Holyrood Architectural Salvage was born in the mid-nineties and focused originally on roll top baths.
Managing director Ken Fowler had a bath badly restored for his own house by a local company and thought that he could do better! He started “All About Baths” employing local spray painter David Gallacher. Ken & Dave soon had a thriving business restoring antique baths in Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Borders.
Ken then started to source roll top baths for resale, took on a single workshop in Leith and when Dave didn’t have a customer’s bath to restore he would come to the workshop and enamel the bath that Ken had sourced. The salvage side of the business was born!
Ken continued to buy baths, Dave continued to restore them and a small showroom/workshop was rented just off Gayfield square. This damp dark & dingy showroom which may still be remembered by some of you was really the start of something big!
Ken noticed that his bath customers were looking for the full suite and started to source Victorian basins, toilets (often decorative) high level cisterns and taps. He used to strip the chrome of the taps and polish up the brass underneath and was ever so proud of his efforts. Business continued to grow on both sides with Dave focusing on the baths whilst Ken had the salvage bug!
He became a salvage hunter and was often seen digging through skips, frequenting scrap yards and visiting any site that was being demolished or restored. Asylums, old hospitals, stately homes, schools or wherever treasure was to be found, Ken was there!
Gayfield Square was quickly outgrown and new premises were sought! It was then that Ken chanced upon the old Dryborough brewery in Duddingston. An amazing listed structure was the perfect setting for the growing collection. A deal was struck with the landlords and the name changed to Holyrood Architectural Salvage. The business went from around 500 square feet to 6,600 square feet overnight and the stock looked ridiculously inadequate in such a cavernous space.
Alan Brown visited Holyrood, liked what he saw and already being a friend of Ken’s from way back, decided to join the team. Ken and Alan continued to buy everything they could find and some of their earlier purchases can still be seen in Holyrood today – in hindsight, not the most desirable items but they were learning as they went. Among the ‘can’t sell list’ are a pair of huge columns from a masonic lodge and a bronze bank teller’s screen.
The showroom was still mostly laid to baths and sanitary ware but increasingly, customers were asking for original fireplaces, panelled doors, Belfast sinks, clothes poles, etc. Ken and Alan continued to take their lives in their hands removing things from precarious sites long before health & safety became a ruler: the good old days! Increasingly, the range increased and now the yard is full of architectural salvage of all types.
Edinburgh Architectural Salvage was the main competitor and had started a few years earlier but Ken noticed on his regular visits that everything needed restored! He didn’t want to sell things that then needed a middle man to sort – what was the point of buying an antique fireplace that you couldn’t easily fit! Ken and Alan decided that they wanted to be different from all the other salvage yards and took on skilled staff to restore the salvaged items. Joiners & blacksmiths became part of the regular staff and where possible everything was restored before sale. This continues to be the philosophy today but unfortunately the stock is now so vast it is impossible to do.
The main focus is on fireplaces now – although the sanitary ware is still in Ken and Alan’s hearts, plumbers rates and the lack of replacement parts has taken its toll. We used to strip out lead lined mahogany & cast iron cisterns, fiberglass line them and fit new plumbing but the labour costs have now rendered this practice no longer viable. Fortunately a lot of good quality reproductions have been made of period pieces and the market in old sinks, toilets and cisterns has virtually gone.
Fireplaces are a different matter as the reproductions look nothing like the originals – no character, patina or originality. Most copied inserts have been gleaned from cities far a field and thus have no resemblance of those traditional to Edinburgh. We have a huge range of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian cast iron inserts and wood mantels in slate, marble and occasionally stone. See the shop for further details! We also offer a fireplace installation service and can take care of the whole fitting process.
Dave is no longer part of the team but continued with “All About Baths” and works with his wife restoring baths throughout central Scotland. Dave’s claim to fame is re-enameling baths for the queen and has the royal seal of approval to prove it.
Ken continues to source Architectural Salvage and can often be found pottering away in his overalls somewhere in the yard whilst the rest of the staff keep the business running:
Alan Brown is the general manager
Margaret Falconer (Ken’s sister) is on sales and accounts
Eddy Charlton on sales, IT and keeping our website up to date
Kevin Barlas Workshop foreman and blacksmith