£1.5m bid to save iconic Ross Fountain

The Ross Fountain has fallen into disrepair and needs overhauled. Picture: Scott Louden
The Ross Fountain has fallen into disrepair and needs overhauled. Picture: Scott Louden
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ONE of the Capital’s most prized monuments that has fallen into decline is set to be revived amid a million pound rescue plan – and may even be renamed.

The iconic Ross Fountain at the foot of Edinburgh Castle is billed as the finest of its kind in the UK but has been slowly crumbling since falling into disrepair in 2010.

Now a £1.5 million bid to preserve the 19th-century masterpiece – that has run dry since seizing up with plumbing problems – has been launched to bring it back into use as a functioning fountain.

The city is set to invest half a million pounds to restore the landmark with a funding appeal set to be launched to finance painstaking repair work that will involve dismantling its 122 pieces.

And the A-listed fountain could even be renamed to persuade investors to stump up the remaining cash.
Dr David Mitchell, director of conservation at Historic Scotland, said the fountain’s “design, pattern making and casting” was unrivalled anywhere across the country.

“I have devoted my life to this area of research and Scottish firms, and I have to say that the best cast-iron fountain to be found anywhere in Scotland, and indeed the UK, is the Ross Fountain in Princes Street Gardens,” he said. But the rescue package comes against a backdrop of belt-tightening at City Chambers as councillors aim to plug a £120m shortfall in the Capital finances.

The cash-strapped local authority is facing severe cuts to services in the coming years and eyebrows will be raised about the outlay salvaging a long-standing city monument.

A portion of the fees charged to contractors behind the Festival Wheel in Princes Street this summer may also be diverted to bankroll the plans.

But conservation experts say action must be taken to restore the ornate fountain after inspections unearthed serious damage including structural instability, leaks and metal erosion. The A-listed structure was taken out of use in 2010 as a result of extensive water loss and corrosion to its cast-iron fixings. Preferred restoration plans aim to secure the fountain’s future for the next 100 years but councillors have a cheaper option, costing £1.3m, to preserve the monument for 25 years.

Councillor Steve Cardownie, deputy city leader, said it would be a “shame” if Edinburgh lost one of its best-known and most striking features. But he said the council would not sacrifice vital spending on infrastructure such as roads and schools.

He said: “Doing nothing means it could crumble – I would certainly be prepared to consider changing the name of the fountain to encourage someone to help sponsor the work and get the water flowing again.

“But I accept that money is tight [and] I would be loathe to sacrifice work needed elsewhere in the city to complete work needed on the fountain.”

The Ross Fountain is one of only two A-listed cast iron fountains in the UK from the world-famous foundry of Antoine Durenne in Sommevoire Haute Marne, France.

It was installed at its current position in 1872 after being purchased by Edinburgh gunsmith Daniel Ross during the Great Exhibition of 1862.

Bosses at Scotland’s leading heritage bodies said they were “very supportive” of the council’s repair and restoration proposals.

‘Substantial work required to bring it back to full use’

THE Ross Fountain, a 19th century ironwork masterpiece in West Princes Street Gardens, has been shut down for two-and-a-half years amid fears it is leaking.

It is understood the majestic landmark is subsiding and a council report examining the best course for repair is imminent.

It was last refurbished in 2001.

Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s culture and sport convener, said: “The Ross Fountain is an iconic monument and one of only three category A-listed iron fountains in Scotland.

“The council commissioned a specialist conservation assessment of the structure towards the end of last year and established that substantial work would be required to bring the fountain back to full working use.

“We are in the process of compiling a report to present to the culture and sport committee that will outline the future options.”