Demolition may reveal hidden cellar

18th June, 2014 by Richard Ross

The demolition of an Edinburgh office block may uncover remnants of a 200 year old cellar that held the wines of Scottish philosopher David Hume.

humePortraitHume, a leading player in the Scottish Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, was a keen entertainer as well as a world-renowned philosopher.

Work began yesterday on demolishing the office block that was built on the site of Hume’s original town house, built on Edinburgh’s St. Andrews Square in the 1770s and demolished in the 1950s.

Speaking to The Scotsman, historian Mike Turnbull says there is a chance that an original cellar could survive, as the cellars of the time used to stick out under the street and pavement beyond the footprint of the house itself.

Billy Kay, author of ‘Knee Deep in Claret’, a history of wine and Scotland, told The Drinks Business: “Because Claret was very much the drink of the Scottish enlightenment, it would be amazing to find a pre-phylloxera bottle or two in the cellar, and a very valuable piece of history”.

Kay says that Hume was well known for his love of the drink. The philosopher began drinking Bordeaux in his teenage years, when as a youth of 17 he was prescribed “a pint of claret per day” to combat a bout of depression.

His wine drinking continued through his adult life, with his Edinburgh house becoming a well-known location for dinner parties with other major Enlightenment luminaries. Scotland’s strong historic links with France meant that the wines of Bordeaux were the mainstay of the cellars of the time.

In Hume’s will, he left his friend John Home “ten dozen of my old claret at his choice; and one bottle of that other liquor called port.”

The site is being developed into a £75 million office and residential complex, due for completion in 2016. It’s hoped that any cellar discovery can be incorporated into the new structure.

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