150 years of the Edinburgh Evening News

With the 150th anniversary of Edinburgh’s foremost newspaper, Edinburgh Evening News, on 27 May 2023, there is no better time to highlight that ease of accessing current and historical newspapers with your library membership. Along with Pressreader and microfilm holdings in our Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, a vast online archive of newspapers is available at the British Newspaper Archive website, including Edinburgh Evening News editions up to 1955. You can access British Newspaper Archive for free whilst using a library computer or on the library wifi.

In preparation for a display celebrating this important anniversary for the Evening News, staff within Central Library’s Edinburgh and Scottish Collection used the British Newspaper Archive to find articles on significant events within the city during the late 19th to early 20th century – from the inception of Edinburgh’s public library system to Edinburgh as a battleground for RAF fighters during World War Two.

The British Newspaper Archive is a partnership between the British Library and Findmypast to digitise the British Library’s vast collection of newspapers from 1710-1955. It’s an invaluable resource for everyone interested in history, and especially for family and local historians. Access is available at any one of our Edinburgh libraries with a library membership by clicking on the ‘Register’ link from the top of the main page and creating an account. Once signed in with your account, you’ll have access to view all pages on the entire database for free.

The Evening News articles we read up on offer a timeline of Edinburgh’s history from the late 19th century to World War Two. In a society where it is common for journalists to generalise and seek the bigger picture, the Edinburgh Evening News reports on an Edinburgh and Lothians’ local perspective on news, culture and events. The newspaper was founded by John Wilson and was first published in 1873. Its main competitor, the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch was subsequently first published in 1886, then becoming the Evening Dispatch in 1921. These two newspapers merged to form the Edinburgh Evening News & Dispatch in 1963, which became the Edinburgh Evening News in 1967.

Newspaper clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled Jubilee Celebrations, Edinburgh

One of the major news events the paper reported on in the 19th century were the celebrations that took place throughout Edinburgh for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It appears as though events were similar to what we are used to today when a royal occasion comes about. Public offices and stores closed to commemorate the day, and people took advantage of the public holiday and good weather to travel into the country by train (a relatively exciting phenomena at the time!)

News clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled The Edinburgh Free Library, opening ceremony today.

The newspaper also commemorated the opening of our very own Central Library in their issue published on the 9 June 1890. The first public library in the city, the newspaper reports on the significant sum of £50,000 offered by Andrew Carnegie for the building of the library after the passing of the Free Libraries Act. The article offers a wealth of information on the library’s inception, such as the appointment of George Washington Browne as architect and his choice of a French Renaissance architectural style for the building. It also sets out the departments open to the public – the lending library, the newsroom and the reference room. With the expansion since then to include departments focusing on art, music, children’s literature and Scottish history, the article demonstrates how much the library has adapted to give more representation to the arts and local studies.

News clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled "Well Done, Hearts!"

Fast-forwarding twenty-four years, the Evening News was at the forefront of the reporting on Scotland’s role and experience in World War One. There is a clear patriotic tone to the article “Well done, Hearts!”, with evident pride being directed towards the sixteen players from Heart of Midlothian F.C. for enlisting for active service. The players “have done the right thing” the reporter states and it is of his opinion that other teams and fans will follow suit and also take up arms. Enlisting in the army may even make them more skilled football players according to the reporter, as “they will chase the ball with easier minds, for they have done their duty”. It is apparent that journalism had an important role to play in encouraging national unity and participation in the war effort.

News clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled "Leith's "Last Day", hope of resurrection".

With the end of World War One, we see the Evening News mark the end of the independent burgh of Leith on Monday 1 November 1920 when Edinburgh swallowed in the old port and four Midlothian parishes within Midlothian. The small article has a somewhat sombre tone, perhaps in a bid to show empathy to Leithers who were overwhelmingly in favour of their town staying separate from Edinburgh. The bailie of the burgh is quoted as saying that Leith had been “done to death against the express wishes of the citizens” and that “if it were put to Scotland, Leith would yet arise from the ashes and be a separate burgh”. Over 100 years on, Leith has stayed true to its distinct and independent character while also embracing modernity to become one of the most dynamic areas in the city.

News clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled "Over Dalkeith".
News clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled "Sure to crash".
News clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled "M.P.'s impressions, Admiration for the R.A.F fighters".

The Evening News was also invaluable in its covering of the events of World War Two. This article, subtitled, “Over Dalkeith”, reports on the first German aircraft to be shot down over Britain after being attacked by RAF fighters over the River Forth in October 1939. We once again see attempts to stir national pride, with the paper including the sentiments of M.P. Mr Robert Boothby who expresses his admiration for the British fighters in displaying both speed and efficiency. The newspaper’s long-standing ability to find citizens with first-hand accounts is clear, through evidence given by two local citizens who saw the enemy planes being chased by RAF fighters over southern Edinburgh. For readers, the article will have been a frightening indication of what was to come over the subsequent war years.

In 1956 the paper bid farewell to a familiar feature in the lives of many Edinburgh citizens when Edinburgh’s electric trams stopped service after thirty years. The article recognizes the progress of cities’ public transport services over the years – from the sedan chair to the stage coach, then from the horse bus to the horse tram, from the cable-car to the electric tram, and then finally buses replacing them all. With trams being a regular sight again in our city sixty-seven years on, it clearly wasn’t a permanent goodbye after all!

These are just some of the millions of articles you can access on the British Newspaper Archive, so make the most of this brilliant resource by visiting one of our libraries. You can browse through significant moments in the history of Scotland and the world, or discover if your ancestor appears in the births, marriages and deaths notices, or even in a news story.

Pop into Central Library’s Edinburgh and Scottish Collection to find out more about the Edinburgh Evening News through their current anniversary display and also discover the various means of accessing it through your library membership.

