A Document From 1656 Linked To Scotland’s Most Haunted Pub

It’s always interesting to browse the old handwritten documents that turn up for sale on eBay.  Often mysterious and illegible to the people selling them, they can repay careful attention by revealing the occasional text of unusual age or interest.  Here’s one recent acquisition that the dealer identified as “LARGE ENGLISH PAPER 1600s,” although it’s actually not English at all, but Scottish, and turns out to have a connection with one of the most famously haunted locations in Edinburgh (click on the image to view in high resolution):

This document is written in secretary hand, which I’ve previously blogged about in connection with three English documents, also from 1656, but which here takes a distinctively Scottish turn with its own special peculiarities and challenges of decipherment (for more information, check out the wonderful Scottish Handwriting website).  If you don’t want to read about the specifics of handwriting and language, go ahead and scroll down to the heading Provisional Translation.  But if you do—well, I’m happy to oblige.

Guides to transcription often claim that u, v, and w were interchangeable in early modern Scottish handwriting, but I’ve still done my best to distinguish them in my transcription to the extent it seems possible to do so.  U is a pair of minims formally identical with n, except that it sometimes has a line drawn above it for clarity (I’ve transcribed this as ŭ).  W reportedly takes two forms.  One of them, which I’ve transcribed vv, looks a lot like lb.  The other, which I’ve transcribed w, closely resembles v—so much so, in fact, that even though some tokens look superficially more like one or the other letter, I’m not sure there’s actually any consistent formal distinction between them, and I’ve relied on context for my choice of w or v, much as with u and n.  The c and can also be difficult to distinguish from one another, as can certain forms of and h.  I’ve transcribed what looks like initial ff as F in the belief that this was perceived at the time as a single majuscule character.  The archaic letter yogh (ʒ) turns up once, in the word ʒaird (i.e., yard).  I’ve preserved the distinction in my transcription between short s (s), long s (ſ), and “scharfes s” (ß).  This last seems to represent ss by itself (e.g., tranß = transs), while the combination ſß seems to represent ssis (e.g., witneſß = witnessis)—see below.Meanwhile, the language of my document is itself not English but Middle Scots, which evolved separately from Middle English and was spoken and written in Lowland Scotland from about 1450 through 1700.  Middle Scots diverges from English in its grammatical morphology (e.g., past tense in -it, plural in -is, active participle in -and), as well as in its vocabulary, some of the more conspicuous examples of the latter found in my document being:

  • bigging = building
  • biggit = built
  • saidis = said (adj., plural)
  • samyne = same, sometimes added redundantly
  • efferand = appropriate, pertaining
  • gif = if
  • scho = she
  • shriffie = sherrif-fee
  • vennall = lane
  • transs = alley
  • alss = also
  • awchtene = eighteenth
  • siclyk = similarly, likewise
  • haill = whole (especially in phrase “all and haill”)
  • entress = “payment due by a tenant for the right of entry to land or property” (DSL)

Other distinctive bits of vocabulary are more readily identifiable with English counterparts—e.g., foir (fore), offeir (offer), pairt (part), richt (right), grund (ground), guidis and geir (goods and gear), quhair (where)—while yet others represent parallel Latin borrowings, as with compt (account), promittit (promised), disponit (disposed, i.e., made property over to someone), poindit (impounded, i.e., for sale to satisfy a debt), and contigue (contiguous).

The seller didn’t provide a date for this document, but the year 1656 is in fact written out twice as Iaivi¢ and Fiftie ſax yeirs, where ¢ represents a c with a downstroke through or in front of it.

