West Princes Street Gardens, where the bandstand is sited, wasn’t always the fragrant, floral space it is today. It started out as the Nor’ Loch, a sizeable body or water created by James III in 1460. He ordered the natural depression at the foot of Castle Rock to be filled with water, thinking it would add to the Castle’s defences.
The loch, while it was discounted as a means of defence by the beginning of the 17th century, remained in place for another 200 years or so, becoming increasingly polluted — and increasingly pungent — during that time. It was eventually drained early in the 19th century to allow for the creation of the gardens.
The original bandstand was created in 1877, and is often thought to have been the gift of William Henry Ross, chairman of the Distillers Company Ltd, to the city. Since William Henry would have been 15 at the time, that seems unlikely. He was, however, at least partly responsible for its replacement. In 1935 he donated £8,000 towards the cost of a new bandstand, which was subsequently named after him and has been a key part of Edinburgh’s performance and social scene ever since.