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Edinburgh World Heritage/Ross Fountain

Ross Fountain has come back to life

David Ellis - Ross Development Trust

Ross Fountain

The Ross Fountain

We assisted in restoring a large, 19th-century cast-iron fountain to its former glory in Princes Street Gardens.


The Ross Fountain

Restoring a fountain's youth

In July 2017, four mermaids took flight over Princes Street Gardens, as pieces of the Ross Fountain were carefully dismantled and lifted away for vital conservation work.

All 122 pieces of the landmark sculpture were transported to the workshop of Lost Art, where they were restored to their former glory.

Sculpted by artist Jean-Baptiste Jules Klagmann and produced at the world-famous iron foundry of Antoine Durenne in Sommevoire, France, the cast-iron fountain includes cherubs, mermaids, walrus and lion heads and four female figures representing science, arts, poetry and industry. The fountain is a magnificent example of 19th century cast-iron work, in the neoclassical style commonly known as Beaux Arts.

The figure representing art holds a paintbrush – this element had to be replaced

Local gun maker, Daniel Ross, saw the fountain in London at the Great Exhibition of 1862 and gifted it to Edinburgh. However, others were less impressed – Dean Ramsay, the mid-Victorian minister of St John’s Episcopal Church, described it as ‘grossly indecent and disgusting; insulting and offensive to the moral feelings of the community and disgraceful to the City.’

Despite this, it has since become a much-loved landmark in the city, and Edinburgh World Heritage (through our Conservation Funding Programme funded by Historic Environment Scotland) was proud to have partnered with The Ross Development Trust and the City of Edinburgh Council to bring the fountain back to life and get the water flowing again, for the first time since 2010.

The whole conservation process cost around £1.9m, and took around 40 000 hours to restore. Care was taken to ensure the proper materials were used on the cast-iron structure. 650 litres of paint were used to reintroduce the original colour scheme, which more closely matches that of other French fountains from the same period.

The formal switch-on took place on Sunday 8th July 2018.

The Ross Fountain

The project in numbers


individual pieces

40 000

hours of work


litres of paint


total cost

The process

How the Ross Fountain looked before, during and after its restoration...

“Edinburgh has inherited an extraordinary richness of monuments that enliven the backdrop of our daily lives and make our city special. Many of the monuments recall significant events or people, but in rare instances such as this, some are just celebrations of the ephemeral joys of life.”

Adam Wilkinson

Director – Edinburgh World Heritage

Princes Street Gardens

The bigger picture

David Ellis, Managing Director of the Ross Development Trust, said: ‘We are thrilled with the way in which the Ross Fountain has come back to life. Lost Art has done a great job and their team is to be congratulated. The view of the Ross Fountain with the castle in the backdrop is without doubt a postcard image of the city. We therefore prioritised the restoration of this amazing and much-loved monument within the wider revitalisation project. Our aim at the Trust is to raise the capital to provide necessary investment within West Princes Street Gardens. We hope our work to restore the fountain acts as a good example of our intentions and is just the beginning of improvements within the Gardens.


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