Whisky galore for Gary as he uncovers treasure trove

Gary Still found the bottles and stencils behind the wall of his Whiski Rooms
Gary Still found the bottles and stencils behind the wall of his Whiski Rooms
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FOR Gary Still, it was the last thing he was banking on finding.

Hidden in the basement of a former bank in a street historically linked with finance was evidence of slightly less sober origins.

A stash of empty bottles and wine barrel stencils was discovered bricked up behind the walls of the Whiski Rooms and Restaurant – a former Bank of Scotland branch in North Bank Street.

The historic treasure trove has cast new light on the area and suggested it may not always have been a financial powerhouse.

Mr Still, who owns the business with his wife, Anne, discovered the ‘time capsule’ during renovations and called in conservation charity Edinburgh World Heritage (EWH), which is still investigating.

He stumbled upon weathered bottles and around a dozen metal stencils while mending damp in the basement.

“The stencils were all on the floor and you would have missed them because it was full of water and rubble,” he said.

“I felt them under my feet when I stood on them because they had a different texture and was stunned and delighted by what I found.”

Mrs Still said she was “fascinated” to discover the purpose of the buildings had turned full circle over the course of two centuries.

“We were amazed by the find as we had assumed that the buildings had been used as a bank as this was the main street for banks in Edinburgh, but is incredible to think that the premises are now used in the same way they were in the 1800s,” she said.

EWH is working to determine the age of the bottles and stencils, which are about A3 in size and contain the words Marsala OP, Oloroso sherry, Regina Port, Romano, Navy Port, Vino Fino, Manzanillo.

Frank McGrail, from EWH, has been researching the Whiski Rooms history, discovered that Jane Bisset’s Refreshment Rooms was housed at numbers 4 and 5 North Bank Street around the 1850s before moving down the street several years later.

Mr McGrail said: “North Bank Street is an important historical site as it is right in the heart of a World Heritage Site.

“The Whiski Rooms were formerly the landmark Harkins Catholic Booksellers and I suspect that when the building was changed from a winesellers to a booksellers, the builders simply put the liquor bottles and stencils into a cavity wall which was then bricked up and left as a sort of time capsule.”

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com