City’s historic images get a psychedelic makeover in Grassmarket’s free open-air art exhibition

The Greater Grassmarket BID has teamed up with local graphic artist Johnny Dodds and Capital Collections to launch a free open-air Art Gallery this September. Explore Edinburgh’s extraordinary history through a series of artworks that combine rare old photos from the collections of Edinburgh Libraries.

Photographs of hokey pokey man

 

See the city’s past, its people, places and city life through a psychedelic prism of colour and vibrancy. A unique, contemporary glimpse into Edinburgh’s past in a way you’ve never seen it before.

Photogrpahs of Lamplighter Victoria Terrace

 

Visit the free open-air walking art exhibition in the Greater Grassmarket area from 4th – 30th September and view all the images on Capital Collections.

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Royal Visit, May 1903

Our latest exhibition on Capital Collections is taken from 3 small ‘Kodak’ photograph albums. The pictures document the royal visit of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra to Edinburgh in May 1903 following Edward’s coronation in London the previous year.

One of the albums depicts images of colonial troops who had arrived in Edinburgh prior to the King’s coronation in August 1902. Spectators have gathered as the troops are photographed marching through Edinburgh’s streets.

Colonial troops marching in the Canongate, 1902

 

Many more people converged on Edinburgh for the royals’ visit. The momentous event was described by The Scotsman:

“The railways in the morning brought thousands of people into the city, and the streets were kept in a state of bustle and excitement by the arrival of the troops with their bands of music, by their disposition, and by the hurrying of people to get positions to see the King arriving”.

Crowd and soldiers waiting for coronation parade, Princes Street, 1903

The streets were lined with people trying to get a glimpse of the royal procession as it passed from Waverley Station to Holyrood.

King Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark in their carriage on Regent Road, 1903

There was a public holiday in Edinburgh for the visit and the city was festooned with bunting, decorations and large ceremonial arches were placed across main roads into the city centre.

Ceremonial arch on Lothian Road at the junction with Castle Terrace, 1903

Browse the full exhibition of the Royal Visit on Capital Collections.

Afterword
The photographer of these images is unknown, but the volumes were kindly donated to Central Library by the Misses D. Morison Inches of Colinton Road.

Part of the King’s visit took him to Colinton Mains where he formally opened the city’s new hospital for infectious diseases, built at a cost of £350,000. Among the welcoming committee of dignitaries were City Architect Robert Morham  and the city’s Medical Officer of Health, Sir Henry Littlejohn.

The King opened the doors to the new hospital with a ceremonial gold key which had been specially crafted by Edinburgh jewellers Hamilton and Inches. Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of the key today, but it does however suggest a connection to the Misses D. Morison Inches and the photograph albums. Robert Kirk Inches, founder of Hamilton and Inches jewellers, was the father of John Morison Inches, a senior figure in Edinburgh’s brewing industry and grandfather to Doris and Denys Morison Inches of Colinton Road. Perhaps the Morison Inches family were keen to acquire a record of the prestigious visit to Edinburgh, in connection with their contribution to the Colinton Mains Hospital opening ceremony.

Edinburgh Photographic Society survey 1912-1914

Edinburgh Photographic Society Section was established in 1899, and over the early years of the 20th century created a collection of photographs of streets and buildings of Edinburgh.

It was proposed that 2 copies of each photograph were created, one to be given to the City of Edinburgh and one to be retained by the Edinburgh Photographic Society.

The images in our latest Capital Collections exhibition feature Ward XIV (George Square) and most of the photos were taken between 1912 and 1914. There were some earlier images collected, but not taken by the EPS Survey Group members.

Many of the photographs feature places that are still very much recognisable today but there are also many that no longer exist.

Do you recognise this area? Taken in 1904 you might be able to spot the street sign that says Tarvit Street. These buildings were probably demolished very shortly after this photograph was taken as two years later the King’s Theatre opened its doors on the site.

Leven Street, east side

The picture below shows an area that has changed quite a bit, well, at least one side of the street! This is looking towards Earl Grey Street and on the corner on the left-hand side, is Central Hall.

Earl Grey Street looking north from Brougham Street

The cottages below were demolished and built on the site that was the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary College. Nowadays it is known simply as Summerhall, an arts hub for theatre, music, art and literary events throughout the year. It even has its own gin distillery and microbrewery.

Cottages, Summerhall

Many would think that somewhere like the Grassmarket with its original old buildings wouldn’t have changed very much. However as you can see, this impressive looking building, the Corn Exchange, is no longer there. It stood on the site that is now the Apex Hotel.

The Corn Exchange , Grassmarket

Visit Capital Collections to see the full set of amazing photographs from the George Square Survey by the members of the Edinburgh Photographic Society.

All the world’s a stage – 70 years of Edinburgh festivals

In 1947, Sir John Falconer, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, spoke of his ambition that the International Festival of Music and Drama should provide “a platform of the flowering of the human spirit”.

The first Edinburgh International Festival programme 1947

This year (2017) sees the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe. In 1947, eight uninvited theatre groups turned up at the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival. With the ‘official’ festival using the city’s major venues, these groups took advantage of the large assembled theatre crowds to showcase their own alternative theatre. Although at the time it was not recognised as such, this was the first Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Map of major venues 1947

The EIF has played host to many international stars over its 70 years. Maria Callas performed in the King’s Theatre in 1957 and Rudolf Nureyev first appeared at the festival in 1984 dancing in a production of ‘Swan Lake’ at the Playhouse Theatre. In 1965 Marlene Dietrich performed, singing a collection of late night cabaret songs at the Lyceum assisted by an orchestra conducted by Burt Bacharach.

