How well do you know the castles and abbeys of Scotland?

The images below are taken from the Picturesque Antiquities of Scotland by Adam de Cardonnel and were drawn over two hundred years ago. How many can you recognise?

Click on the images to check your answers.

  1. You might have visited or you might have seen this one on TV… an easy one for starters:


2. An iconic seaside ruin:


3. A Borders’ gem:


4. A medieval fortress beside the Clyde:


5. Here’s one for all the Monty Python fans:


6. And finally, another easy one (?), a bit closer to home:

How many did you get?

You can view all the beautiful images from the Picturesque Antiquities of Scotland on Capital Collections.


History of the house: King’s Wark

In a new series, we investigate the city’s past city through the history of a ‘house’ (or property).

The spotlight falls first on the King’s Wark, a well-known watering hole that sits in a prominent position on Leith’s picturesque Shore. But what is the history of the site? And where does the name come from?

The Shore in Leith, c1884

Work started on the King’s Wark (or fortification) building in 1434 and was to be a residence, store-house and armoury for James I.

In 1477, James III granted an annuity of 12 Scottish merks from it to support a chaplain in the Collegiate Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Restalrig.

During the English Invasions of 1544 and 1547 the building was practically destroyed. It was rebuilt by Queen Mary of Scotland in 1564 and leased to John Chisholm, the comptroller of the Royal Artillery recognising that the building held a strategic position on the approach to Leith.

From 1575 the building even served as a plague hospital for some years.

Around 1613, James VI (and 1st of Britain) granted possession to one of his royal household, Bernard Lindsay, the King’s Wark and the neighbouring land and buildings. He was instructed to keep four taverns on the site and granted the taxes from the wine sold to pay for a merchants’ exchange within the complex. Lindsay’s name lives on in the adjacent Bernard Street.

In 1649, the King’s Wark was taken into the possession of the Magistrates of Edinburgh and converted into a weigh-house. In 1690, the building was destroyed by fire and subsequently replaced by another using the same name.

Between 1799 and 1822 the building was occupied by Ramsay Williamson & Co, merchants for continental suppliers.

Rutherford & Co, a wholesale and retail wine and spirit merchants owned and occupied the building from around 1855. Rutherfords owned many other licenced premises in Edinburgh. They can be traced at the King’s Wark for almost a century, first in the Valuation Rolls from 1855 to 1900 and then in the Post Office Directories from 1911 to 1950.

‘Old Corner’, the Shore, Leith, 1958

For a time, two doors along, at no. 40, was R&D Slimon, an Ironmongers and Ships Chandlers, illustrating the area’s maritime heritage.

The Post Office Directory of 1959 shows that the King’s Wark had been taken over by E Cranston, another Wine and Spirit Merchant, who also had other premises in the City.

Have you ever thought about investigating the history of your home? Edinburgh Libraries has many online resources and physical collections to help you!

Get in touch via if you want to find out how to get started.

The Edinburgh Town Guard

Our colleagues in Museums have published a fantastic exhibition on Capital Collections about The Edinburgh Town Guard.

The Town Guard was founded in the late 17th century to keep the peace within the Old Town, and was disbanded in 1817 when the modern police force took over. The Guard was a familiar part of life in the city, and although poets and authors like Robert Fergusson and Sir Walter Scott were far from complimentary, they were seen as an effective way of deterring petty criminals in the wynds and closes of the Royal Mile.

A Member of the Edinburgh Old Town Guard by William Home Lizars, 1800

The Museum of Edinburgh has a collection of items relating to the Town Guard which includes a set of 28 muskets. Curators at the museum have carried out research on the muskets with weapons experts, and by looking at other items in the museums and libraries’ collections, have been able to piece together the story of the Town Guard during the 1700s, a time when Edinburgh saw a lot of unrest with riots and rebellions.

Find out more about Edinburgh in the 18th century at the Museum of Edinburgh and People’s Story Museum, where, if you time it right, you may even see the Edinburgh City Guard, a mid-18th century living history group, bringing the red-coated civic defence force to life!


Mystery images from the past

In 2016, a former colleague, John, latterly Team Leader at Oxgangs Library, mentioned to us that he had ‘inherited’ some large glass negatives. They had been found in a cupboard in his flat in Claremont Crescent a few years earlier. He didn’t know anything about where the negatives had come from or even what they were of, but their size suggested they must be quite old. Some were broken and he offered us the opportunity to digitise them before they deteriorated further. We’ve brought them together in an exhibition on Capital Collections.

At first glance they didn’t give away any obvious clues. There were several images of gentlemen posing proudly with trophies, others of Army units and nondescript rows of houses.

Bowler with Steeples Trophy

When zooming in on the images small clues began to emerge. A gentleman poses proudly with a trophy, and on it you can just make out the words Musselburgh, Steeples and shield. As there were other images of bowlers, could it be a bowling trophy? Looking up bowling clubs in Musselburgh we discovered that at one time there had been four bowling clubs in Musselburgh. We took a chance and emailed Musselburgh Bowling Club to see if they could help. We received a reply from the club secretary and he confirmed that there was a Steeples Trophy competed for by clubs in the Musselburgh Local Bowling Association. Looking further there was other connections to Musselburgh. One was an image of what we’d thought was a large house or school. A colleague who knows the area saw the image and said “that’s Crolla’s!” A wee bit more digging and we found out that it had once had been Stuart’s Net Mill, situated beside the River Esk and a company which at one time, had employed over 800 people in cotton processing and rope manufacturing.

