Riddle’s court is unveiling its history as we reveal further finds from the building as part of the project to transform it into the Patrick Geddes Centre for Learning. Since the Scottish Historic Building Trust and its team of archaeologists and architects and builders arrived on site, each day reveals a new story.
The remains of a vast 16th century fireplace in one of the ground floor rooms has proved one of the most fascinating discoveries. Dr Cressey, SHBTs archaeologist had identified the fireplace on one of the building’s early plans but the reality of the find defied expectation. He explains that: ‘We have effectively found a big kitchen range from the 16th century, including the oven.’
Excavation of the fireplace saw twelve tonnes of rubble removed which had been dumped into the chimney flue through the 20th century. In the process of removing the rubble SHBT uncovered a well preserved press for storing salt, a precious commodity in the 16th century.
King James VI and Queen Anne of Scotland banqueted here in 1598 and great excitement has been generated at the thought that this would be the fireplace used to prepare the meal. The banquet was a lavish event as the bill came to 1103 Scots Pound – this is the equivalent of around £20,000 today. The costs included a Dutch Ham and 30 oranges and medical expenses for the Town Officer after he hurt himself during the banquet, suggesting that it must have been a debauched affair!
Now, LDN Architects, who are leading the design phase of the re-development, are tasked with absorbing this significant find into their plans; at the moment the area is scheduled to become part of the visitor facilities – destined, then, to be one of the most historic conveniences the city has to offer!