Forth Rail Bridge

March 2015 marks the 125th anniversary of the Forth Rail Bridge. Currently awaiting the outcome of a UNESCO World Heritage site nomination, there is little doubt that the Forth Rail Bridge’s iconic status extends far beyond Scotland.

However, the Forth Rail Bridge may have looked very different.

 

In 1879 during a dreadful storm, the navigation spans collapsed on the Tay Bridge. A train had been crossing the bridge at the time and over 70 lives were lost. The Tay Bridge had been designed by Thomas Bouch, the engineer employed on the new Forth Rail Bridge and so, a decision was made to halt construction on the Bridge only shortly after it had begun.

To allay the fears of the public in the wake of the Tay disaster the revised structure of the Forth Bridge was designed to be both visually impressive and enormously strong. Work restarted on a new cantilever design by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker.

 

The creation of the monumental structure came at a heavy price. In addition to the high economic cost of roughly £2.5 million, more than 60 men lost their lives whilst working on the bridge. Our latest Capital Collections exhibition includes material from our Libraries’ collections and also from the Queensferry Museum. Browse awe-inspiring pictures of the Bridge in mid-construction, views from high amongst the girders and photos of some of the men who risked their lives to realise this feat of Victorian engineering.

 

 

Streets and Canals in Venice

There is something so different in Venice from any other place in the world, that you leave at once all accustomed habits and everyday sights to enter an enchanted garden…..
Mary Shelley

Our latest online exhibition is taken from a volume published by Ferdinando Ongania in 1893 who was inspired to record the architecture of his beloved city for the ‘studious art loving public’.

The Venetian GondolaBrowse the images and meander the narrow streets and waterways of a less well-known side of Venice. Although you will see images of gondolas they are of a time when unlike today they normally contained an intimate “felze”, a small cabin on the deck.

There is also an image of the Regata Storia where thousands of people line the streets, gather on bridges and watch from every possible vantage point.  This centuries old event is still as popular today as when this photograph was taken.

Waiting for the Regatta

We also witness women pulling water from the well to fill the tub for the daily washing while nearby men with pipes firmly clenched between teeth can be seen with tools of their trade.

Campicello, Little field

Explore the beautiful Street and Canals in Venice exhibition on Capital Collections.

A calendar of flowers

It may be thought perhaps the Winter months are void of the delights expected in a flower garden; but the mistake will soon be discovered by any curious observer, when he shall find, that there are at least two and thirty flowers of different kinds then in their splendour.

So wrote the author in ‘The Flower Garden Display’d’ volume of 1732.

January

This vibrant display shows January’s blooms. The following months’ illustrations can be seen in our latest Capital Collections exhibition. The flowers from each month’s bouquet are identified to help the budding horticulturist.

Exploring the Henry Dyer Collection

This short film uncovers one of Edinburgh Libraries’ hidden gems: the Henry Dyer Collection.

Edinburgh City Libraries received two donations from the Henry Dyer Collection in 1945 and 1955, gifted by Marie Ferguson Dyer in honour of her father.

These donations together consisted of 50 loose sheets of Japanese woodblock prints, a number of bound woodblock printed volumes, scrolls and a collection of late 19th Century Japanese photographs attributed to Baron Von Stillfried. The remainder of the Dyer Collection was gifted to the Mitchell Library (Glasgow) and Glasgow Museums (Nitshill).

Read more about Henry Dyer’s contribution to Edinburgh Libraries.

There are also a number of Dyer related exhibitions on our image database, Capital Collections, that are worth dipping into.

Watch this space for the second part of this film which explores the wonderful Moromasa scroll.

Watch the birdie! Golf in Edinburgh, 1909 style

We’ve unearthed a cracking album of historic photographs of Mortonhall Golf Club which we wanted to share with you.

Dating from 1909, the album includes some wonderful action shots as well as scenic views of the course, the clubhouse and its surroundings.

Here’s the club captain driving off, totally unfazed by the sheep grazing on the fairway up ahead.

the club captain

 

I’m sure most Saturday morning hackers will recognise the following scene. A golfer searches the rough for a lost ball while his fellow player waits ‘patiently’ on the grass beside him.

the lost ball

 

This shot, entitled ‘The Home Hole’ features some wonderful fashions, facial topiary and plenty of serious expressions.

the home hole

You can  zoom in to see this and all the other pictures from the album in detail, as well as finding out more about the club itself (including the famous novel in which it is mentioned) on Capital Collections.

The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: Thomas Ross

Thomas Ross was born in Perthshire in 1839, the son of a tenant farmer. He  moved to Glasgow in 1885 to become an apprentice architect. In 1862, Thomas Ross was employed as an assistant to architect David MacGibbon, and in 1872 they went into partnership. As well as working on their architectural commissions, MacGibbon and Ross undertook an ambitious project travelling across Scotland, mainly by train or bike, sketching and gathering information about the country’s architectural heritage.

This resulted in the five volume work “Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland” (1887- 92) and the three volumes of “The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland” (1896-97).  Both series remain key texts for Scottish architecture (and can be found in our Art Library collections).

Torphichen Church

Ross’s influence increased when he became a founder member of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCHAMS) in 1908. He received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Edinburgh University in 1910.

Alfred MacGibbon (David’s son), fell ill in 1914 and dissolved the partnership. Ross continued to undertake small jobs that interested him from his home in Saxe-Coburg Place. His main occupation continued to be Commission business and it was while studying Rossend Castle, Inverkeithing that he fell foul of wartime restrictions when he was arrested and later fined 5 shillings for “sketching in a prohibited area”.

Ross continued to work as an architect until 1916 making surveys and sketches of old buildings. In 1918, Ross became Professor of Antiquities at the Royal Edinburgh Academy. He died in 1930 aged 91.

After his death, his son James MacLaren Ross destroyed most of the practice papers but those relating to the books and to Commission business were given to the National Library.  Drawings and paintings relating to Edinburgh, Scotland and England were given to Edinburgh Central Library. St Mary's Church, Haddington

Our latest Capital Collections exhibition brings together some of these unique watercolour paintings Ross completed on his various travels around Scotland and England and focus on landmark domestic and ecclesiastical buildings, many of which appear in his classic architectural texts.

 

Read previous posts in this series about the principal donors who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries here:

Henry Dyer: engineer, educationist and Japanophile

Robert Butchart: City Librarian and Old Edinburgh enthusiast

Charles Boog Watson: antiquarian and ARP warden

William McEwan: brewer and philanthropist

David Mather Masson: scholar and biographer

World War One training trenches

A week after war was declared on August 4th 1914, the ‘Your King and Country Need You’ slogan was released to recruit men to Kitchener’s army.  Tens of thousands of men responded and were trained for war. Many more would be conscripted to the cause as the months and years drew on.

Just outside the boundary of Dreghorn Barracks, in verdant woodland lies a hidden reminder of the soldiers who joined the conflict and the lives lost. A small network of neglected World War One training trenches can be discovered by the amateur archaeologist amongst the overgrowth. It is often assumed that allied troops were ill-prepared for the trench warfare of World War One but in fact, remains of military practice trenches like these exist all over the UK.

World War One training trench

It is thought that live ammunition would have been thrown and fired down the embankment from Dreghorn Barracks’ grounds towards the men taking cover in the trenches. It was an attempt to equip the troops for their imminent departure for the Front, though undoubtedly they could not have been prepared for the full horrors of trench warfare.

View more pictures of the trenches on Capital Collections.

You can find out much more about World War One practice trenches as well as other physical markers on Britain’s landscape remaining from the conflict from The Home Front Legacy project.