The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: Thomas Ross

Thomas Ross was born in Perthshire in 1839, the son of a tenant farmer. He  moved to Glasgow in 1885 to become an apprentice architect. In 1862, Thomas Ross was employed as an assistant to architect David MacGibbon, and in 1872 they went into partnership. As well as working on their architectural commissions, MacGibbon and Ross undertook an ambitious project travelling across Scotland, mainly by train or bike, sketching and gathering information about the country’s architectural heritage.

This resulted in the five volume work “Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland” (1887- 92) and the three volumes of “The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland” (1896-97).  Both series remain key texts for Scottish architecture (and can be found in our Art Library collections).

Torphichen Church

Ross’s influence increased when he became a founder member of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCHAMS) in 1908. He received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Edinburgh University in 1910.

Alfred MacGibbon (David’s son), fell ill in 1914 and dissolved the partnership. Ross continued to undertake small jobs that interested him from his home in Saxe-Coburg Place. His main occupation continued to be Commission business and it was while studying Rossend Castle, Inverkeithing that he fell foul of wartime restrictions when he was arrested and later fined 5 shillings for “sketching in a prohibited area”.

Ross continued to work as an architect until 1916 making surveys and sketches of old buildings. In 1918, Ross became Professor of Antiquities at the Royal Edinburgh Academy. He died in 1930 aged 91.

After his death, his son James MacLaren Ross destroyed most of the practice papers but those relating to the books and to Commission business were given to the National Library.  Drawings and paintings relating to Edinburgh, Scotland and England were given to Edinburgh Central Library. St Mary's Church, Haddington

Our latest Capital Collections exhibition brings together some of these unique watercolour paintings Ross completed on his various travels around Scotland and England and focus on landmark domestic and ecclesiastical buildings, many of which appear in his classic architectural texts.

 

Read previous posts in this series about the principal donors who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries here:

Henry Dyer: engineer, educationist and Japanophile

Robert Butchart: City Librarian and Old Edinburgh enthusiast

Charles Boog Watson: antiquarian and ARP warden

William McEwan: brewer and philanthropist

David Mather Masson: scholar and biographer

World War One training trenches

A week after war was declared on August 4th 1914, the ‘Your King and Country Need You’ slogan was released to recruit men to Kitchener’s army.  Tens of thousands of men responded and were trained for war. Many more would be conscripted to the cause as the months and years drew on.

Just outside the boundary of Dreghorn Barracks, in verdant woodland lies a hidden reminder of the soldiers who joined the conflict and the lives lost. A small network of neglected World War One training trenches can be discovered by the amateur archaeologist amongst the overgrowth. It is often assumed that allied troops were ill-prepared for the trench warfare of World War One but in fact, remains of military practice trenches like these exist all over the UK.

World War One training trench

It is thought that live ammunition would have been thrown and fired down the embankment from Dreghorn Barracks’ grounds towards the men taking cover in the trenches. It was an attempt to equip the troops for their imminent departure for the Front, though undoubtedly they could not have been prepared for the full horrors of trench warfare.

View more pictures of the trenches on Capital Collections.

You can find out much more about World War One practice trenches as well as other physical markers on Britain’s landscape remaining from the conflict from The Home Front Legacy project.

The Forth Road Bridge

As the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Forth Road Bridge approaches our latest exhibition on Capital Collections looks back at the construction of the original Forth Road Bridge.

A category ‘A’ listed structure and vital transport artery for the country, the bridge was one of the most ambitious civil engineering projects in Scottish history and has cemented itself as an iconic point on the skyline of the city.

Forth Road Bridge - south span seen from south tower

Construction began in September 1958  and it took 6 years to complete the structure which includes 39,000 tonnes of steel and 115,000 cubic metres of concrete. The bridge is 2,517 metres long, making it the longest suspension bridge outside of the US and fourth longest in the world at the time of its completion. Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the bridge on 4th September 1964.

In its first year, the Forth Road Bridge carried 2.5 million vehicles and opened up a vital transport route between the capital and north-eastern Scotland. The number of vehicles and passengers using the bridge has grown year on year far beyond the projections of the engineers in the 50s. Corrosion to the major wires of the bridge was found in 2005 due to the increased number of vehicles using the route and the changes in regulations of modern haulage vehicles. Measures were taken to stall the decomposition of the steel including dehumidifying the cables and replacing steel beams under the bridge bed. After this discovery it was decided that a second road crossing, The Queensferry Crossing, would be built to accommodate trade and private traffic while the existing bridge will be used exclusively for public transport and buses. The new bridge is expected to open to traffic in 2016.

