It was one of Edinburgh’s most recognisable landmarks for almost 150 years before it was removed amid fears it was about to teeter over or collapse altogether.
Now a new look has been unveiled for the Ross Fountain ahead of work starting to reintroduce the structure to Princes Street Gardens.
Much more extensive repair work than anticipated has been carried out on the fountain after it was discovered it was virtually being held together by rust.
A number of pieces of the cast-iron structure have had to be completely recast to secure the future of the landmark.
Previous surveys revealed the fountain had suffered “substantial” water loss throughout its structure, as well as structural instability.
Now work is to start within weeks on the painstaking operation to fit together all 122 pieces of the cast-iron structure, after its restoration at Lost Art, a Wigan-based firm.
It has been confirmed the fountain will be fully operational for the first time in almost a decade by the summer thanks to the efforts of a charitable trust, which is also behind plans to replace the crumbling Ross Bandstand.
The Ross Fountain was originally made in France at a famous foundry run by Antoine Durenne at Val d’Osne, in the Haute-Marne region. It was spotted at an exhibition in London by a Victorian gunmaker and philanthropist from Edinburgh, Daniel Ross, who gifted it to the city. The pieces were shipped to Leith in 1869.
However, the installation of the fountain – which features four female figures representing the arts, science, poetry and industry – was delayed due to protracted protests from Dean Ramsay, minister of the nearby St John’s Episcopal Church.
He branded the amount of nudity on the fountain “grossly indecent and disgusting; insulting and offensive to the moral feelings of the community and disgraceful to the city”. Wrangling over its location and construction would delay its eventual unveiling until 1872 – Ross never saw his gift in place in the gardens as he had passed away the previous year.
The £1.6 million project to restore the fountain is being spearheaded by the Apex Hotels founder Norman Springford, whose Ross Development Trust instigated a design contest last year to help inspire a new look for the gardens. Work to remove the various sections of the fountain began last year when a completion date of spring 2018 was announced, but hit complications when the extent of the damage became known.
David Ellis, project director at the trust, said: “We all knew it wasn’t in a great condition, but it was found to be even worse when it came down.
“The survey on the condition of the fountain was only based on how it looked from the outside. It was only when they started dismantling it that they realised the extent of the internal damage.
“The cast pieces of the fountain were bolted together, but a lot of them had snapped off and they were being held together by rust. Pieces were broken or had bits missing, so they all had to be recast to effectively restore the fountain to its full condition. Sometimes more than one repair was required on a piece.
“They had to make a mould for each piece that was broken, recast the iron, then clean and paint it.”