The string Iaivi¢ represents 1600 using Roman numerals, although in a way that will be unfamiliar to many modern readers.  Not only is the ai a standardized scribal corruption of M, but the Scottish convention at the time was to write the century with Roman numerals corresponding to number-words in the order in which they would have been spoken aloud: thus, I (“ane”) ai=M (“thousand”) vi (“sax”) c (“hundrith”), rather than MDC (1000+500+100).  Note that ¢ could be parsed here not as the actual numeral c but as an abbreviation for the Latin centum, as is sometimes suggested, with no change in meaning.  This approach to writing years wasn’t unique to Scotland, though—we might find, for example, the equivalent “lan mil vic cinquante et six” in French documents of the same period.

My document also features a number of more obvious abbreviations:

  • Lres = Lettres / Letteris (letters)
  • @rentis = annualrentis (annual rents)
  • ſpe̅it = ſpecifit (specified)
  • q̅t = quhat (what)
  • con̅lie = coniunctlie (conjointly)
  • wr̅i̅n = writtin
  • prin̅ll = principall
  • ſub̅t = ſubſcrivit (subscribed, undersigned)
  • re̅p̅ivie = reſpectivie (respectively)
  • or = our
  • La̅ullie = Lawfullie
  • vmqll = vmquhill (late, deceased)
  • awct̅ie = awctoritie (authority)

There’s also a distinctive type of loop resembling long s (ſ) which turns up in several abbreviations, and which I’ve transcribed as ɣ:

  • Edɣr = Edinburgh (see another example transcribed as “Edgr,” but perhaps intended as “Edinr“)
  • meſſɣr = meſſenger (routinely transcribed as “messgr”)
  • aſſɣn- = aſſign- (aſſigney[es], aſſignation)

So here’s my attempt at a close transcription of the whole document, which begins and ends abruptly in mid-sentence:

