History of the House – Melbourne Place

Today the site is occupied by a bank and a hotel, but step back nearly 200 years and the corner of George IV Bridge was very different. For one thing it was called Melbourne Place, named after the 2nd Viscount Melbourne, who was Prime Minister from 1835-41.

Melbourne Place and Victoria Terrace

Searching through copies of Post Office directories, which are available from our Edinburgh and Scottish Collection within Central Library, we can see that it was home to various businesses including in 1837, Alex Ferguson, Wholesale Confectionery and Lozenge Manufactory, who had its premises at Number 1 and 2. As well as making various confections ranging from medicated lozenges and boiled sugar sweets, it was there that the famous Edinburgh Rock was manufactured. Packaged in tartan boxes and different from the normal lettered Blackpool Rock, it had a crumbly texture and came in various pastel colours.

Another well-known name appears in the 1846-47 Post Office Directory, Kennington and Jenner. One of the other resources available to library users is Findmypast. In the 1851 Census, in number 7, the head of the household is listed as a Charles Jenner, unmarried aged 40 and stating his occupation as a Draper Master employing 35 men, 28 women and 9 boys. We know that when fire destroyed the original Jenner’s Department store in 1892 there were around 120 people employed by the firm who were housed on the premises. Was this an earlier “boarding house” for employees? Listed in the Census, together at the property with Charles was a Housekeeper, a House Porter, a Chambermaid, a Table Maid, a cook and 30 Drapers Assistants!

Demolition of Melbourne Place

By 1852 The Royal Medical Society had taken over number 7 Melbourne Place. The RMS was formally constituted in 1737, providing a meeting place for medical students with the purpose of enhancing their education, and flourished in its educational and social provision. Its contribution to medicine was recognised with the awarding of a Royal Charter 1778. It remains the only student society in the United Kingdom to have attained this distinction. The Society retained its position at number 7 until 1965 when the buildings on Melbourne Place were demolished to make room for office buildings of the Midlothian County Council.

Lothian Regional Council Chambers from Victoria Terrace

In 1975 the building became Lothian Regional Council Chambers and when Lothian Region was dismantled in 1996 the building was taken over by the City of Edinburgh Council, and provided a temporary home for the Scottish Parliament from 1999 until 2004. This building was demolished in 2007 to make way for a new Missoni Hotel (now Radisson Collection Hotel) complex and the largest Bank of Scotland branch in Edinburgh together with two Royal Mile shops and a Pizza Express restaurant.

Hotel at corner of George IV bridge and Victoria Street

Are you interested in discovering the history of your home? The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library has a vast collection of material which can help you.

Read more articles in this ‘History of the house’ series:
History of the house: King’s Wark
History of the house: Bowhead house
History of the house: Nicolson Square and Marshall Street
History of the house: White Horse Close
History of the house: 94 and 96 Grassmarket
History of the house: Stockbridge Colonies
History of the house: Milne’s Court

This autumn’s Big Library Read

I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Gilly Segal is this autumn’s Big Library Read and unlimited people will be able to read it from our OverDrive site at the same time from 4th till 18th November. There’s nothing quite like a fantastic young adult novel so join in with the world’s largest digital reading club!

Over the course of one night, two girls with two very different backgrounds must rely on each other to get through the violent race riot that has enveloped their city. Lena has her killer style, her awesome boyfriend, and a plan. She knows she’s going to make it big. Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to keep her head down and get through the year at her new school.

When both girls attend the Friday-night football game, what neither expects is for everything to descend into sudden mass chaos. Chaos born from violence and hate. Chaos that unexpectedly throws them together. They aren’t friends. They hardly understand the other’s point of view. But none of that matters when the city is up in flames, and they only have each other to rely on if they’re going to survive the night.

Readers can join an online conversation about the book at BigLibraryRead.com. All you need is library membership so you can login with your library card and PIN. Full instructions for using OverDrive can be found on our Your Library website.

Art and Design Library exhibition – November 2019

Edinburgh Photographic Society returns to the Art and Design Library in November with a group exhibition by their members. The exhibition showcases a wide variety of work across a range of photographic genres – including portraiture, nature, still life and landscape. Members of the society work with traditional techniques as well as creative digital photography, so the exhibition will have something for everyone.

