Since our townhouse was built in the late 1780s, it has had a varied yet magnificent story to tell. Initially constructed as a townhouse for wealthy local families, the premises comprised of a singular right aligned entrance door, three floors with basement, garden area and a single storey mews at the rear.
The ground and parts of the first floor would have seen a lavish, formal entertaining space, coupled with bedrooms towards the upper levels and service area in the basement. The main rooms would have featured elaborate plasterwork with decorative cornices throughout the family home.
As the increased commercialisation of George Street occurred, in 1835 the property was transformed into a magnificent retail space by David Bryce. The rooms featured exquisite plasterwork, two ornate pillars and a top-lit magnificent saloon area at the back of the showroom. The main structural elements of the Grade A listed space exist to this day.
At the same time as the initial renovation of the shop area, a separate staircase was introduced to give access to the upper floors of the townhouse. Whilst little is known about the beginnings of these elevated levels, it is assumed the premises carried on as residential area or perhaps saw the introduction of workshops at that stage.
By the 1920s however, the upper floors were glamorously used by the BBC where all broadcasting in the area was transmitted. At that time, the space was described as “very commodious and will allow the work of the station to be efficiently carried on. The rooms are spacious and there is an atmosphere of light and brightness about the new studio.” 1 The BBC relocated in 1930 to their new headquarters on Queen Street.
Twenty-two years later, Hamilton & Inches proudly announced the transfer to its new premises from 88 Princes Street, where it hoped to continue the “tradition of craftsmanship, beauty and quality associated with all our goods and services,” and where customers were invited to “select in comfort and at leisure.”2
Our showroom in the 1950s
The company continued to grow from strength to the strength and by 1965, historical accounts document all floors were being used by over 50 employees. The first floor was, and still is, home to the silversmiths and the second floor, the watch and clockmaking department. The lower levels saw a series of safes introduced, coupled with a storage and packaging area. The entire building was a hub of activity that remains to this day.
As part of our recent multi-million regeneration project, each level of the building has been given a new lease of life in its own unique way, following the careful restoration of our building. The workshops of the silversmiths, jewellers and hand-engravers have seen optimum lighting solutions introduced; the bright spaces rejuvenated and fit for purpose.
To the rear of the highest level, home to our jewellers, a floor to ceiling windowpane allows for views out over the Firth of Forth, the inspiration behind so many of our pieces. The time-worn stairwell, the backbone of the building, has been refreshed, all its historic features carefully restored. It is hoped that this will soon feature a wealth of antique hand-crafted Hamilton & Inches pieces, showcasing our exceptional craft over the centuries.
As custodians of such a significant building, our renovations have touched every part of the five floors. From the enhanced exterior to the careful restoration of listed elements, the townhouse has been given the love it so richly deserves. In our 155th year of business, we are proud to call 87 George Street home and preserve our incredible building for the next 155 years to come.
Find out more about our history.
1: 'New Wireless Studio in Edinburgh’, Glasgow Herald, 1 August 1925, 3.
2: The Times, 28 January 1952.