The “Old Well” Off Edinburgh’s Canongate

Site of an old well just off the Canongate in Edinburgh, Scotland.(Image: Kim Traynor. Site of an “old well” off the Canongate, Edinburgh)

Edinburgh, Scotland’s storied capital, is a captivating city where folklore and hidden history abound, not to mention a fair share of oddities of the past. Previously, we’ve featured the grave (or at least a marker in a humble car parking space) of 16th century Protestant minister and reformer John Knox. The location of Knox’s grave, in what is now a carpark behind St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town, got me thinking about another innocuous marker which lies behind the nearby Canongate.

The inscription – “Old Well” – on these two stone slabs leaves little doubt as to its original purpose. The photographer, Kim Traynor, writes that “the well stood behind tenements in Gladstone’s Court, immediately west of Old Tolbooth Wynd. The Court was called Bowling Green Close until its name change to honour the 19th C M.P. for Midlothian and Liberal prime minister. It also housed the Magdalene Asylum before it moved to Dalry.”

The old Magdalene Asylum, meanwhile, is another story, and a dark one at that. Stay tuned…

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