Scottish Loch Scenery

Another gem from our collections and the feature of our latest Capital Collections online exhibition is a small volume titled Scottish Loch Scenery. It contains a series of delightful coloured plates from drawings by A.F. Lydon and text by Edinburgh-born Thomas Allan Croal.

Published in 1882 it features 25 landscape views from across Scotland well before the time of mass tourism in remote areas of Scotland, with some views looking very serene.

Loch Katrine by A. F. Lydon
Is this the loveliest loch in Scotland?

Although, the book is a sort of Victorian travel guide with descriptive notes on the most picturesque lochside scenes and must-see sights along with practical information for the intrepid traveller.

Loch Katrine, author Croal declares to be:
“The most brilliant gem in the loch scenery of Scotland” and “the loveliest of them all”.

Loch Lomond, he names the “Queen of the Scottish Lochs”. “This magnificent sheet of water presents an almost infinite variety of scenery”. He recommends a steamer trip from the pier at Balloch, where readers could enjoy the charms of Highland scenery without the “fatigues” of travelling or the risk of sea-sickness!

But he also issues a stark warning to more adventurous travellers:
“At Rowardennan Inn are guides and ponies, and although the stalwart man may dispense with the latter, it is not safe to attempt the ascent of Ben Lomond without a guide familiar with the road, for sudden mists may envelop the climber, and a mistake on the road may lead to death”.

Loch Lomond by A. F. Lydon

Explore the full set of beautiful views of Scottish Loch Scenery and be sure to click on the ‘About this image’ sections to read more of Croal’s accompanying text.

Scottish literary prize winners past and present

Today, with thanks, we hand over to departing member of staff, Lauren from the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection and Reference team at Central Library, who writes about holiday limbo and Scottish prize winning books.

The Christmas rush is over – presents have been unwrapped, turkeys get a second lease of life as leftovers and stomachs and hearts are full. Now the lull of the no man’s land between Christmas and New Year is upon us and all plans have been abandoned. Now is the time, at least in my house, for ‘picky bits’ dinners, sinking into that new book and not having anywhere to be. Above all though, this limbo week is a time for reflection on the year just passed.

In the literary world, towards the latter stages of the year is often when the last of the book prizes announce their winners. No doubt whilst Christmas shopping in your local bookshop, you will have seen those little stickers shining out from the front of covers. ‘Shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize’ states ‘A Shock’ by Keith Ridgway, ‘The Arthur C. Clarke Award Winner 2022’ features on ‘Deep Wheel Orcadia’ by Harry Josephine Giles and, perhaps most coveted of all, ‘Winner of the Booker Prize 2022’ sits proudly on the cover of ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’ by Shehan Karunatilaka.

Scotland has a long and storied history with prizewinning literature, from her authors to books about Scotland, set in Scotland and even literary prizes aiming to find the next best thing in Scottish writing. So, in the spirit of reflection, the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection decided to look back on some highlights of the Scottish prizewinning best of past and present.

Wind back all the way to 1937 and the very first Saltire Society Literary Awards were launched, the first awards ceremony since the society’s inception the year before. Scottish novelist Neil M Gunn’s fourth novel, ‘Highland River’ won the inaugural Scottish Book of the Year Award. The title also won the James Tait Black Prize in the same year. Gunn wrote many other novels, including his first novel ‘The Grey Coast’ (1926), ‘Morning Tide’ (1931) and ‘Silver Darlings’ (1941).

Jumping forward 51 years, the Saltire Society Literary Awards introduced the First Book of the Year Award, presented to an author for their debut published book. The inaugural winner was Arbroath-born poet Raymond Vettese for his book ‘The Richt Noise and Ither Poems’ (1988), written in the Scots dialect and compiled of both new poems and ones that had previously been published in popular poetry periodicals such as Lallans and Chapman. His second collection, ‘A Keen New Air’, was published by the Saltire Society in 1995.

In 1994, Scots writer James Kelman won arguably the most esteemed literary prize, the then-named Man Booker Prize (now Booker Prize), with his Scots dialect novel ‘How Late It Was, How Late’. This caused huge controversy and uproar due to its extensive use of expletives, with one judge calling it a ‘disgrace’ and ‘completely inaccessible’. The novel however would go on to become one of the most celebrated books in the Scottish literature canon. An article from The Times (available to view via the British Newspaper Archive e-resource) featured an interview with Kelman (the first Scot to receive the prize) after his win, in which he admitted to journalist Julia Llewellyn Smith that he was unsurprised with the outcry: “I’m very glad it wasn’t a unanimous decision,” he says in his soft, Scots monotone. “Very pleased indeed, ye know. If it had been, I would have to examine what I was doing.’’

Although published in 1994, Christine De Luca’s debut poetry collection ‘Voes and Sounds’ won the Shetland Arts Trust Literary Award two years later in 1996. The collection was celebrated as ‘one of the best collections of poetry to come out of Shetland for 20 to 30 years’, by one of the judges. Since then, she has become an important contemporary voice for Shetlandic literature. The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection holds both the print collection and the audiobook cassette, read in Christine’s native Shetlandic dialect.

Coming into the 21st century now, Edinburgh played host to two literary prizes. The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, laterally known as the Commonwealth Book Prize, came to Scotland for the first time 20 years ago in April 2002, with events held at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and attended by Princess Anne. Author William Muir was one of the winners for his novel, ‘The 18th Pale Descendant’ (2001), a psychological tale that explores the implications of the death penalty.

As UNESCO’s first City of Literature, Edinburgh hosted the inaugural Man Booker International Prize in June 2005 and many events were planned in the city, alongside the official prizegiving ceremony itself. The prize was won by Albanian writer Ismail Kadare for his body of work, however bookshops struggled to buy his novels in for the prizegiving as Kadare’s work had previously been banned in his home country of Albania and had to be smuggled out of his country while under Stalinist regime.