ſpe̅it or ony pairt thairof and Reverſiones forſaidis q̅tſumever maner of way To be appryſſit
befor me and my colligis con̅lie and ſeverallie In ane fencit covvrt To be haldin be vs within the
new ſeſſioŭn hoŭs of Edɣr callit the parliament hoŭs the avvchtene day of Iŭlly nixtocome
now inſtant In the hovvr of caŭs Be vertew of the diſpenſſatioŭn containet in the ſaidis abovve
wr̅i̅n Lres At the inſtance and to the behaiff of the ſaid Allexander wardlaw as aſſɣney & vther
wayes havveing richt as ſaid is In payment and ſatdiſfactioŭn to him of the ſovvmes of
money prin̅ll Bygonne @rentis and expenſß re̅p̅ivie abovveſpe̅it Exſtending as ſaid is and for
the ſhriffie efferand thairto dew to me and the ſaid ſhriff in that pairt and or Colligis for execution
of our offices in the ſaid appryſſing And vpon the grŭnd off all and haill the ſaidis
Landis & vthers avvbovveſpe̅it and at the houſß and biggings of the ſamyne and alß be oppin proclama
tioŭn at the mercat croſe of Lanerek re̅p̅ivie and ſucceſſivie The ſaid Iohne Riddill meſſɣr
La̅ŭllie wairint the ſaid Hellene hamiltovvne and hir Tuttoris & Curratoris giff ſcho any hes for their
entreſß To compeir befor me & my colligis con̅lie & ſeverallie the ſaid day and place in the hovvr of
cavvs To heir and ſee the ſaid appryſſing La̅ullie & orderlie Led and dedŭcit and maid Intematione
as offeirs and affixt and Left Iŭſt and avvtentick copies of the ſaidis abovvewr̅i̅n Lres with perticŭlar
Tickits conteining the forme & Tennor of his ſaid denŭnciatioŭn day and place of the ſaid appryſſing
and haill effect thairof vpon the grŭnd of the ſamyne Landis & vthers re̅p̅ivie abovveſpe̅it and at the
houſß & biggings thairof and vpon the ſaid mercat croſe of Lanerek And all this he did Efter
the forme and Tennor of the ſaidis abovvewr̅i̅n Lres in all poynts Befor the witneſß david hamilton
& Iohne mark in brovvncaſtill Iames ſmitovvne meſſɣr & ard haiſtie wretter  And Siclyk vpon
the Firſt day of Iŭlly The ſaid yeir of god Iaivi¢ and Fiftie ſax yeirs I the ſaid
Iohne Hŭntar meſſɣr ſhriff in that pairt abovveſpe̅it Paſt at comand of the ſaidis abovve
wr̅i̅n Lres of appryſſing To the grŭnd off all and haill That Land or tenement ſumtyme of
vmqll Nicoll Vdwart merchand burges of Edɣr Thairefter pertaining to Mr Williame Vdwart
his ſone diſponit be him to the ſaid vmqll Iohne hamiltovvne ſumtyme waiſt and biggit & repairit Fra
the grŭnd be the ſaid vmqll Nicoll vdwart Containing Fovvr ſeverall dualling houſß vnder and abovve
with the ſellars eaſmentis & all thair pertenente Lyand within the brŭgh of Edɣr on the ſovvth ſyd[e]
of the kings hie ſtreet thairof in the venall callit Nidries wynd on the weſt pairt of the tranß thairof
Contigue with the great Back Ludging & foir tenement of the ſaid vmqll Nicoll Betuixt the ſaid Great
Ludging and the ſaid foir tenement on the north The Landis of vmqll Nicoll Rynd on the ſovvth The
cloſe callit Taverners cloſe and the peice of ʒaird of the ſaid vmqll Nicoll on the weſt and the ſaid
vennall on the eiſt pairtis on the ane & vther And to the houſß & biggings thairof and thair
dilligentlie ſearched & ſovvcht the movveable guidis & geir pertaining & belonging to the ſaid Hellene
hamiltowne To havve poindit & appryſſit the ſamyne At the inſtance of the ſaid Allexander wardlaw
For payment & ſatdisfactione to him as aſſɣney and vtherwayes havveing richt in maner abovvementionat
off the ſovvmes of money prin̅ll and bygonne @rentis and expenſß containet in the perticular bandis
obligationes ſub̅t Tickits comptis aſſɣnationes Tranſlationes & diſpoſitiones thairof abovveſpe̅it
and decreit abovvementionat follovveing thairvpone Exſtending in the haill to the ſaid ſovvme of Ane
Thovvſand nyne hundrith Thrie ſcoir nyne pund Fyftene ſchilling ſcottis money
Saiffand Iuſt compt & reckning and ſhriffie efferand thairto: And Becaus
I covvld find na movveable guidis nor geir pertaining nor belonging to the ſaid Hellene hamiltovvne
vpon the grund of the Tenement of Land abovvewr̅i̅n nor within the hoŭſß nor biggings thairof
nor na pairt of the ſamyne poindable for the ſovvmes abovveſpe̅it THairffor vpon the
ſamyne First day of Iŭlly Iaivi¢ and Fiftie ſax yeirs inſtant I the ſaid Iohne
Hŭntar meſſɣr ſhriff in that pairt abovveſpe̅it vpon the grund of the ſamyne Tenement of Land
and at the hoŭſß & biggings thairof and alß be oppin proclamatioŭn at the mercat croſe of Edɣr
being head brugh of the ſhriffdome quhair the ſaid Tenement Lyes Efter thrie ſeverall oyaſß and
publict reading of the ſaidis abovvewr̅i̅n Lres at the ſaid mercat croſe of Edɣr re̅p̅ivie & ſuccessivie In
name & awct̅ie Of his ſaid hienes OLiver Lord protector of the Comoŭnwealth of Ingland
Scotland Irland & the dominiones thairto belonging I La̅ullie and ordovvrlie denŭncit the grŭnd
richt & propertie off all and haill The ſaid Land or Tenement ſumtyme waiſt thairefter biggit
exſtructit & repairit be the ſaid Nvmqll Nicoll vdwart containing the ſaidis Fovvr dŭalling hoŭſß
With all reverſiones alß weill Legall as conventionall and Legall of Legall giff ony be
Contractis bandis obligationes For geiving of Reverſiones & richtis thairof maid grantit
promittit or onywayes conſaivit In favoŭrr of the ſaid Hellene hamiltowne or hir ſaid vmqll father
hir airs & aſſɣneyes For Redemptioŭn of The Landis Tenement & vthers re̅p̅ivie abovveſpe̅it
with the pertenentis or ony pairt thairof or @rentis furth of the ſamyne With all vther


