Could Edinburgh's Chamber of Secrets host arts events?

DEVELOPERS who own a cathedral-like “secret chamber” under an Edinburgh housing estate say they have no plans to use the space despite calls for it to become a venue for a festival production or arts event.

Thursday, 4th July 2019, 2:58 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th July 2019, 3:58 pm
The underground reservoir used to hold 15 million gallons of water
The underground reservoir used to hold 15 million gallons of water

The Evening News revealed earlier this week how the ornate former water tank, which used to be part of the old Alnwickhill waterworks, was still intact below the new homes built on the site between Liberton Gardens and Alnwickhill Road.

But Barratts, joint owners with Cala of the underground cavern, said access problems meant the opportunities to use the space for anything were “limited”.

It is understood the only current access to the tank is by ladder.

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But Tom Ketley, director of Edinburgh-based promoters FLY Events, is keen to explore what possibilities there might be.

He said: “We do lots of events in Edinburgh and we would love to do something there.

“From the photos it looks like it would be a fantastic venue for shows.

“I spoke to Historic Scotland and it sounded as if access was hard but could be fixed by installing a stairwell.

“It looks to me like it does have potential but I haven’t been there so I don’t know if it’s safe or practical.”

Constructed in 1875 as part of the Alnwickhill waterworks, the vaulted space served as a 15-million gallon tank, storing the city’s water.

When the waterworks closed a few years ago, most of the other buildings on the site were demolished to make way for housing by Cala and Barratt subsidiary David Wilson Homes.

But the underground reservoir - described as being “half the area of Charlotte Square” - was preserved, though with no obvious use in mind.

When the pictures came to light, Leith architect Kieran Gaffney described the reservoir as “an amazing space” and suggested the redundant reservoir could perhaps have a new life as a Festival venue.

And Tory councillor Joanna Mowat said it would be great if a use could be found for it, but added it would probably be very expensive to do anything with it.

A Barratt Homes spokesman said: “As joint owners of the former Alnwickhill waterworks site, including the underground water tank, Barratt Homes is committed to maintaining and preserving the 19th century structure. Unfortunately, due to the nature of this underground structure, with restricted access and lack of adequate ventilation, any alternative usage would be limited. There are currently no plans to use the space.”

He said any alterations would need listed building and planning consent, but to date there had been no approaches about using the space.