Browse the Capital Collections exhibition to see more amazing pictures from our archive of the Forth Road Bridge under construction.

You may also be interested in ‘The Forth Bridges Scrapbook‘, a new and growing website where you can explore and create ‘digital scrapbooks’ of material and memories of the bridges.

Owen Jones and The Alhambra

Over the past year, Paula Pages, a postgraduate student from the University of Edinburgh has enjoyed an internship at Edinburgh Central Library which has given her the opportunity to explore Central Library’s Special Collections. She has used her studies to create our new Capital Collections exhibition: Travel to Perfection: Owen Jones and The Alhambra.

Owen Jones was a British architect and designer who travelled to Granada in Spain in 1834 and 1837. His first visit was after he completed his architecture studies and formed part of his own Grand Tour around Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Spain.

When Jones reached Granada he was captivated, like many travellers before him, by the architecture and decoration of The Alhambra Palace.  He was amazed by the way the Moorish designers played with geometry to create endless decorative patterns within the 14th century fortress. Inspired by the Alhambra, Moorish style became a  major theme of Jones’ career.

Owen Jones and The Alhambra uses selected pages from his essential handbook, the Grammar of Ornament and explains the artist’s inspiration behind his intricate and exquisite designs.

Track cycling at Meadowbank Velodrome

On a beautiful balmy evening late last summer, we were privileged to attend one of the regular track cycling training sessions at Meadowbank to enhance our library archive’s collection of sport images. The images and film clips show cyclists taking to the boards to train and race on the steep wooden slopes of the Velodrome.

Track cyclists, Meadowbank Veldrome

Meadowbank Stadium and Velodrome were built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games and both hosted the Games again in 1986 when they returned to the city. The training venue has been home to a number of Olympians, world and European champions over the years, including notably Olympian Sir Chris Hoy, former world gold medallist Craig MacLean and former world champion Graeme Obree.

See Edinburgh’s current track cyclists in action in our latest Capital Collections exhibition!

In the garden – Walter Crane’s children’s books

Our latest exhibition on Capital Collections, In the Garden: Walter Crane’s children’s books, was created by Elizabeth Stevens an Art History postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh. Elizabeth completed the online exhibition as part of her internship programme between the University and Central Library. The internship programme allows students to gain practical experience outside the typical academic setting and spend time researching an aspect of the Library’s Special Collections.

Elizabeth was drawn to the Library’s children’s illustrated books collection and in particular the work of Walter Crane (1848-1915). Crane was a draughtsman, illustrator, designer and socialist. In his time, he was regarded as one of the best illustrators of children’s books in Britain. Crane’s books include retellings of classics like Aesop’s Fables as well as his own stories, making for a diverse catalogue that sold extremely well to people of all classes.

Crane’s artistic style was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, the Arts and Crafts Movement and Aestheticism. Alongside these artistic influences, Crane was also an enthusiastic socialist, influenced by his close friend William Morris. The exhibition allows people to see a period of transformation, both within art and within society.

Child in the Garden

The image of the ‘Child in the Garden,’ while not the most innovative in style, illustrates an important aspect of Crane’s work. The child is in a natural setting, surrounded by nature, animals and a book which illustrates the changes in attitudes towards children in Victorian Britain. Judging by a large number of laws passed during the time, childhood was beginning to be something that was protected.

It is even possible to see a practical example of this change happening in Edinburgh around the same time in our Life History of a Slum Child exhibition also on Capital Collections, where pictures show children being taught in the open air.

Schoolchildren in St Saviour's Child Garden

 

 

Walter Geikie (1795-1837): An Artist of Character

Following the success of the recent City Art Centre exhibition ‘Walter Geikie (1795-1837): An Artist of Character’, our colleagues in Edinburgh Museums and Galleries have created a new complementary exhibition of Geikie’s art on Capital Collections.

Walter Geikie was a genre artist who lived in Edinburgh during the early 19th century.  A fine draughtsman and skilled printmaker, Geikie’s main focus was the portrayal of the city’s poor and working classes – subjects that he approached with honesty, empathy and wit.Drawing a Silhouette

The Capital Collections exhibition brings together a selection of his etchings and paintings from the City Art Centre’s collection. Images include depictions of itinerant pedlars, fairground crowds, agricultural labourers, and the fisherfolk of Newhaven.

You can also read Walter Geikie’s story on Our Town Stories to get his vivid impression of life in Edinburgh during the 1800s.