Provisional Translation

Here’s a provisional translation of the document into modern English that preserves as much of the original word order and vocabulary as I thought could be managed without unduly obscuring the meaning:

…specified or any part thereof and reversions aforesaid in whatsoever manner of way to be apprised before me and my colleagues conjointly and severally in a fenced court to be held by us within the new session house of Edinburgh called the Parliament House the eighteenth day of July next now instant in the hour of cause by virtue of the dispensation contained in the said above written letters at the instance and on the behalf of the said Alexander Wardlaw as assignee and otherwise having right as is said in payment and satisfaction to him of the sums of money, principal, bygone annual rents, and expenses respectively above specified extending as is said and for the sheriff-fee appropriate thereto due to me and the said sheriff in that part and our colleagues for execution of our offices in the said apprising and upon the ground of the whole of the said lands and others above specified and at the houses and buildings of the same and also by open proclamation at the market cross of Lanark respectively and successively the said John Riddill, messenger, lawfully warrant the said Helen Hamilton and her tutors and curators if she has any for their entresses to compare before me and my colleagues conjointly and severally the said day and place in the hour of cause to hear and see the said apprising lawfully and orderly led and deduced and made intimation as offers and affixed and left just and authentic copies of the said above written letters with particular tickets containing the form and tenor of his said denunciation day and place of the said apprising and whole effect thereof upon the ground of the same lands and others respectively above specified and at the houses and buildings thereof and upon the said market cross of Lanark, and all this he did after the form and tenor of the said above written letters in all points before the witnesses David Hamilton and John Mark in Browncastle, James Smitown, messenger; and Ard Haistie, writer.

And likewise upon the first day of July the said year of God one thousand six hundred and fifty-six years, I, the said John Huntar, messenger, sheriff in that part above specified, passed at command of the said above written letters of apprising to the ground of the whole of that land or tenement sometime of the late Nicoll Udwart, merchant burgess of Edinburgh; thereafter pertaining to Mr William Udwart, his son; disposed of by him to the said late John Hamilton; sometime waste and built and repaired from the ground by the said late Nicoll Udwart; containing four several dwelling houses under and above with the cellars, easements, and all their pertinent lying within the burgh of Edinburgh on the south side of the King’s high street thereof in the lane called Niddrie’s Wynd on the west part of the alley thereof contiguous with the great back lodging and fore tenement of the said late Nicoll, betwixt the said great lodging and the said fore tenement on the north, the lands of the late Nicoll Rynd on the south, the close called Tavernour’s Close and the piece of yard of the said late Nicoll on the west, and the said lane on the east parts on the one and other and to the houses and buildings thereof and there diligently searched and sought the moveable goods and gear pertaining and belonging to the said Helen Hamilton to have the same impounded and apprised at the instance of the said Alexander Wardlaw for payment and satisfaction to him as assignee and otherwise having right in manner above mentioned of the sums of money, principal, and bygone annual rents and expenses contained in the particular bonds, obligations, subscribed tickets, accounts, assignations, translations, and dispositions thereof above specified and decreed above mentioned following thereupon extending in the whole to the said sum of one thousand nine hundred three score nine pounds fifteen shillings Scottish money, saving just account and reckoning and sheriff-fee appropriate thereto; and because I could find no moveable goods or gear pertaining or belonging to the said Helen Hamilton upon the ground of the tenement of land above written or within the houses or buildings thereof or any part of the same impoundable for the sums above specified, therefore upon the same first day of July sixteen hundred and fifty six years instant, I, the said John Huntar, messenger, sheriff in that part above specified, upon the ground of the same tenement of land and at the houses and buildings thereof and also by open proclamation a the market cross of Edinburgh, being head burgh of the sherrifdom where the said tenement lies, after three several oyezes and public reading of the said above written letters at the said market cross of Edinburgh respectively and successively in name and authority of his said highness Oliver, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, Ireland, and the dominions thereto belonging, I lawfully and orderly denounced the ground right and property of the whole of the said land or tenement sometime waste and thereafter built, constructed, and repaired by the said late Nicoll Udwart, containing the said four dwelling houses with all reversions legal as well as conventional and legal of legal if there be any contracts, bonds, obligations for giving of reversions and rights thereof made, granted, promised, or any way conceived in favor of the said Helen Hamilton or her said late father, her heirs and assigns for redemption of the lands, tenement, and others respectively above specified with the pertinents or any part thereof or annual rents out of the same with all other….