A Walk Through Time by Alistair Cowan

The Society are based in the New Town and welcome new members who can participate in courses and attend lectures.  Please visit www.edinburghphotographicsociety.co.uk to find out more.

Gone Fishing by Edinburgh Photographic Society

The exhibition runs from 4 November to 29 November in the Art and Design Library.

Spooky Halloween Reads

Looking for a spooky read this Halloween? Here are some of our favourite children’s titles! Click on the title to reserve a copy at your local library.

Christopher pumpkin by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Christopher Pumpkin is delighted to be magicked to life by a witch – until he discovers she wants him and the other pumpkins to get her creepy castle ready for the spookiest party ever! Chris just can’t bring himself to hang cobwebs and cook curried slugs – he’s much more into bunting and fairy cakes!


Horrid Henry and the Zombie Vampire by Francesca Simon
Henry’s class are on a spooky school trip to the local museum, but could there be a terrifying zombie vampire on the loose? Henry soon has his classmates believing Miss Battle-Axe and Miss Lovely might be scarier than they seem. Originally published: as part of Horrid Henry and the zombie vampire.

 

Embassy of the Dead by Will Mabbit
Welcome to the Embassy of the Dead. Leave your life at the door. Jake likes to stay out of trouble, usually. But when he opens a strange box containing a severed finger, trouble comes knocking at his door. Literally. Jake has summoned a reaper to drag him to the Eternal Void (yep, it’s as deadly as it sounds) and his only option is to RUN FOR HIS LIFE! Alone (and a tiny bit scared, to be honest), Jake makes another spooky discovery – he can see and speak to ghosts and, with the help of his deadly gang (well dead, at least) – ancient butler Stiffkey, hockey stick-wielding Cora, and Zorro the ghost fox – Jake has one mission: find the Embassy of the Dead and seek refuge. But the Embassy has troubles of its own and may not be the safe haven Jake is hoping for.

Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Goblin Army by Alex Gardiner
It’s Halloween, and Roger is yet again pulled into a bonkers adventure with the grouchy dwarf warrior Mossbelly MacFearsome. It turns out that Roger has accidentally set free the vicious Goblin Chief Redcap, who is looking to open an ancient portal back to his own world. Now Roger, Moss and their friends must track him down before he unleashes a mighty horde of goblins hellbent on destruction, mayhem – and pickled onions. But how exactly does one find a ghoulish goblin on the one night of the year when everyone is in spooky fancy dress?

Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab
Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake, even more than usual. She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs. When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-growing skills as a ghosthunter – and turn to friends both old and new to help her unravel a mystery. But time is running out, and the spirit is only growing stronger. And if Cass fails, the force she’s unleashed could haunt the city forever.

Look out too for the Spooky Reads collection of ebooks and audiobooks on our Kid’s OverDrive site and Halloween Horrors on the Teen OverDrive site.

Pentlands Book Festival 2019

Residents of the Pentlands communities are in for some book treats this Autumn!

This year’s Pentlands Book Festival happens in and around Book Week Scotland (November 18 – 25) in conjunction with Currie, Colinton and Balerno libraries.

Organised by and for the community, the festival brings an eclectic mix of events with something for everyone. From acclaimed Scots Makar Jackie Kay to the comedy and murderous thoughts of Denzil Meyrick and Craig Robertson. The popular scientific supper and local authors event are back, and we’ve visits to the School of Scottish Studies celebrating Hamish Henderson’s centenary and a historical walk along the Balerno Branch line with model railway display and exhibition. We’ve also two workshops – one for writing and one on book illustration.

Tickets are available from the website and the local libraries and it’s all free!
View the full fantastic line-up online at pentlandsbookfestival.org

Scots Makar Jackie Kay will be appearing at the Pentlands Book Festival

Mary Webster – watercolour views of Scottish travels

Girls and young women of upper class families of the 18th century didn’t usually learn domestic or academic skills but were coached in what were known as ‘accomplishments’.

These would be learned either at boarding school or from a resident governess. In Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, the snobbish Caroline Bingley lists the skills required by any young lady who considers herself accomplished:
“A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages…”

During the 19th century both landscape painting, as a subject matter, and the medium of watercolour became a popular pastime and were included in the Royal Academy and Royal Scottish Academy summer exhibitions. Queen Victoria’s interest in watercolour made the practice attractive to both professionals and amateurs and another suitable artistic accomplishment for a refined young woman.

