Gilmerton Cove - Does It Hold Roslin Chapel Secrets?
Gilmerton Cove is a secret network of 300 year old vaults and passageways lying beneath the street of a sleepy suburb of Edinburgh. Deep below ground lies a long forgotten underground labyrinth of tunnels and rooms, on the outskirts of Scotland’s capital city. Rumoured to be a secret meeting place of Freemasons and the Knights Templars, Gilmerton Cove remains a mystery, despite excavations as recently as 2002.
Some four miles from the centre of Edinburgh lies Gilmerton, a small mining village; there beneath an unassuming cottage lies the cove; carved from the sandstone bedrock.
The origins of the cove are surrounded in myth and lore.
What is known is that the property above the chambers was occupied by a blacksmith known as George Paterson, who lived there from 1719 to 1724.
Paterson did use the rooms, accessed from stone steps from the property above, amounting to 1000 square feet, and including beds, couches and tables carved from the rock; bedrooms, fireplace, workshop and forge. He lived there with his family but was also charged by the Kirk for operating an illegal drinking den on the Sabbath.
Covenanters and Witch Hunts
In 1792 after Paterson's death the cove was investigated by the Rev Thomas Whyte, who concluded that the chambers could not have been excavated by Paterson himself, the work was too extensive for one man to complete in five years. Paterson; being a blacksmith also lacked the stonemasonry skills needed to carry out such complex and detailed work.
A further investigation in 1897 by F R Coles of the Scottish Museum of Antiquities also concluded that chisel marks and other evidence pointed to a much earlier creation of the cove. During the time of the covenanters in 1600s Scottish Presbyterians were persecuted, and many sought refuge to practice their religion in secret dens and hides, away from the eyes of the authorities. The 1500s also saw a time of witch persecution, where hundreds of women were hunted and killed for their devilish practices.
Within the cove there is a large stone basin called the punch bowl, which could equally have been used as a font for religious practices or as a cauldron.
After Paterson's death the cove became a den of vice, local stories abound of an illegal distillery, brothel, hell fire club and satanic meetings.
Gilmerton Cove has been only recently been excavated, in 2002. There are a large number of masonic carvings on many stone faces and surfaces, notably the masonic compass, the single most important symbol used within freemasonry. A geometric symbol and an architect’s tool, the symbol serves to remind freemasons to be "square in their dealings" and "circumscribe desires".
This evidence may suggest that the cove was used as an underground meeting place for a masonic lodge. The Order of the Masonic lodge owes its existence to the Knights Templars, also spotlighted in the nearby Roslin Chapel. Some speculate that this could be the final resting place of the Holy Grail, brought to Scotland by the Knight’s Templars. What better hiding place could there be than this sleepy unassuming mining town, just a stone’s throw from Roslin Chapel.
Excavations in 2002 have revealed that the vaults may be more extensive than first thought, there are two passageways blocked by falling rock, one which runs the street, and heads in the exact direction of Roslin chapel, only three miles to the south. The other passageway heads in the direction of Craigmillar castle, a medieval fortification built in 1400 AD and just a mile to the East.
Permission for further excavation has been declined for the time being, the removal of the rubble would compromise the stability of the road that runs over the tunnel, so the secrets of Gilmerton Cove may stay hidden for the sometime yet.
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