Lady Fife’s Well, Leith, Midlothian

Holy Well? (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 27534 75794

Archaeology & History

Despite this site having a number of albeit brief literary references, from the early 19th century onwards, the history and traditions of this Well are very scant indeed.  It figures in various texts that detail the historical ‘Battle of Leith’, but there is little additional information in such tomes.  Even local history works pass it by with brevity.

Lady Fifes Well on 1852 map
Lady Fifes Well on 1853 map

Its present name derives from the Countess of Fife who, in the 19th century, lived in the nearby mansion of Hermitage House (and who also grafted her name onto the nearby mound of Lady Fife’s Brae); but this title seems to have been grafted onto the earlier ‘Ladie Well’, implying it had a dedication to St. Mary or more probably an earlier heathen female spirit at the waters. Although it is shown on the OS-maps of 1852 and ’53, and described in Grant’s 1883 work as being there in his time, all subsequent maps after this date seem to indicate that it had gone.

All that we know is that the waters ran into a small stone trough and that Lady Fife enjoyed her evenings here, partaking of the waters.


  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Edinburgh, TNA 2017.
  2. Campbell, Alexander, The History of Leith from the Earliest Times, William Reid: Leith 1827.
  3. Grant, James, Cassell’s Old and New Edinburgh – volume 3, Cassell, Petter Galpin: London 1883.
  4. Harris, Stuart, “The Fortifications and Siege of Leith,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 121, 1991.
  5. Harris, Stuart, The Place-Names of Edinburgh: Their Origins and History, Gordon Wright: Edinburgh 1996.
  6. Hutchison, William, Tales, Traditions and Antiquities of Leith, Leith 1865.
  7. Maxwell, C.A., The Wars of England and Scotland, W.P. Nimmo: Edinburgh 1870.
  8. Russell, John, The Story of Leith, Nelson 1922.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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