Moving into 2020 and the shadow of the pandemic meant that Scottish writer Douglas Stuart became the second Scot to win the Booker Prize, in a ‘ceremony without walls’ that was broadcast online. Stuart’s autobiographical debut ‘Shuggie Bain’ is based on his own upbringing in 1980s Thatcherite Glasgow, and the novel was deemed ‘a book both beautiful and brutal’ by The Times. Stuart himself credited inspiration to the first Scottish Booker winner James Kelman for depicting the Glaswegian people and dialect on the page. In November 2022, it was announced that ‘Shuggie Bain’ would be adapted for a television series on BBC One.

In 2021, Maria Hayward’s ‘Stuart Style’ won the Saltire Society History Book of the Year in 2021, with her research book that looks at how the fashion of the 17th century Scottish royal Stuart family influenced the courts of England. It is the first detailed analysis to be published on elite male clothing in the 1600s in Scotland and centres on James VI and I, Prince Henry, Charles 1 and 11 and James VII and II.

Finally arriving in 2022, Billy Connolly’s much anticipated biography ‘Windswept and Interesting: My Autobiography’ was shortlisted for the British Book Awards Non-Fiction Narrative Book of the Year 2022. It is the first full-length memoir from the famous Scottish comedian and sits alongside his other books such as ‘Made in Scotland: My Grand Adventures in a Wee Country’ (2018) and ‘Tall Tales and Wee Stories’ (2019). Connolly has retired from live comedy due to a Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2013 and can now be found presenting travel documentaries and books on Scotland, still with the flair for storytelling that shone through his stand-up comedy.

So it is then, in this suspended period between Christmas and New Year, that I can be found nestled into the sofa with a cup of tea and the recently announced 2022 Saltire Society History Book of the Year, ‘Slaves and Highlanders: Silenced Histories of Scotland and the Caribbean’ by David Alston, now looking forward to the literary year ahead. Who knows what 2023 will bring, except exciting new Scottish books deserving of those little prize stickers.

Discover these and more prize worthy Scottish books in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library.

Breaking the News at Central Library

Read all about it! Currently underway at the British Library is the Breaking the News exhibition.

Photo of new exhibition welcome panel in the Mezzanine area of Central Library

Alongside the British Library’s Breaking the News exhibition, pop-up displays are on view at 30 public libraries across the UK including Edinburgh Central Library. The displays draw upon each library’s individual collection and regional connections to celebrate the value of regional news in communities across the UK. 

Photo of glass display case containing newspaper exhibition material

We have delved into Central Library’s newspaper and periodical collections, with the aim to celebrate the value of regional news and champion the personalities, journalism and stories that have made a mark through the years in our local area.  

It is often the case that national news carries many negative stories, but this can sometimes be quite different when looking locally. Local and grassroots news publications have a wonderful variety of stories, they can speak truth to power and are often free from the restraints and impartiality that is evident in the large mainstream tabloids and daily publications. 

Our exhibition space will be dedicated to Breaking the News through the following themes: 

4 July  – 4 August 2022, Edinburgh: a city of firsts 

We are looking at the local achievements that have put Edinburgh on the map. From the pioneering women known as the Edinburgh Seven, who would not rest until they became the first females accepted into a UK university to study medicine, to modern scientific marvels such as God particles and cloned sheep. Edinburgh has been at the forefront of many significant achievements and breakthroughs, this is your chance to explore and see how these were reported at the time. 

During this month we also have a showcase of the many and varied local news publications that have been produced over the years.

Examples of local news publications included in the display

5 August to 29 August 2022 – Edinburgh: Festival City 

During the exhibition’s second phase, we are ready to celebrate. It is the 75th anniversary of the world-famous International and Fringe festivals in Edinburgh, we are using this period to review our collection of material to discover some key moments and breakthroughs from the festivals’ history.

Display of festival material in Central Lending Library cabinets, until 29 August 2022.

Due to the closure of the Mezzanine area in Central Library for essential building works, we are relocating the British Library’s Breaking the News pop up display to the library’s front hall. This is where the festival material is featured also. (The display in the Mezzanine cabinets will be available to view until Saturday 13 August.)

Pop into Central Library during August to have a look!

Breaking the News festival display in the front hall, until 29 August 2022.

Mary Stewart’s panoramic views of Edinburgh

Mary Stewart was born in Castle Stewart, Wigtownshire, Scotland in 1773. Mary was well educated and had ample leisure and talents to pursue her interests in landscape painting and sketching.

Two volumes of her panoramic sketches are featured in our latest Capital Collections exhibition, ‘Four panoramic views of Edinburgh and the surrounding country’ and ‘Panoramic views of Edinburgh’, both published in 1822. They are both highly detailed and give an almost 360 degree landscape panorama, divided into 4 sections looking north, east, south and west, one, a view from Calton Hill and the other from Blackford Hill. The sketch from Calton Hill has particular historical significance as it records a military encampment on top of Calton Hill and the Royal Squadron anchored at Leith during George IV’s visit to Scotland in August 1822.

Zoom into the detail on Capital Collections (www.capitalcollections.org.uk)

Shortly after these sketches were published, in 1823 Mary married aged 50 and became the second wife to the fifth baronet, The Reverend Sir Abraham Elton. Mary and Sir Abraham moved to Clevedon in Somerset. There they developed Clevedon as a seaside resort. They laid out walks and provided shaded seats in the two copses that later became the Pier Copse and Alexandra Gardens.

The hillsides of Clevedon were planted with shrubs and trees, and vistas were created for foot and road travellers through the village. Mary sketched these and numerous churches and buildings of note in the area and had then engraved for lithographs. Many were included as prints in the Covedon guidebooks of the time.

Her philanthropy was evident in the village. She had the first Parish School built in 1834. In 1846 she had an Infant School built, and this remained a school for 150 years.

Sir Abraham died in 1842 aged 87. A house had been built in 1844 for the use of Mary, the dowager Lady Elton, and she lived there with her sister and niece until she died in 1849.

See Mary’s stunning early 19th century cityscape panoramas of Edinburgh on Capital Collections.

