Routes to Roots: adopting Scotland as a homeland exhibition

Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council’s Routes to Roots: Adopting Scotland as a Homeland project has been exploring the shared heritage of Scottish and diverse communities and mainstreaming the histories of minority ethnic communities in Edinburgh and the Lothians. Working with the South Asian, African, Polish, Spanish and Chinese communities in Edinburgh and the Lothians we have conducted and filmed interviews with 30 members of these communities about their experience of making Scotland their home and comparing cultures. These have all been compiled into a book, ‘Routes to Roots: Adopting Scotland as a Homeland’, and we have also produced a number of podcasts exploring the different heritage in the city and organised visits to various religious and heritage sites.

The multimedia exhibition shows photographs and extracts from these people’s stories of making Edinburgh and the Lothians their homes as well as a number of our videos and information about the communities. The exhibition, like the book, focuses on four distinct periods of their lives: their background and life before coming to Scotland, their arrival in Scotland and early experiences here, their current life in Scotland and, finally, their views on immigration as a general concept.

The exhibition will be on display at Central Library from the 2 to 30 June 2018.

If you can’t make it to the exhibition, you can watch some of the project interviews and podcasts online via Capital Collections.

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Comely Bank 1817-2017

The current exhibition in the Edinburgh & Scottish Collection was created by a group of interested residents into the history of the unfinished terrace of Georgian houses at Comely Bank.

2017 was the bicentenary of the architectural drawings made by Thomas Brown for William Fettes’ speculative venture for a major Georgian suburb. This spectacular scheme was to radically extend Edinburgh’s residential boundary to the north and west of Henry Raeburn’s development in Stockbridge into the surrounding countryside.

Today, Sir William Fettes is well known as the founder of Fettes College, a leading independent boarding and day school in Edinburgh. Some perhaps know of him as the one-time Provost of Edinburgh. In fact, his bequest to this area is greater than he may ever have anticipated or comprehended.

The exhibition tells the story of Sir William Fettes’ rise from humble beginnings as a grocer and wine merchant in the Old Town of Edinburgh to a prominent businessman and philanthropist. It also charts the history of the area, the prominent individuals who were involved in the growth and development of Comely Bank, and finally, the drastic plan to build a ring road through Edinburgh in the 1960s which would have cut through the areas of Inverleith, Warriston and Comely Bank, and would have left very different vistas to those we know today.

Comely Bank 1817-2017 is currently on display in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library until 31 May.

John Smith’s Houses and Streets in Edinburgh

For those of you who like looking at images of Edinburgh’s not so distant past, this volume of photographs from our Edinburgh & Scottish Collection will be of interest.

They are taken from a volume entitled ‘Origin, Nomenclature, and Location of Various Houses, Streets and Districts in Edinburgh’ by John Smith which was donated to the library in 1938 by his family.

John Smith spent his entire life in Edinburgh and dedicated most of his leisure time to the research of his home city. He was a carpenter’s son and started in his father’s business, but later pursued a career with the Royal Bank of Scotland where he remained until retirement. However, it is for his pastime that he is most remembered. He wrote the publications ‘Hammermen in Edinburgh’ and ‘Old Scottish Clockmakers‘. He researched and wrote on several Edinburgh topics including the Watson’s of Saughton, a history of the Lambs of Tollcross and produced a pictorial record of the tombstones in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard. Smith died in January 1938 aged 82 years old.

John Smith

The photographs in the volume date between 1920 and 1935, presumably taken by Smith himself, and show the varying styles of building and types of residence in Edinburgh, including notable buildings no longer in existence.

The volume was started long before the days of microfilm and computers, so every property description and detail included, has been meticulously copied by hand on to the pages. He probably spent many a long day, possibly here in Central Library, copying from the original pages of the Edinburgh Evening Courant, to whom most of the details are credited, and then re-writing them again into this volume. A true labour of love!

In one of the pages there is a description of Princes Street Gardens and its future use dated from 1832, stating that the “intention is to lay out the grounds with pleasure walks and ornamental shrubbery and throw them open to the public for a small sum annually”. In another from 1781 and describing St James Square, “the situation of this square is dry and healthy. It is sheltered by the buildings of the New Town from the west wind which is well known there to blow with uncommon violence….It is out of reach of the stench of the butchers shambles so intolerable to the neighbourhood in the summer months”.

Delve into the pages of this fascinating volume in our online exhibition John Smith’s Houses and Streets in Edinburgh, available to view in full on Capital Collections.