It seems Helen Hamilton’s father John had recently died leaving behind some sizable debts to Alexander Wardlaw, who was now in process of having local sheriffs “apprise” Helen’s scattered inheritances, impounding them for payment of those debts (see here for a technical account of how “apprising” worked).  The law required that the debtor be presented with a written notice of these proceedings, which I think may be what my document is, although it’s obviously only a fragment of something longer.  The first segment of surviving text involves some property in the sheriffdom of Lanark, and although the identification of the property itself is missing, it was presumably the same combination of lands described here as apprised on July 18, 1656:

Edinburgh, August 7 [1656].

THE PROTECTOR grants to ALLEXANDER WARDLAW, merchant burgess of Edinburgh (subject to the legal reversion),—half of that 18s. land of old extent called the Nethertoune of Brounecastell, pertinents, &c., thereof, which are parts of the 4-merk land of old extent of Brounecastell, in the barony of Kilbryd and sheriffdom of Lanark, also the rest of the said 4-merk land of Brounecastell called the Overtoune of Brounecastell, extending to 35s. 4d. land of old extent or thereby, pertinents, &c., thereof, and those two portions of land in the Overtoune of Brouncastell, sometime possessed by umquhile James Mathem and umquhile John Craige, and now by John Brounerig and Gawin Allansone, extending to 22s. 8d. land or thereby, with pertinents, &c., thereof, and that in warrandice and security of the said 18s. land of old extent called the Nethertoune of Brouncastell;—which lands pertained to the deceased John Hamiltoune, merchant burgess of Edinburgh, and were on 18th July 1656 apprised from Hellen Hamiltoune, his only daughter and bairn, as charged to enter heir in special to her said father, at the instance of the said Allexander Wardlaw, in payment to him of £1969 15s. Scots, with £98 10s. of sheriff-fee to John Hunter, messenger:—With precept of sasine.

P. R. viii. 78.

There were Hamiltons with property in the Nethertoun of Browncastle according to the genealogy here, although I’m not sure how (or whether) John and Helen fit into that picture.

But it’s the property described in the second part of the document on which I’d like to focus here.  This consisted of four dwelling houses that had reportedly been built by Nicoll Udwart and inherited by his son William Udwart, who had transferred their ownership to John Hamilton.  The area in which they stood was bounded on the east by Niddrie’s Wynd; on the south by the property of the late Nicoll Rynd; on the north by the late Nicoll Udwart’s “great lodging” or “great back lodging” and “fore tenement”; and on the west by Tavernour’s Close, a place name associated with the east part of Marlin’s Wynd, as well as the “piece of yard” of the “said” late Nicoll (which could refer either to Nicoll Rynd or Nicoll Udwart).  In short, the four dwelling houses appear to have made up the southerly part of a complex of residences built and formerly occupied by Nicoll Udwart, excluding its “great back lodging” and “fore tenement” to the north.  This turns out to have been a historically noteworthy group of buildings.