Mary Webster retold

In 2019, Tales of One City posted a blog about an amateur artist named Mary Webster and a collection of her lovely pencil drawings and watercolours of Scottish landscape scenes which we hold.

Kelso Abbey [Jedburgh Abbey]

At that time and after a fair bit of research trying to find out more about the artist, we had come up with little. Mary Webster had became a mystery woman.

Jump forward to 2021, and out of the blue we received an email from Christine McCracken who had come upon our blog and who happened to be a relative of Mary’s.

Christine was emailing from Australia and had grown up hearing about Mary who was her Mother’s grandmother’s aunt. Mary was described as a woman who was talented, travelled widely, wrote and painted en plein air.

Thanks to Christine we have been able to learn a lot more about Mary. Firstly, that she was in fact born in Scotland and one of 11 children. Her father was minister of the Parish Church of Inverarity. When her father died in 1807 the family moved to Carmyllie in Angus to stay with her grandparents.

We passed the email on to our volunteer John who had previously spent a long and fruitless search trying to track down Mary. Christine’s information reignited his determination to piece the puzzle together. He was then able to trace Mary in the census from Scotland to London and back again, and draft the birth and death dates of her siblings.

In our original blog we wondered if the seventeen year break in the paintings we had in our collection from 1830-1847 had been due to perhaps bringing up a family or if there were more paintings out there somewhere. We now know that Mary never married and there are paintings that cover the ‘missing years’. When Christine visited relations here in Edinburgh, she was shown Mary’s desk which was covered in small paintings and her sketchbooks of 1839, 1841 and 1842 completed while Mary travelled through England.

After Christine initially contacted us, she emailed back to say that her brother and herself had been inspired to do more research and a family member in Edinburgh had had a rummage and had found a photograph of Mary. We do not know how old Mary was when this photo was taken, but we now even know what Mary looked like!

Studio portrait of Mary Webster

Mary died on 5 April 1883 at 9 Queen Street , St Andrews where she lived with her sister Elizabeth.

Follow Mary’s Webster’s travels through 19th century Scotland in her watercolour paintings.

Castles and mansions of the Lothians

Our new Capital Collections exhibition features two photograph volumes, copies of which are held both in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection and the Art and Design Library within Central Library, titled ‘Castles and Mansions of the Lothians‘.

There are over a hundred photographs and judging by the style of the images, we think they were all taken by the same photographer.

The Grange House which was demolished in 1936.

The mansions are situated throughout the Lothians from Linlithgow in the west to many in East Lothian. Some will be easily recognisable by their names. Most people who live in Penicuik will recognise the name Beeslack, and many might remember when the name Dalhousie Castle meant one thing, Medieval Banquet!

We think that the photographs were taken between 1875-1883. The photographs feature grand houses built in an age that allowed owners to display how well they were doing for themselves alongside older ancestral homes that had been passed down from generation to generation.

Bonaly Tower is now self contained flats.

Sadly, not all these buildings still exist. The ones that do are mostly now events venues, hotels or B&Bs or have been converted into residential apartments. There are one or two that remain private residences and continue, to show off their original splendour to this day.

To see the complete collection, view the Castles and Mansions of the Lothians exhibition at Capital Collections.

Edinburgh at play, 1910-1930

As we’re able to enjoy getting out and about more, we’re looking back to the beginning of the last century in our latest exhibition on Capital Collections, ‘Edinburgh at play’, to see how people enjoyed their leisure time.

The images come from a set of glass negatives which were kindly donated to Edinburgh Libraries for digitisation for our digital collections. The glass negatives are dated approximately between 1910 and 1930.

Scenes at Portobello show girls in their best clothes waiting patiently for the Carousel to start. In others, we can see children on the beach building sandcastles, all suitably wrapped up for a Scottish summer!

Image of children in their Sunday best clothes and hats sitting on carousel horses.

Portobello – c1920

Edinburgh Zoo features too, although images taken of visitors and animals at Edinburgh Zoo show a very different view of the zoo than what you would see today.

A zookeeper leads a group of four children on a camel ride.

Camel ride, Edinburgh Zoo – c1920

Two images from the 1930s show the Royal Company of Archers, The Queen’s Bodyguards in Scotland, practising on the Meadows.

A group of uniformed archers practice archery in a park.

Royal Company of Archers, the Meadows – c1930

To enjoy more of these wonderful images, visit the complete exhibition on Capital Collections.

Redrawing Edinburgh event: Edinburgh Boundary Extension 1920 – in the papers

Edinburgh Libraries have been working with colleagues from City Archives and Museums and Galleries and community representatives on an outreach project to mark the centennial commemoration of the 1920 Edinburgh Boundaries Extension and Tramways Act.

The Act meant that the city boundaries were extended in November 1920 to incorporate the Burgh of Leith in the north and the Midlothian parishes of Cramond, Corstorphine, Colinton and Liberton to the west and south of the city. This was a huge change for the city and for these parishes as the expansion saw the city grow from 17 square miles to 53 square miles and increased its population from 320,000 to 425,000.

The project entitled ReDrawing Edinburgh aims to bring together the communities which came into the City of Edinburgh one hundred years ago to commemorate the event, celebrate the diverse history of each local area and to raise awareness of the heritage of each area amongst the city as a whole.

ReDrawing Edinburgh plans have had to adapt to the impact of the coronavirus restrictions. At present, activities are focused online and we are using Facebook presentations to delve into the history of this momentous change for the city. We hope to expand the programme further over time and with activities from community groups.

Our next talk will be Edinburgh Boundary Extension 1920: In the papers next Thursday 30 July at 6.30pm on Facebook. Join Iain from Central Library’s Edinburgh and Scottish Collection as he gives a broad overview of the events of Edinburgh’s Boundary Extension in 1920. He will attempt to bring alive the voices and opinions of the time by looking through what was written in newspapers of the era to discover what was being said and written about these events.

