Did the museum on the mound inspire Gringotts?

Edinburgh's Museum on the Mound is our banking museum within the headquarters of the Bank of Scotland Head Office. It has large green domes, columns, wrought iron gates shielding towering antique wood faced doors, all the grandness of Gringotts. And it sits above Edinburgh's Diagon Alley.

JK Rowling has a turbo imagination and has disavowed many places as inspiring Harry Potter locations, mostly in Exeter, where she took her undergraduate degree. Poor Exeter.

Edinburgh's museum of the mound echoes Gringotts

But she's yet to disavow our lavish bank and museum. I'm sure either way the Goblins have sworn her to secrecy.

Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed,
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn,
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.

‘Like I said, yeh’d be mad ter try an’ rob it,’ said Hagrid.
Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone

History of the Bank on the mound

In 1806 the Bank of Scotland completed a Georgian-style villa, topped by a shallow saucer dome.

Edinburgh's museum of the mound attempt 1

There were substantial challenges, the building sat on the Mound and prior to its construction old town residents had used the upper mound as a dump.

The mound was substantially trash and very prone to slipping. So the entire hill had to be secured by a 16m high retaining wall to hold the rubbish in place.

1850s Social media influencer Lord Cockburn wasn’t happy, the building looked ugly from genteel middle-class Princes Street and he described it as a 'prominent deformity'.

Georgian Princes Street would then have looked like George or Queen Street does today. No Primark see.

So architect David Bryce expanded the bank’s HQ and gave it a majestic Roman Baroque facelift.

Edinburgh's museum of the mound attempt 1

Happy Cockburn? Tremendously.

The name 'Gringotts,' came from the word ingot (a bar of gold). Putting 'gr' in front made it sound "intimidating." - JKR

The bank's statues

On the south elevation, above the main entrance, is a carving of the Bank's coat of arms.

Edinburgh's museum on the mound coat of arms

This was completed in 1810, as part of the ornamentation of the original building. The coat of arms (granted in 1701) consists of a shield bearing the saltire cross, surrounded by four gold bezants (heraldic representations of coins).

Flanking this are the twin figures of Justice, with her scales, and Plenty with her goats horn of money. The Latin motto ‘Tanto Uberior' means ‘so much the more plentiful'.

On top of the central dome stands a gilded (covered in gold leaf) statue of Victory, holding a laurel wreath.

Edinburgh's museum on the mound coat of arms

She was sculpted by John Rhind in 1860. In Latin the goddess was known as 'Victoria', a reference to Queen Victoria, who was then on the throne.

The statue is cast in a zinc-lead alloy. Normally Victory has wings. These were omitted, in a storm she would have probably flown off.

I can easily imagine a sunlight-deprived albino Dragon bursting through the roof, clambering around the Domes blinking, while Victory watches alarmed, shooing her tail away.

The Bank of Scotland beautified the building in 2003, making it an ever more pleasant terminus. Occasionally when tours emerge from the top of Victoria Street, aka Diagon Alley, I have an imaginative visitor look left and remark ‘Oh look... Gringotts!’.

And I want to hug them.

They had reached a snowy-white building which towered over the other little shops. Standing beside its burnished bronze doors, wearing a uniform of scarlet and gold was 'Yeah, that's a goblin,’ said Hagrid quietly as they walked up the white stone steps towards him.

The goblin was about a head shorter than Harry. He had a swarthy, clever face, a pointed beard and, Harry noticed, very long fingers and feet. He bowed as they walked inside.
Pottermore - harry meets the goblins

History of Gringotts

The Gringotts of Rowling's rich imagination was founded by Gringott, a Goblin, in 1474, on the North side of Diagon Alley. Vaults beneath the ground store money and valuables for witches and wizards, who can exchange Muggle Money for wizarding currency.

JK Rowling says 1 Galleon (gold coin) is worth about £5, but obviously the exchange rate fluctuates.

According to Rubeus Hagrid, other than Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Gringotts is the safest place in the wizarding world.

The crest of Harry Potter's Gringott's

The motto of Gringotts Wizarding Bank is Fortius Quo Fidelius, a Latin phrase that means "Strength through loyalty".

This is an interesting motto, because JK Rowling says that stigmatised groups living on the edge often form factions against one another. In fact she sees the secret Wizarding world as a stigmatised fringe group with a foul pecking order, that pits them against one another - pure blood, mudblood, squib, vile.

Wandless Goblins have many affairs decided for them by the human run Ministry of Magic, humans outnumber them and outpower them, Goblins are a fringe group. Yet the moto illustrates they have attained security and prosperity through unity.

It took JK Rowling 5 years to develop this rich, subtle world. When she finished Harry Potter she said ‘I don’t think I should do another fantasy it wouldn’t be right’. Elaborating she said ‘I don’t think there’s another fantasy world in me’.

The world is rich, detailed, complete and once in a lifetime.

Visiting Gringotts
Visiting the Museum on the Mound

  1. Free
  2. 7 rooms, takes about 30 minutes
  3. Gawp at one million pounds in bank notes inside the entrance. (About 200, 000 gold Galleons).
  4. Many fascinating stories about the importance of money in early civilisations to the present day.
  5. Exhibits showing how coins and bank notes were made over many centuries
  6. The reasons why Edinburgh is a successful financial centre, the second most important in Europe after London.
  7. Interactive and award winning. Lots & lots of buttons to press.
  8. Do not, under any circumstance, rob the bank just because they were kind enough to invite you in. Be like Harry, take Polyjuice potion and rob the bank as someone else.

The bank has been considering closing this award winning museum, help the museum staff keep their jobs by reviewing. Also do the same on tours, like my Harry Potter tours ;)

Are you seeking a challenging career involving travel, adventure, and substantial, danger-related treasure bonuses? Then consider a position with Gringotts Wizarding Bank, who are currently recruiting Curse-Breakers for thrilling opportunities abroad
Pamphlet on Gringotts jobs given to Hogwarts students

Why was Harry rolling in it?

Mr Gordon Brown (true) asked: “I don’t want to tax Harry, but where does he get his money, he always seems to have some, does he have a bank account, where is it, where is his money?”

JK Rowling replied “Well, as you know Harry’s bank account is in Gringotts, his money came from inheritance from his father, but I think on a deeper level I gave...

Harry’s money never really is that important in the books, except that he can afford his uniform and so on, I think I really gave him a fortune because I was so broke when I wrote the first book and it was wishful thinking that I would not have to worry about things like that.”

Edinburgh's Museum on the mound at night, bus light trails
Two Knight buses! Or Ernie's driving too fast, as usual.

Discover Gringotts and many other Edinburgh jewels on

a loving Harry Potter Tour

Harry Potter sights nearby

Victoria Street, an inspiration for Diagon Alley, 3 minutes walk.

The elephant house (a complete guide), 5 minutes.