Glen Rosa, Isle of Arran, 1836

By the mid 19th century, transportation was getting much easier with the railway network flourishing. By 1852 there was 7,000 miles of rail track in England and Scotland. With the advent of the railway, there was in turn, the need for accommodation. During the Victorian era, when you stepped out of a railway station in any self-respecting town or city, the first building you would set eyes upon would be the railway hotel, providing a relatively safe option for a young woman travelling alone.

We have a fine collection of watercolour paintings by a woman named Mary Webster which span the period 1824 to 1863. She seems to have greatly enjoyed travelling Scotland and further afield sketching her adventures. Sadly, despite exhaustive searches we have been unable to find out much about Mary’s life, other than the few clues that are contained in the pictures themselves.

‘Views from Nature’ by Mary Webster (title page)

One of our volunteers, John, began the search to find out more. There was a short entry in The Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture which stated that her work had been exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy. However, searching the RSA Exhibitors Catalogues from 1830 to 1860 failed to turn up any trace of Mary and we were unable to verify this assertion.

He discovered that Reading Museum also hold a painting by Mary – A naïve view of the ruins of Reading Abbey’ – but they hadn’t been able to find out any more about the elusive Mary Webster either.

By looking through our collection of paintings, John created a timeline of Mary’s work tracing her movements from her paintings. The dates of the paintings and pencil drawings date from 1824 to 1863 and the majority of the paintings had been bound together in an album titled Views from Nature. 1830 was a particularly busy time for Mary as 44 are credited to that year alone! Of the 150 paintings in the collection, all but 9 feature Scottish views. Her painting travels took her far and wide, including to the Borders, Perthsire, Fife, the Highlands and Dublin. We don’t know if Mary was Scottish, or whether she simply enjoyed taking artistic tours of Scotland. A lady in a red dress appears in many of the watercolours, sometimes even sketching, could this be a companion or even a representation of Mary herself?

Dublin from the Phoenix Park, 1833

Apart from one painting dated 1845, there is a gap in Mary’s timeline of 17 years between 1830 and the next batch of paintings covering 1847 to 1863. In that 17 years, was her time spent bringing up a family? Or is there perhaps another collection hidden somewhere else?

Ruins of St Andrew’s Castle, 1863

The last year for our paintings is 1863 attached to two watercolours done of St Andrews. By that time 39 years had elapsed since the first batch in 1824 and by then she would probably have been in her mid to late 50s at least. Mary Webster has left little trace of the detail of her life, but she has left a remarkable record of 19th century Scottish scenes and locations still popular and recognizable today.

You can view the full collection of Mary’s paintings on Capital Collections.

Libraries Week focus: ebooks

 

Today we’re highlighting our ebook collection for Libraries Week. We have a truly fantastic ebook service at Edinburgh Libraries offering you access to 12,500 titles for adults, teens and kids. You’ll find a wide range of genres in fiction and non-fiction – there’s definately something for everyone!

Our OverDrive system makes it super easy for you to find and borrow books whether through their fantastic Libby app on your tablet or phone or their website on your computer. Some of our favourite things about OverDrive are-

  1. It’s super-easy to get started – just login with your library card and PIN
  2. You can borrow from anywhere – at home, on the bus, or on the beach in Spain
  3. You can change the font / size / background colour to suit your own eyesight
  4. New stock is added twice a month to keep the site fresh
  5. You can borrow ten titles (in addition to your physical loans from the library)
  6. When the library is closed – OverDrive is open! Its like having a library branch in your own home
  7. There is a dyslexic font available
  8. You can access a great range of specialised collections – Reading Well for Mental Health,  LGBT, Bibliotherapy, Read-a-long ebook/audiobooks for children
  9. As well as ebooks there’s audiobooks and comics on OverDrive
  10. You’ll find Polish ebooks and audiobooks available too

OverDrive is incredibly easy to use and you’ll find full user
instructions available on our Your Library website. Or why not pop in to our drop-in sessions at Central Library every Tuesday from 2-3.30pm where you can get help setting up your mobile device and all your questions answered.