Stuart’s Net Mill, Musselburgh

There were two other images that looked like they might be of Army units. However, looking closer, you can make out the collar badge and so after a bit more investigation, we discovered that it was a Police unit, the East Lothian (Haddingtonshire) Constabulary.

East Lothian (Haddingtonshire) Constabulary.

Although some of the images have been identified, many haven’t. Some of the group images have the same background, so we assume that they were all taken in the same studio. Although, some like this one below, are taken outside.

Unidentified wedding party

This is where we need your help. You can view all the images, both identified and mystery ones, in an exhibition on Capital Collections.

Do you recognise any of the people or places in the photographs?
If so, please get in touch. You could help us fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle by contacting


Sketching the city

We were delighted when Sketchnthecity allowed the Central Library to exhibit a large-scale sketch of Edinburgh. The sketch is the 3rd in the ‘69 cities’ project to sketch all 69 cities across the UK.

Artist Carl Lavia says: “Each artwork is a celebration for the people who live, work and simply love the city”.

Artist Carl Lavia at work on a large-scale Edinburgh cityscape sketch

And now, we’re thrilled to report that the Sketchnthecity project partnership of Carl ‘Sketch’ Lavia and photographer Lorna Le Bredonchel have kindly allowed us to share images of the amazing Edinburgh sketch on Capital Collections.

We thought we’d take the opportunity to delve into our collections and uncover how artists have captured views of the city through the years. So our latest exhibition on Capital Collections, entitled Sketching the City, showcases views of the awesome Sketchnthecity drawing alongside historical sketches from our archives.

Click to zoom into the incredible detailed drawing!

Remember, you can visit the phenomenal Sketchnthecity drawing of Edinburgh’s city centre at Central Library until the end of September 2018.


Chocks away!

We thought we’d end our short series on early flight pictures with a quick fly-by over Edinburgh. Our journey takes in Calton Hill, the New Town, travelling west over the West End and Water of Leith to Craigleith Quarry before looping back to the docks at Leith.

Enjoy these simply breath-taking views of 1930s Edinburgh from the air.

Calton Hill from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

Castle Street and George Street.

Castle Street and George Street from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

West End of Edinburgh and Water of Leith

West End and Water of Leith from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

Craigleith Quarry (aerial view)

Craigleith Quarry from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

Leith Docks from the air

Leith Docks from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

To view more great pictures of early flight in Edinburgh and beyond and to zoom into the incredible detail browse the full exhibition of early aviators and their flying machines on Capital Collections.

Catch up with the other blog posts in this short series on early flight:

Early aviators and their flying machines

Daredevils and wing-walkers


Daredevils and wing-walkers

When World War One ended many ex-military pilots wanted to continue flying and to use it as a source of income. They purchased used aircraft at cheap prices and charged members of the public for short flights, gave flying lessons or provided chartered flights. Some pilots used their flying expertise to develop daredevil flying shows.

Crowd scene from a flying circus air show, c1935

These thrilling flying circus shows became known as barnstorming because many events were held on farms or near barns.

Flying circus biplanes in formation, c1935

As the popularity of barnstorming grew so did the daring of the flyers. In 1918 an American called Ormer Locklear started to climb out of the cockpit to walk along the wing and even to step from one plane to the other.  Although this was extremely dangerous it became an expectation that a Flying Circus would have such an stunt. In 1938 the American authorities made it mandatory to wear parachutes at all times. This diminished the daredevil antics and hastened the end of these shows.

A wing-walker in mid-flight at a flying circus

In the earliest days of flight when most aircraft had open cockpits, these intrepid pilots needed protection from exposure to the cold, noise, heat and air pressure. At first, aircraft were flying at slower speeds than motorists and the clothing worn was similar, perhaps a tweed jacket and trousers, hat and goggles.

Louis Paulhan and Claude Grahame-White, c1912

Leading stores like Gamages or Burberry’s soon recognised a new growing market and introduced flying combination suits, fleece lined boots, rainproof gauntlets, leather coats and special goggles. Further developments produced a new range of flying shockproof helmets.

Early aviator, Hilda Beatrice Hewlett, 1911

In 1916 Sidney Cotton, a Royal Naval Air Service pilot made an accidental discovery when having been scrambled for action in his working overalls. He found that the oil and grease which had soaked into the material kept him warm when his fellow pilots were suffering from the cold. He took his idea to Robinson and Cleaver in London and got them to make him a flying suit to his new design. It had 3 layers, a thin fur lining, an airproof silk layer and an outside light Burberry material layer. And so, the Sidcot flying suit came into general operational use.

Pilot beside Avro 504 plane, c1935

See more fantastic images from our Early aviators and their flying machines exhibition on Capital Collections.

Catch up with the other blog posts in this short series on early flight:

Early aviators and their flying machines

Chocks away! Edinburgh from the air