Do you remember the Greenside of the 1950s?

Before the glass facade of the multiplex cinema, the metal giraffes and the car boot sales, the Greenside area of Edinburgh was home to a population of 571 people living in 256 houses. Lying in the shadow of Calton Hill, the neighbourhood’s narrow streets and alleyways saw little sunshine. The area suffered from poor ventilation, over-crowding and poor sanitation. With the backing of the City’s Medical Officer of Health and the Chief Sanitory Inspector, Greenside was a priority area on the council’s programme of slum clearances. The Medical Officer had declared the area unfit for human habitation and the only satisfactory option would be to pull the tenements down.

In 1961, after demolition had started, a journalist wrote in the Edinburgh Evening News that the area was awaiting a ‘new era of usefulness’. The area would have to wait some time as a large multi-storey car park filled the gap left behind by the housing until the late 1990s when a multi-million pound development for a cinema and leisure complex was invisaged.

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We’ve discovered within the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, a fantastic collection of images of Greenside dating from the late 1950s before demolition work had begun. The photographs capture the dark and unsalubrious atmosphere of the narrow streets. They also however, show a different side of the neighbourhood. Many of the pictures are taken at Greenside Youth Club, possibly run by Greenside Parish Church, and show a strong community coming together to laugh and play and have fun.

We think the photographer was William Ewing Smith, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to trace him to get in contact. We’d love to hear from you, if you lived in the Greenside area of Edinburgh in the 1950s or maybe you went to the Greenside Youth Club? We’d love to hear your memories and we’d really like to hear from anyone who helped run the Youth Club or knew Mr Smith.

If you’ve any information you can share with us, please contact


5 thoughts on “Do you remember the Greenside of the 1950s?

  1. We’ve had a great response to this plea on our facebook page. A few leads to follow up and hopefully we’ll have many more pictures of old Greenside to share with you really soon.


  2. Enjoyed these photos & found the information very interesting. My great great grandparents were living at No 6 Greenside Row, Greenside Parish when they were. married in the Parish Church of Greenside 18th November 1839. I would be extremely interested in more photos. Thankyou so much.


  3. I was born in Greenside in 1954 left when l was very young but would visit old neighbours with my nana she was friends with Ellen Mcghee who had the wee shop also l remember Lawrence Pae as a friend of the family think he was a chimney sweep he is also in one of your pictures as a boy. tried to share this to my group Lost Edinburgh but could not. Thank you for these brilliant pictures.


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