Harmonium Project, opening the 2015 Edinburgh International Festival

Many of today’s well known faces have launched their careers at either the Festival or Fringe. Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller appeared in Beyond the Fringe in 1960. Billy Connolly appeared in The Great Northern Welly Boot Show in 1972. Rowan Atkinson took a break from his engineering degree in 1976 to perform alongside Richard Curtis for the Oxford Review. In 1981 Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were members of The Cambridge Footlights who won the first Perrier Award (now Edinburgh Comedy Award) and in 2001 Eddie Redmayne appeared as the MC in Cabaret.

Street performer at Parliament Square, 2015

If you want to get a real taste of what’s happening during the festivals, take a stroll – though it may take some time – down the High Street and to The Mound where you will be able to see Fringe groups, buskers and street performers. You might even be “persuaded” to join in!

Street performer on High Street, 2015

The Edinburgh Festivals continue to go from strength to strength. In 2016 the combined ticket sales of both the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival reached 2,915,143.

Find many more great pictures of our festival city on Capital Collections including our collection of Edinburgh International Festival programme covers.

James Craig’s New Town

By the mid-1700s Edinburgh’s growing population was crammed into the tall, dark and insanitary tenements of the Old Town. The council wanted to improve living conditions and to encourage people with affluence and influence back to the city. Proposals were put forward to develop and expand Edinburgh to benefit the citizens, the city and Scotland. Part of the proposals demanded the upgrading of the Nor’ Loch in the valley beneath the castle, an expanse of water which had become a dumping place for all kinds of filth. The proposal suggested a canal with walks and terraces on either side but this was never realised. In 1759 the drainage of the Nor’ Loch began, and a couple of years later the Lord Provost laid the foundation stone of North Bridge paving the way for the city expansion to the north and improved connection with the port of Leith.

North Bridge, Edinburgh, 1809

Submissions were invited for a detailed plan which could interpret the proposals and envisage a new town on the grassy ridge to the north of the castle. Six submissions were received and the competition was won by the young and little-known architect, James Craig. After some alterations a final design was agreed by the town council in July 1767.

James Craig’s Plan of the new streets and squares intended for the City of Edinburgh

Craig’s plan was simple, geometric and spacious. It also symbolised the union of Scotland and England referencing the King, George III. Streets were named for him, his queen and his sons. The smaller back lanes were named after the national emblems of the two countries, rose and thistle. The plan included grand squares at either end of the George Street vista named in honour of each country’s patron saints with similarly named churches to be built facing each other. Castle Street would give a fantastic view to the castle, while Frederick and Hanover Streets again both referenced the royal family.

Craigleith Quarry supplied stone for the building works on Edinburgh’s New Town

In the end, George’s Square became Charlotte Square in honour of the queen and to prevent confusion with the newly built George Square near the university. The prime site allocated for the church at St Andrew Square was instead acquired by Sir Laurence Dundas, a wealthy landowner and businessman. His mansion, Dundas House would later become headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland. St Andrew’s Church, now known as St Andrew’s and St George’s West, instead opened at the east end of George Street in 1784 to meet the needs of the new residents of the New Town.

This first phase of the New Town was in place.

George Street, 1925

Two of Craig’s later greatest architectural achievements, the Physician’s Hall on George Street and St James Square at the east end of Princes Street have long since been demolished. After such initial promise, success eluded James Craig and he would die in 1895 insolvent and unknown.

In 2017 the 250th anniversary of James Craig’s plan, our latest exhibition on Capital Collections celebrates his visionary New Town plan for Edinburgh.

 

New St Andrews House

In the space of 47 years, a large part of Edinburgh’s city centre has changed not once but twice.

The area of Leith Street, St James Square and Greenside have managed to survive in name but the area is virtually unrecognisable to anyone over the age of 50.

Fairley’s Dance Hall, John Colliers, Burton’s, Hoy’s furniture store, The Top Story Club, The Register Tap bar and Jeromes photo studio are among some of the fondly remembered establishments to those of a certain generation.

New St Andrews House

Part of the first development of the St James Square area included New St Andrews House, completed in 1970 and occupied for the first time in 1974 by the former Scottish Office. It closed during 1995-96 and remained empty, partly due to the asbestos which had been used in its construction. As a concrete building in the Brutalist style, with cliff face elevations and unattractive fenestration, it faced substantial public opposition when it was first built, and continued to be a somewhat controversial development.

View from 5th Floor- New St Andrews House

The St James Centre complex is now in the process of demolition as part of a £850m redevelopment consisting of new shops, a public square, 2 hotels and new residential apartments.

Looking towards the Balmoral Hotel and Register House

While the New St Andrews House building was empty and awaiting demolition, we were allowed access to take photographs including seldom seen views of Edinburgh from its unique vantage point. There are views of the inside of the building that lay empty for more years than it was actually in use.

View from 1st Floor stairs towards entrance foyer

Visit Capital Collections to see the full New St Andrews House exhibition.

 

Can you dig it?

With the sun shining and long summer evenings ahead, we thought we’d share some pictures on Capital Collections of  Warriston Allotments, one of Edinburgh’s many community green spaces. Gardener and school librarian, Carol, invited us into her allotment to find out about her spare time spent in this hidden oasis in the city.

Here Carol explains what the allotment means to her:

I’ve been a plot holder for over 15 years. For me it’s always been more than the science of vegetable growing. Although I cannot deny a real sense of personal satisfaction from digging, planting, tending, weeding, and just waiting for your produce to bloom.

Each plot has its own personality, some functional in purpose, while others are more esoteric in their outlook. These vary from brightly coloured floral displays to random garden objects, including a mishmash of cobbled together sheds and greenhouses.

The allotments are also about the importance of community, especially the people and the sharing of their horticultural highs and lows. It’s also about the sharing of rural space in an urban landscape, much more than a simple plot.

Inspired? View more pictures from Carol’s allotment at Warriston on Capital Collections.