Gilmerton Cove

Gilmerton Cove
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Gilmerton Cove

Gilmerton Cove consists of a peculiar series of interconnected rooms and tunnels carved out of the sandstone some 3m (10 feet) beneath the streets of Gilmerton in south Edinburgh. The Cove was a home and work-place for George Paterson, the local blacksmith, until he died c.1737 and local tradition suggests he may also have been responsible for its creation between 1720 and 1724. Some historians have suggested that the Cove may be have pre-dated Paterson, possibly built as a folly or illicit drinking-den, which may have had smuggling or Covenanter connections.

A flight of stone steps leads down to a main passage about 12m (40 feet) in length with rooms on both sides, including three bedrooms, a sitting room, workshop and forge. The rooms are it by skylights. There is also the so-called 'drinking-parlour', with a roof-supported by a stone pillar and a long curving table and chairs all carved in situ from stone. The table has a shallow basin, referred to as a 'punch bowl', carved into it.

A local curiosity, the earliest written account was produced by the Rev. Thomas Whyte of Liberton in 1782. In 1897, F.R. Coles, Assistant Keeper of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland in Edinburgh, carried out an extensive survey of the Cove. He came to the conclusion that the techniques used to work the stone were of a time much earlier than the 18th-century and felt Paterson could not have undertaken the task alone. A more recent account has been produced by Rev. Donald Skinner of Gilmerton Kirk.

In 1998, the Cove was acquired for the sum of £1 by the City of Edinburgh Council from Ladbroke's Bookmakers, whose shop lies above, with the intention of developing it as a local tourist attraction.

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