Public Wells & Fountains (4) Bo’ness

In the 1840s the inhabitants of Bo’ness derived their water supply solely from springs and shallow wells in the neighbourhood, including the springs at Barrel Braes, the Roperie, the well at Flints known as “Wallese”, and St John’s Well.

Brae Well

A small spring well situated on the top of Pan Braes, and owes its name to the circumstance of being on a brae

Illus: Extract from the 1856 Ordnance Survey Map Map showing the locations of Brae Well and Well O’ Spa.

Well o’ Spa

(NS 9920 8131)

This name is given to the shaft of an old coalpit in the parish minister’s grass glebe.  There is said to have been a spa well where the pit was sunk, or at some place near at hand


The name is in fact typical of the people of Bo’ness who gave grandiose names to mundane structures.  It is probably a laconic reference to the beautiful ancient healing well in Aberdeen but here is applied to an old pit shaft.


(NS 97 78)

Two very fine spring wells about half a mile NW of Kinneil Mills, they are surrounded by a small bleaching ground & contiguous is a small wash house


In 1846 this source, and a nearby spring at Langlands, were considered for supplying the town of Bo’ness.  The water was plentiful, but in the end a nearer source was tapped (Salmon 1913, 269).

St. John’s Well

(NT 001 804)

An excellent spring well on Borrowstoun Farm, a short distance north of the farmhouse.  The well is covered over and a pump fixed on it, from which the inhabitants adjacent are supplied with water.  It is also from this the inhabitants of Bo’ness are chiefly supplied.  It is not known why it got the name, unless it was from the knights of St John, who at one time possessed the land around it.  There is a field convenient which is still known by the name of the Temple land


In 1849 the Bo’ness Town Trustees had cut deep drains near the well, causing much consternation to the rapidly increasing population of Newton which used it.  Eventually the Trustees were able to ensure them that the operations were intended to increase the water supply to the well and to the town of Bo’ness. They then enlarged the fountain (ie the water tank) of St. John’s Well, which was properly enclosed, and a pump was put into it for the use of the inhabitants of Borrowstoun (Salmon 1913, 268).

Click on the links below to read further:

Barrel or Boslem Well & Diamond Fountain

Cross Well

Maggie’s Well

St John’s Well and the Jubilee (Victoria) Fountain

G.B. Bailey, 2022