This building was the original Well House of Bridge of Allan. Without this Well House, Bridge of Allan could not have become a fashionable Spa resort!
Here is Gilbert Farie’s account of Bridge of Allan, and the Well House, from 1851:
And here is the Well House today:
Some of the history of the Well House was recorded in the first Ordinance Survey:
The well house at Bridge of Allan is considered to be one of the earliest buildings of this type in Scotland. It long predated the hydropathic movement. [The following image is of the Chalybeate Well House]:
The 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1861) depicts the footprint of the original Well House in three components: 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:
This account was given in 1856:
“The mineral springs of Airthrey had been known to exist from a remote period. The working of a copper mine on the Airthrey estate led to the discovery of the many shafts which had doubtless been sunk since the commencement of mining operations at Airthrey, only three are now visible. The first of these is opposite the Bath House from which the water is conveyed, by forcing pumps, up the shaft into the Well House. The shaft, which is thirty fathoms deep, is provided with a series of ladders, fastened on platforms, at safe distances, by means of which the mine may be explored. The temperature of the water in the collecting cistern is 49° Fahrenheit at 9.a.m., and the quantity of water flowing into it about 1000 gallons per day – a supply sufficient to meet the wants of a very large number of visitors.”
The drinking of chalybeate water, or mineral springs with a high iron content, for medicinal purposes was a fashionable pastime for the wealthy from the 18th century. This was the ‘source’ of Hydropathics, and the mid 19th century was to be a period of rapid change for Bridge of Allan:
In November 1851, the original Well House of Bridge of Allan had its contents rouped:
The original Well House of Bridge of Allan survived to become home to a steam-driven pump that ensured that Airthrey’s auld mineral water arrived at the New Well House.
In 1861 the New Well House was opened and the Hydropathic soon followed:
I celebrated my 50th birthday with my family at the New Well House [now the Bologna restaurant] and more recently it was where we celebrated my daughter Rachel’s 18th birthday. At these landmark celebrations I was entirely unaware of this most insignificant-looking building: the original Well-House.
Well-being includes time-present and time-past.
My Well and Spa:
My films on Bridge of Allan and district can be watched here.