Advert image for Edinburgh Boundary Extension 1920: In the papers Facebook event

Newspapers of the time were of course the major way people discovered information, fact and opinion. It was how authorities communicated their programmes and developments, as well as being a space where the public could make their views heard. A look back at the papers now reveals a rich historical resource that helps to bring fascinating aspects of this story to life.

You can catch up with the first presentation in the ReDrawing Edinburgh programme on YouTube. The first talk was an introduction to the history and debates surrounding the Edinburgh Boundaries Extension and Tramway Act 1920 which led to ‘The Birth of Greater Edinburgh’, given by Henry Sullivan from Edinburgh City Archives.

History of the house: Cammo House

In 1977, a fire ripped through Cammo House and the house that had been in disrepair for many years, was sadly no more.

Built in 1693 by John Menzies of Cammo, the house had over the years built up a strange and mysterious story.

It had seen many owners through the years, each making additions to the house. One of the owners was brewer Alexander Campbell whose city residence was number 6 Charlotte Square, now Bute House, the official residence of Scotland’s First Minister.

Over the years he would go on to collect memberships to the boards of various organisations in the city including being made an ordinary director of the Commercial Bank of Scotland in 1851.

Alexander Campbell died on 12th June 1887 at Cammo House, his retreat on the edge of the city near Cramond which his beer fortune had enabled him to purchase.

In the 1900s it had been bought by the Clark family. Margaret Louisa Tennent was born in Edinburgh in 1859. She married David Bennet Clark in 1887. Their first son Robert was born in 1892 and his brother Percival in 1898. By 1900 there was trouble in the marriage and they later divorced in 1910. When Margaret’s father died in 1891 his estate was valued at £80,000 (which equates to £10 million in 2020) Her father Robert Tennent had accumulated his fortune from sheep farming in Australia. When her mother died in 1914, her will stated that the trust set up by her father was to be left to Margaret.

After separating from her husband in 1909, Mrs Clark, continued to live at Cammo with her son Percy and adopted the name Maitland-Tennent. She dismissed almost all the staff and rented a portion of the estate to Cramond Brig Golf Club, moving herself and Percy into a caravan nearby. She left behind a house full of valuable paintings and antiques.

Stories began to spread about the family, with Mrs Maitland-Tennent being called by locals the Black Widow, as she was only ever seen being driven in a black car, on regular visits to the bank in Davidson’s Mains.

In 1955, Mrs Maitland-Tennent died aged 95, and was buried under the lawn to the west side of the house. After she died, her estate was estimated to be £500,000.

Between 1955 and 1975 Percy lived in a farmhouse located near the main gate. The farmhouse was home to the tenant farmers a Mr and Mrs Little, who looked after him and cooked his meals.

Cammo Tower – 1960

Percy stayed on becoming more and more of a recluse, only being seen with his pack of dogs that were given free run of the house. Cammo House was deteriorating fast, and the furniture and floors were collapsing.

Over the next few years Cammo suffered several break-ins where paintings and silver were stolen.

Percy died in 1975 and is buried in the family plot in Dean Cemetery. The estate was passed on through his will to the National Trust for Scotland. In 1977 Cammo House was destroyed by fire and in 1980, the NTS feud the estate to the district council. By this time, it was so severely damaged that most of the house was demolished.

In 1980, Cammo Estate became the UK’s first Wilderness Park and was handed over to the public in an official ceremony involving representatives of the National Trust, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, the local MP and local residents.

Although little remains of the house itself, one remainder of Cammo House still remains, the early 19th century fresh water tower built to supply water to the house.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Cammo Estate nowadays, visit Friends of Cammo.

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
History of the house: Melbourne Place
History of the house: Falcon Hall
History of the house: North British Hotel
History of the house: Newhailes
History of the house: Gladstone’s Land
History of the house: 4 Balcarres Street

Local and family history enquiries with the team from the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection

Over the past few weeks, members of Central Library’s Edinburgh and Scottish Collection team have been busy trying to solve various family and local history queries that members of the public have been sending in by email.

Examples of the kind of questions asked have ranged from the straightforward to the devilishly tricky. So far, staff have fielded questions about whether the Library holds Edinburgh Electoral Rolls for the year 1845 and copies of the Evening News for 1959. (‘Yes’ was the answer to both questions). They’ve helped trace ancestors by finding birth, marriage and death certificates. And really got their thinking caps on when asked – what influenced 19th century emigrants to the US and Canada to choose one town over another in where they eventually settled! There have been some great questions about the local area too, from helping to date a school building in Leith, to finding resources on who was working as a pharmacist in Edinburgh in the early 1800s (and under what conditions).

Answering enquiries in the Edinburgh Room, 1954. Image from Capital Collections.

With only having online resources to access currently and sadly, not the full library collection there are limits to what can be answered. However, if you do have your own local or family history query, please send it to central.edsc.library@edinburgh.gov.uk and they will do the best they can to help out.

Here are some links to great history and heritage resources that may begin or continue your own research journey and assist with enquiries also.

Ashlea House in the Borders

We’d like to introduce you to a unique set of images we have in our collection, made available to view on Capital Collections.

The images are taken in the grounds of Ashlea House in Stow, in the Borders. Ashlea House was the summer home of the well-known Edinburgh bookseller, James Thin. Born in Edinburgh in 1824, he served as an apprentice to bookseller James McIntosh who had a shop at 5 North College Street. In 1848 he founded the book shop that bore his name. Situated on South Bridge, opposite the University’s Old College, Thin’s was the main academic bookshop in Edinburgh for 150 years, remaining in the same family until 2002 when it was taken over by Blackwells.

Ashlea House, Stow – c1910

In 1849 he married Catherine Traquair and they had seven sons. Catherine died in 1869 aged 47. In 1870, James Thin purchased a plot of land in Stow in the Scottish Borders, and had a house built, which was completed in 1873 and named Ashlea.
In 1885, at the age of 61 he married a farmer’s daughter Elizabeth Darling who died in 1905. James Thin died on 15th April 1915 at his Edinburgh home in Lauder Road aged 91.