In describing Niddrie’s Wynd, David Fraser Harris writes:

The most notable family whose mansion stood in the wynd itself was that of Lockhart of Carnwath…. Their mansion was built in 1591 by a Nicol Edward or Udward, round four sides of a court (later known as Lockhart Court) on the west side of the wjnd about half-way down. It was demolished in 1785 to allow of the construction of the South Bridge, the new southern approach to the city. According to the late Sir Daniel Wilson, this house seems to have been one of the most magnificent residences of the old town, which is saying a good deal, for at this date almost every wynd had in it one or more houses very richly decorated…. In what was later the Lockhart mansion, James VI and Anne of Denmark were entertained, at their own request, in January 1591 by Nicol Edward…. From the Lockhart mansion it was that the Earl of Huntly, on February 7, 1593, fled to a deed of blood—the murder of the ‘Bonny Earl of Moray’ at Donibristle…..

I’ll use the alternative spelling Nicol Edward from here on out for the person identified in my document as Nicoll Udwart.  The source for the information about King James VI and his wife staying in Nicol Edward’s mansion during January 1591, and about the Earl of Huntly departing from there before killing the Earl of Moray, appears to be David Moysie’s Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland.  It’s possible that James VI had stayed during January 1591 in a mansion built earlier that same year, as Harris claims, since the new year then still began on March 25.  However, I suspect Harris’s “built in 1591” may really mean “known to have existed in 1591, and therefore built in 1591 or earlier.”  On the other hand, a contemporaneous “diurnal” reports that in February 1571, “the grund and the haill tymber werk of Nicol Vdwartis hous in Niddries wynd [was] diſtroyit be the ſuddartis of Edinburgh, be reſſoun of the inlaik of fyre.”  So the famous mansion must at least have been built, or rebuilt, sometime between the fire in February 1571 and the king’s visit in January 1591, and Nicol Edwards had apparently lived in another structure in the same spot some time even before that.  The mansion was later split up into multiple smaller units, according to Robert Chambers:

Lockhart’s Court was latterly divided into several distinct habitations, one of which, on the north side of the quadrangle, was at one time occupied by the family of Bruce of Connaird, the celebrated traveller [i.e., James Bruce of Connaird (1730-1794)].  In the part on the south side occupied by the Carnwath family, there was a chimney-piece in the drawing-room of the most magnificent workmanship, and which reached to the ceiling.  The whole palace, even in its reduced state, bore an appearance of security and strength which spoke of other times; and there was, moreover, a profound dungeon under ground, which was only accessible by a secret trapdoor, opening through the floor of a small closet, the most remote of a suite of rooms extending along the southern and western sides of the court. Perhaps, at a time when to be rich was neither so common nor so safe as now, Provost Edward might conceal his hoards in this massy more.

Here’s a detail of a map of Edinburgh from 1784, the year before Niddrie’s Wynd was demolished:

I’ve marked what I think must be the approximate location of the four dwelling houses with an orange X.  The quadrangle around which Nicol Edward’s mansion stood is easy to spot just north of it.  Niddrie’s Wynd lies to the east.  Marlin’s Wynd lies to the west, with a yard jutting eastward from it that might perhaps have been Tavernour’s Close.  The most uncertainty surrounds the “piece of yard” of the “said late Nicoll,” which supposedly formed part of the western boundary of the property.  If the “late Nicoll” was Nicol Edward, this would have to refer to the quadrangle of the mansion; but if it was Nicoll Rynd—the most recently mentioned Nicoll, and so arguably the most likely antecedent, owning land immediately to the south—it might refer to the other yard further in that direction (roughly the current location of St. Cecilia’s Hall), or maybe even to the yard extending eastward from Marlin’s Wynd.  But regardless of specifics, the four dwelling houses would appear originally to have belonged to Nicol Edward’s opulent residential complex, even if they had been split off from the “great back lodging” and “fore tenement” by 1656.

