Pump Room, St Bernard's Well, Edinburgh

Ink and watercolour on paper, 1888
Thomas Bonnar (d. 1899)
RCAHMS: Bonnar Collection presented in 1958

Thomas Bonnar was a member of a prominent Edinburgh family of decorators.  In 1888, he refurbished the building at St Bernard’s Well. For the pump room, he created a marble interior, decorated with mosaic, to create the atmosphere of a Roman watering place.  The medicinal sulphur well had been discovered in the 1760s, and in 1788 Lord Gardenstone commissioned artist and architect Alexander Nasmyth to design a Roman temple to stand above it.  The well’s water was extremely popular.  Visitors were advised to drink it in the morning as ‘it cleans the intestines and appetite gives’. 

However not everyone agreed about the benefits of the well. Joseph Black (1728-1799), the Scottish physicist and chemist, suggested that people might get more benefit from the walk to and from the well rather than sampling the water!