James Thin in the garden of Ashlea House – c1910

The images gathered her are all autochromes, a type of early colour photography which gives the pictures a beautiful painterly quality. Autochrome was patented in 1903 by the Lumiere Brothers in France and first marketed in 1907. Before then colour photography remained in its infancy and the process was clumsy and complicated. Their new technology quickly took the world by storm to become the first viable method of creating images in colour.

Stow Parish Church and Ashlea House – c1910

Stereoscopic Autochromes were especially popular. Usually of a small size, they were most commonly viewed in a small hand-held box type stereoscope. Having made the Autochrome Lumiere technique portable the brothers’ invention meant photographers could travel all over the world capturing images of cultures never seen in colour before.

Garden of Ashlea House – c1910

We hope you enjoy the few images we have featured here, to see the complete set, visit the exhibition on Capital Collections.

Discovering history online

The Edinburgh and Scottish Team at Central Library share some online resources for discovering history and heritage.

Image: David C. Weinczok @TheCastleHunter/ Twitter

Some residents of Stockbridge have been finding novel ways of keeping themselves busy/entertained in these times of social distancing, see above photo, however if you are stuck inside and looking for ideas here are some suggestions with a history and heritage focus.

Let’s start with anniversaries. April is an important month for two monumental events in the history of Scotland. April 6 marked the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath and there is a fantastic radio programme made by Billy Kay to celebrate the document and assess its impact and importance. ‘The Declaration’ was broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland this week and is available for one month on the BBC Sounds app. For younger people interested in the document, Historic Environment Scotland and National Records of Scotland have collaborated to produce this excellent free printable illustrated activity booklet.

The second anniversary of note this month is the bicentenary of the Scottish Radical Rising of 1820. We were all very sad to have to have to postpone the wonderful Maggie Craig’s talk at Central Library this month, but we encourage you to check out her great blog and new book on the topic. The aptly titled ‘One Week in April’ is newly published by Birlinn.

For the family tree researchers out there – an exciting development from Edinburgh Libraries has arrived. Free access to Find My Past has been extended to home users for the duration of this lockdown period. This was previously only available at a physical library site. For more information on how to access from home please visit our Your Library website.

The National Library of Scotland maps team have been busy producing this very nifty and useful digital map overlay. This allows you to see a comprehensive range of the maps of Edinburgh and its environs, what they cover and within what time period they were produced.

Now for any budding archaeologists out there (young or old…) Dig Ventures have made a fantastic online learning course available for free (usually costs £49.00!) and the next course begins on the 14 April. Archaelogy Scotland have also produced a handy toolkit of resources too.

The always excellent Battle of Bannockburn Experience has created an online classroom, which may be of interest to those currently partaking in home schooling (- we salute you!)

For those of us that perhaps can’t commit or aren’t interested in a formal learning experience but are really missing being able to go out and enjoy visiting a great museum or gallery, please have a look at these virtual options. A very comprehensive list has been produced by the MCN in the US. There are a great many to choose from all over the planet all free to access and enjoy.

Finally bringing things a bit closer to home and in case you missed it – episode 1 from the BBC Scotland series ‘One Night in the Museum’ was recently aired and available for the next month on BBC iPlayer. It follows three groups of primary school aged children on a journey of discovery as they are able to explore the National Museum of Scotland’s collection at night and free from adult involvement. It is adorable and well worth a watch.

Blair’s Edinburgh Views

Our current exhibition on Capital Collections is a collection of atmospheric scenes of late 19th century Edinburgh landmarks and landscapes, taken from watercolour paintings by artist John Blair.

The Old Town from the Waverley Bridge

The images are taken from a volume of loose lithographic prints dated 1892 which were printed in Paris and published by Aitken Dott of Castle Street. Many of the pictures contain moonlight or fading light and evocative weather conditions. The views are scenes of Edinburgh’s famous streets populated with typical residents of the time or picture postcard vistas looking from different geographic points towards the city’s famous skyline.

There is one picture however, which sits apart from the rest. It is a view of the Scott Monument looking east along Princes Street. The street characters seem in this view more defined and there are three men walking in a line towards the viewer each wearing sandwich board advertisements. On closer inspection, the signs are promoting a Castle Street exhibition of watercolours by John Blair – a tongue-in-cheek reference to the artist himself and his publishers.

The Scott Monument and Princes Street

View the full set of thirteen plates on Capital Collections.

History of the house: Falcon Hall

Continuing our History of the House series, we move a wee bit out of the city centre and travel south to Morningside. The house (rather a large one) is Falcon Hall. Built in 1780 by Edinburgh hosier and future Lord Provost, William Coulter. Originally called Morningside Lodge, it stood in what was then the Canaan Estate.

Falcon Hall ,1907

Coulter was born in Edinburgh in 1754 and had a house and shop at the head of Jackson’s Close on the Royal Mile. As well as serving as a Dean of Guild from 1806, he was also Lord Provost between 1808 and 1810, dying in office at the age of 56. He was by all accounts something of a character. When he died he was honoured with a public funeral. A look in our resource the British Newspaper Archive (BNA) features a page from the Scots Magazine from 1820 describing the funeral procession, with the 1st Regiment of Royal Volunteers leading the funeral procession “firing three vollies over the grave while the earth was putting on”.

Following Coulter’s death, the house was bought by Alexander Falconar. At one time a Chief Secretary to the Governor of Madras, Alexander settled with his family in Edinburgh in 1811, on his retirement from colonial service. In 1814, he bought Morningside Lodge, and nine acres of land surrounding it, and with the help of architect Thomas Hamilton, refurbished and enlarged it, renaming it Falcon Hall. Featuring elaborately styled wrought iron and stone piers, with large stone falcons, they were a magnificent sight to behold. Life-sized statues of Nelson and Wellington – both immensely popular figures of the era – flanked the main entrance to the house itself.

