Shakespeare Square: a long gone corner of Edinburgh

As you probably know, 2016 will see a host of events commemorating the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.

But did you know that a corner of Edinburgh city centre, now long gone, was named after the bard?

Shakespeare Square, ‘mean in architecture and disreputable in character’, housed the Theatre Royal from 1769 until its demolition in 1859.

Grieves’ 1784 plan of Edinburgh, which you can view in more detail on Our Town Stories, shows exactly where Shakespeare Square was located.

1784 mapWe have several images of the Theatre Royal itself on Capital Collections. This engraving by Thomas Shepherd shows the building as it looked up until 1830. The statue on the point of the roof is of Shakespeare himself.

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John Le Conte’s watercolour below shows how the facade of the theatre was rebuilt and shows a little more of the surrounding area.

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Walter Scott was closely linked to the theatre. A a young advocate he was caught up in a riot when some members of the audience refused to stand for the national anthem, and later on his operatic version of Rob Roy became one of the theatres’s greatest successes.

Thomas Begbie’s photograph dates from 1852:

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By this time the theatre’s best days were behind it, and several years later was demolished to make way for the grand Victorian Post Office building, which still stands there today.

Post Office, 1880. George Washington Wilson

The foundation stone was laid on 23rd October 1861 by Prince Albert. On the same day he laid another foundation stone at what would be the site of the museum on Chambers Street.

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