Built in 1537, the elaborately carved King’s Fountain at the centre of Linlithgow Palace, Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland is thought to be the oldest surviving fountain in Britain.
The fountain was commissioned by James V of Scotland in 1537, reputedly to welcome his new French queen, and the first documentary evidence of its existence is a bill for repairs dating back to 1542. The fountain was once considered to be among the glories of the Scottish court.
It was traditionally used as a centrepiece during special occasions, such as Charles I’s visit in 1633, when the water would be fired. Despite being vandalised in the late 1630s legend has it that wine flowed instead of water when Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed at Linlithgow Palace in 1745.
By that time, however, the fountain had already been badly neglected and a year later it was damaged during the fire that left the palace a roofless ruin.
An ambitious project to rectify centuries of damage and decay began with the removal of concrete and iron repairs carried out in the 1930s.
The next job was to painstakingly survey, record and photograph each of the 158 carved or moulded stones that made up the original fountain. As much of the material was retained and reinstated as possible, but where necessary new stones were carved by Historic Scotland stonemasons and craftsmen at Cliveden Conservation Workshop in Bath.
Finally, the five-metre high fountain was reassembled with replacement three-tiered basins around the central structure which is topped off with a half-tonne crown.
Now back in full working order, the flow of water will continue to be limited to help prevent future erosion.
Occupying a prominent position beside Linlithgow Loch, Linlithgow Palace is one of Scotland’s best known historic buildings.
The birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, Linlithgow Palace was a favourite residence of the Stewart kings before the Union of the Crowns.
Although designated as a Royal Palace, this imposing fortification qualifies as a defensive Castle and was built to be just that.
The first royal residence was established on this site in the 12th century; the present palace was started for King James I in 1425. James V was born here in 1512, and, by the time of the birth of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1542, the building had taken its present form.
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