Falcon Hall , interior 1907

Searching Find My Past we can see that the first recorded Census taken on 6 June 1841, finds Alexander and his five daughters living in Falcon Hall, together with his son-in-law Henry Craigie, husband of the only married daughter, Jessie. Alexander’s wife, Elizabeth had died in 1831.

The census also records that Falcon Hall, had 1 male and 6 female servants, a conventional number at that time for a gentleman of Alexander Falconar’s wealth and social status. Alexander continued to live at Falcon Hall until his death on 10 December 1847.

As Morningside began to change and develop over the course of the 19th century, so did the fortunes of Falcon Hall. The gate pillars and falcons were removed in 1874 and repositioned on the slopes of Corstorphine Hill where they form the entrance to Edinburgh Zoo. The house remained in the Falconar family ownership until the death of his last surviving daughter, Margaret in 1887. It lay empty for a while before reappearing as a boarding school and ladies’ college.

Edinburgh Zoo gates showing falcon from Falcon Hall

The last inhabitant of Falcon Hall was Dr John George Bartholomew, a co-founder of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and the owner of the map making company John Bartholomew & Son Limited. John enjoyed close acquaintance with many leading academics and travellers of the time, including Ernest Shackleton, Henry Stanley, and Cecil Rhodes, working with many of them to represent their work and discoveries in map form.

George lived in Falcon Hall with his family from 1899 to 1907 before it was demolished in 1909. When John Bartholomew & Co moved from premises in Dalkeith Road to an entirely new building in Duncan Street in 1911, the entire facade of Falcon Hall was transported from Morningside and re-erected in Duncan Street along with the entrance hall and staircase gallery with ornamental bronze balustrade which once formed part of the Morningside mansion house. Another feature is the domed roof which is ornamented with four great sculptured falcons.

Facade of Falcon Hall used in the building of John Bartholomew and Co, Duncan Street

The name Falcon was subsequently given to the Morningside streets later developed on the property’s former site.

You can discover more about Duncan Street, home to the Bartholomew mapmaking firm from the National Library of Scotland’s Duncan Street Explorer website.

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
History of the house: Melbourne Place
History of the house: North British Hotel
History of the house: Cammo House
History of the house: Newhailes
History of the house: Gladstone’s Land
History of the house: 4 Balcarres Street

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
History of the house: Falcon Hall
History of the house: North British Hotel
History of the house: Cammo House
History of the house: Newhailes
History of the house: Gladstone’s Land
History of the house: 4 Balcarres Street

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.

Craigmillar Steam Laundry

Our latest Capital Collections exhibition showcases a wonderful collection of photographs of The Craigmillar Steam Laundry.

Initially formed as the Edinburgh Steam Laundry Company, when a property was bought in West Craigmillar on West Saville Terrace, the laundry opened in July 1883 as the Craigmillar Steam Laundry.

Craigmillar Steam Laundry, Edinburgh – ironing and finishing department

By 1891 the laundry was handling over 30,000 articles of clothing a week. It was described as “the largest, best arranged, and most perfectly equipped establishment of its kind in Scotland”. The laundry used state of the art equipment including steam driven washing machines and hydro extractors which were a type of spin drier. In addition to cleaning, ironing, and finishing the clothes, the laundry dealt with a whole range of materials including carpets and curtains. All finished goods were dispatched in the company’s horse drawn vans. By the late nineteenth century, the laundry employed over 130 people.

Craigmillar Steam Laundry, Edinburgh – delivery cart

As the twentieth century progressed, the company began buying up other laundries, and the original Craigmillar site was redeveloped. In 1951 the company took over the Caledonian Laundry, and in 1958 opened a petrol station on the Craigmillar site, which was later followed by a car showroom in 1960.

By the early 1970s the company had 6 laundries around the Edinburgh area all using automatic coin operated machines.

Craigmillar Steam Laundry, Edinburgh

The West Saville Terrace property was sold in 1978, and the remaining buildings were let to their tenants as the company became a property letting agency. The company was then sold to Cala Homes in 1986.

View the full collection of images of this remarkable snapshot into past working lives on Capital Collections.

History of the house: the Stockbridge Colonies

During the 19th century the population of Edinburgh doubled from 103,000 in 1811 to 222,000 in 1881. During this time, the City developed industrially creating a major demand for labour which resulted in a population movement from rural areas.

The subsequent demand for housing created a major problem as the condition of the existing housing stock, particularly in the Old Town, was poor. Edinburgh suffered a mid 19th century recession and virtually no new houses were built between 1825 and 1860.

In the 1840s Edinburgh was reported as having the most unsanitary living conditions of any British city with the Edinburgh News describing Old Town houses as “chambers of death”.

So… what to do to solve the housing problem?

The Reverend Doctor James Begg, Leader of the Free Church of Scotland believed that workers should club together savings – money saved from not visiting the public house – to buy land around the outskirts of towns and build houses using their shared skills. Similar ideas were tried out around the city.

In 1861 many builders were locked out of work following a strike asking for working hours to be reduced from ten to nine.  Their request had been accepted but the men were only allowed back on site if they signed an agreement to work ten hours as before.

This led to the formation in 1861 of the Edinburgh Co-operative Building Company Ltd (ECBC) by seven stonemasons, David Rintoul, James Ogilvie, James Collins, James Colville, William Mill, James Earshman and Jake Syme.

The Company’s aim was to use their collective skills to build comfortable and respectable houses for rent or sale at reasonable prices for working people. Houses for those who “prefer privacy of self-contained dwellings with private gardens to homes in common stair tenements”. The finished houses were to be sold or rented providing a return to reinvest in future buildings and a dividend for shareholders.

The initial sale of £1 shares raised £10,000 and the shares could be bought in five instalments.