And there’s more.  Nicol Edward’s mansion features as a setting in Robert McLellan’s stage play Jamie the Saxt, with characters including “Bailie Nicoll Edward, an Edinburgh cloth merchant,” his wife “Mistress Edward,” and his apprentice Rab.McLellan has King James working on his book Daemonology there during the action of the play, a book Mistress Edwards describes in this passage:

I tell ye it’s aboot witches. It’s a book he’s writin, and ilka ill notion he worms oot o them efter they’re put to the torture, he writes doun there in ink….. [T]here’s mony a nicht efter supper whan we’ll sit ben there and talk, and aye the talk’s aboot the book, and the next chapter, and what he’s gauin to write. And it’s queer talk, some o it. The things thae beldams dae, wi taids and cats and cauves’ heids, to say naething o deid men’s innards, wad fair gar ye grue.

King James was, in fact, presiding over the notorious North Berwick witch trials during this same period, having horrific tortures applied to the accused.  And while there’s no indication that any tortures would have taken place in Nicol Edward’s own mansion, a connection later came to be drawn between the witchcraft trials and the reported existence of mysterious secret passages below the mansion in which the king had resided.

Today, South Bridge appears to run right through what used to be the quadrangle of Nicol Edward’s mansion.  However, the demolished Niddrie’s Wynd has been replaced by Niddry Street, and just a little south of the middle of the street, on the west side, is an establishment known as the Banshee Labyrinth, billed as “Scotland’s most haunted pub.”  Here’s how they describe the location on their website:

Half of the club was once part of the infamous “underground Vaults” -once the haunt of criminals, thieves and the very unsavoury. It was in these former slums that many poor and innocent met a very grisly end! Ironically right next door, the front of the club; was once home to one of the richest men in Edinburgh, Lord Nicol Edwards. Edwards was Lord Provost of Edinburgh during the reign of King James VI/I of Scotland & England, and was reputedly a vile man – not only did he abuse his own wife horribly, but he is said to have had a basement dungeon beneath his house in which he at times personally tortured suspected witches before trial.

The pub’s connection to Nicol Edwards was formerly more prominent, since it used to be named for him: Nicol Edward’s, according to the sign in front.  At the time of writing there’s still a page of Yelp reviews for it under its old name.

Of course, the pub had made much of the story of Nicol Edwards under its earlier name as well.  Back in 2002, Jonathan Trew wrote in a review of the pub for the Scottish Daily Record:

Apparently, Nicol Edwards was the Lord Provost of Edinburgh back in the days when Auld Reekie reeked, you used burning witches to light your fags and getting axed from your job was literally a pain in the neck. A nasty man born into brutal times, Edwards was reputed to be what we would now call a right bampot. Not a great pioneer for equal opportunities, Edwards had his wife banished to a deserted island where she died. Her unspeakable crime was to have shouted to him in the street from a window.  Legend has it that he buried all his ill-gotten wealth in the beer cellars under his house. As the centuries passed, the street his house sat on was built over and incorporated into the vaults underneath the South Bridge.  The pub is said to be situated above the remains of his house and the owners of the pub are excavating the vaults in the hope of uncovering the loot.

The account of Nicol Edwards has been conflated here with the story of the Banishment of Lady Grange, whose home was actually right across the street from Lockhart Court, but the Banshee Labyrinth’s most compelling claim on things numinous and supernatural seems to rest on the dungeons beneath Nicol Edward’s old mansion and their popular association with torture and buried treasure.  That said, the pub seems on maps to lie a little to the south of the site of Nicol Edward’s main lodging, which was more centrally located along Niddrie’s Wynd.  That might put it a little closer to the southerly annex designated for apprising in my document from 1656: the “four several dwelling houses under and above with the cellars, easements, and all their pertinent.”  Or maybe not.  But either way, the property has turned out to be a lot more interesting than we’d expect from the average old legal document that turns up on eBay.

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