The first development was the Colonies of Stockbridge which was followed by similar developments at Dalry Road, Abbeyhill, North Fort Street, Restalrig Road, Slateford Road and Shaftesbury Park.

Water of Leith at the Colonies, 1963

Many of the 11 Stockbridge Terraces are named after people who helped to promote, found or run the ECBC. The first was Reid Terrace named after Hugh Gilzean Reid, a newspaper editor credited with giving help and encouragement to the initial group of stonemasons.

The foundation stone was laid in October 1861 by the Reverend James Begg and the second terrace was named after Hugh Miller, the renowned geologist. Like Begg and Reid, Miller was a member of the Free Church and shared the belief that living in decent housing could promote moral values and physical well-being. Although Miller had died before the ECBC was formed, his contribution had been recognised.

Houses cost between £100 and £130 to buy. An initial deposit was £5 with the balance repayable over 15-20 years secured on the Deeds lodged with a Property Investment Company. Many occupants were also shareholders in ECBC and could put their dividend payment towards paying off their loan.

Some houses were bought and then let to others but the majority of buyers or tenants worked in the building trade or manual occupations.

There are various carved stone plaques to be seen on the gable ends of houses in Collins, Kemp, Avondale, Teviotdale, Balmoral and Dunedin Places emphasising the connection with the various trades in the origins of the development.

Reid Terrace was the first to be completed in the Stockbridge Development. Of the 18 properties listed in the 1864-65 Voters Register 12 were occupied by the owner and 6 by tenants.

Occupations listed are saddler, stationer, van driver, architect, clerk of works, watchmaker, grazier, clerk, commercial traveller, residenter*, GPO sorter, porter, blacksmith, hosier, glass cutter, servant.

No women are listed as voters in this era before women’s suffrage.

In the 1914-15 Register, 34 properties are listed with only 9 occupied by owners, 5 of whom are women, and the remaining 29 have tenant occupiers.

Occupations listed are printer, joiner, butler, wood carver, carter, mason, agent, postman, cabinetmaker, cutter, insurance agent, hairdresser, bootmaker, tramway servant, baker, gardener, attendant, rubber worker, gasfitter, traveller, police constable, tinsmith, saw maker, watchmaker, glass painter, china dealer, clerk, plasterer, residenter*.

One photograph from our collections taken around 1885 shows the Fyfe Family standing at the doors of 23 and 24 Reid Terrace.

Fyfe Family, Reid Terrace, Stockbridge

The Valuation Rolls record that a Mrs Ann Fyfe lived at number 23 Reid Terrace in 1875 but by the 1881 Census it looks as though the family have moved to Montague Street in Newington. In 1885 number 23 was occupied by a James Cantley and then changed tenants regularly after this time.

Another image from Capital Collections, dated around 1914, is of the Valentine Family who lived at 17 Bell Place.

Valentine Family, Bell Place, Stockbridge

David Valentine was born in 1877 near St Andrews in Fife. In 1900, he married Rachel Mentiply at Monifieth in Fife.  The 1911 Census tells us that he is living at 17 Bell Place with his wife Rachel and his children Betsy (9), Margaret (7), William (5), James (4) Rachel (1) and Elizabeth (2 months). His father William (74) was also living with the family until his death in 1913. David was a Police Constable and he continued to live at Bell Place until around 1920. He retired from the Police with the rank of Sergeant and died in April 1951 at 8 Glenogle Place.

The register of voters also lists Police Officers living at numbers 16, 19, 23, and 25 around this time.

*Residenter: an inhabitant, often with a connection to the clergy.

This is only the story of the Stockbridge Colonies. In all, between 1850 and 1903 another nine developments were built. By 1875, land became more expensive and was a factor in the reduction of the amount of new building.

Overall, the Colonies vision far exceeded expectations by providing housing for more than 7000 people. Today, a Colonies home is much prized, offering at type of accommodation rarely found in central Edinburgh for those who “prefer privacy of self-contained dwellings with private gardens”.

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: Milne’s Court
History of the house: Melbourne Place
History of the house: Falcon Hall
History of the house: North British Hotel
History of the house: Cammo House
History of the house: Newhailes
History of the house: Gladstone’s Land
History of the house: 4 Balcarres 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.

No whistling on a Sunday: an oral history of the Stockbridge Colonies by the Colonies Oral History Group
Edinburgh’s colonies: housing the workers by Richard Rodger
A brief history of the Colonies by Rose Pipes

Passport belonging to John Morison Inches

One of the things that Libraries lend most frequently are travel guides, but we have in our collections much more than just books about travel. We house prints, photos, travelogues, timetables, tickets and ephemera, including perhaps surprisingly, some historical passports.

Before the age of photographic ID, the passport was a standard printed form emblazed with the Royal Coat of Arms and stating:

We, Sir Edward Grey, a Baronet of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, a Member of His Most Britannic Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council…


Request and require in the Name of His Majesty, all those whom it may concern to allow — to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford — every assistance and protection of which — may stand in need.

Staff in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection recently uncovered one such passport made out to Mr John Morison Inches, a British subject travelling in Europe, accompanied by his wife Mrs Margaret Morison Inches.

Passport of Mr John Morison Inches

Who are the persons named in the passport? We turned first to the Library’s resources and the Scotsman Digital Archive where we found John Morison Inches obituary in its edition of 5 May 1914. We also found details of his will published in The Scotsman on 12 June 1914 where he left an estate of £49,095.

Mr John Morison Inches was well-known in Edinburgh in his time. He was a brewer and ran J & J Morison, the Commercial Brewery in the Canongate. He was traveling with his wife Mrs Margaret Inches on a possible business trip in 1911 to Moscow in pre-Great War and pre-1917 revolutionary Russia. He died soon after this trip in 1914 and left his business to his widow until his son John Morison Inches took over. Although, Margaret remained heavily involved in the business operations for many years. The brewery would eventually evolve into Scottish and Newcastle Breweries.

The passport  is currently on display in the Reference Library at Central Library.