Jenners: 180 years on Princes Street

On 1 May 1838, Kennington & Jenner opened its doors for the first time. Now 180 years later, Edinburgh’s famous department store still sits proudly on the corner of Princes Street and St David Street.

The business was founded by Charles Kennington and Charles Jenner, who had been dismissed by local drapers W.& R. Spence for taking the day off work to go to the Musselburgh races. Their advertisement in The Scotsman claimed that their establishment would offer the discerning customer, ‘every prevailing British and Parisian fashion in silks, shawls, fancy dresses, ribbons, lace, hosiery, and every description of linen drapery and haberdashery’.

View of Jenners Department Store, (later destroyed by fire in 1892) from East Princes Street Gardens

The original building that formed the department store was destroyed by fire on 26 November 1892. In 1893 Scottish architect William Hamilton Beattie was appointed to design the new store which opened in 1895.  Charles Jenner became the driving force behind the reconstruction and it was at his insistence the building’s caryatids – sculpted female figures – were to show symbolically that women are the support of the house. The new store also included technical innovations such as electric lighting and hydraulic lifts. Unfortunately, Charles Jenner died in 1893 and did not live to see the new store completed.

Jenners Department Store, view from Princes Street Gardens, c1900

The store continued to grow during the 1900s and by the 1920s it had cemented its reputation as the number one place to shop, becoming a local byword for extravagance and opulence. In 2005 it was taken over by House of Fraser. While other acquisitions by House of Fraser have been renamed, Jenners has managed to keep its identity.

In 1995, the Central Library acquired an archive of material from Jenners, including sales catalogues, photographs, news cuttings, invoices and correspondence.

A selection of material from the Jenners Archive is on display on the main staircase of the Central Library until 31 May.

Jenners Archive display, Central Library until 31 May 2018

 

My Edinburgh photography competition 2018

Edinburgh Libraries invites you to submit an entry to the ‘My Edinburgh’ competition on Edinburgh Collected.

Add a photo of your favourite place in Edinburgh to Edinburgh Collected and tell us what makes it special to you.

The photography competition is free to enter but all submissions must be entered via the Edinburgh Collected website (www.edinburghcollected.org) where they will become part of a community archive for Edinburgh.

The competition is open to all, amateurs, enthusiasts, students and professionals alike. Your photo might show the place that offers your favourite view of the city, your favourite park, street, local café or pub. It doesn’t matter, so long as you tell us what makes that place special to you.

Granton Pier by arghnothingworks, 2016 competition winner

Entries will be judged by a panel of experts from Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh Museums and Galleries and Edinburgh Napier University.

Entries will be judged on both their photographic merit and on the accompanying text about your favourite place in Edinburgh.

The deadline for entries is 31 August 2018 and winners will be chosen in September 2018.

Jessops Edinburgh have kindly donated the prizes. We will award a canvas print to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place and the winner will also receive a voucher towards a Jessops Academy Photography Course.

Entrants must create an account with Edinburgh Collected to upload your image(s) and use the tag ‘competition18’ when uploading entries to the website so that they are identifiable. (Read the Edinburgh Collected terms and conditions.)

 

Competition terms and conditions
1. Closing date for entries is 31 August 2018
2. The photographs must be your own work
3. You must agree to Edinburgh Collected terms and conditions
4. The place featured must be within the City of Edinburgh Council boundary
5. All competition entries must be tagged ‘competition18’
6. There is no limit to the number of entries you can submit, but there will be only one winning entry per participant

 

Food for thought by MECOPP

We’re delighted to be hosting a new exhibition on Capital Collections which gives access to a series of podcasts produced by MECOPP (Minority Ethnic Carers of People Project) exploring the topic of food heritage.

Food for Thought – A Life in Four Courses is an oral history food heritage project that was created to explore and record the cultural heritage and traditions of food with individuals from African, Caribbean, Chinese, Nepalese, South Asian and White Scottish communities living here in Scotland. 20 women and men were interviewed and share with us the role of food in both their own personal lives and in their communities. Through these personal accounts, we hear childhood memories, the food traditions of life events and festivals and we learn of the changes people have seen in the food traditions of their culture. Finally we learn what they feel the future holds for these traditions in a more globalised and fast moving world.

This project was delivered by MECOPP and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. MECOPP is a Scottish charity that assists Black and Minority Ethnic carers to access the support and services necessary to undertake or sustain their caring role.

Listen to these mouth-watering stories of food heritage and tradition on Capital Collections.

History of the house: Bowhead House

The West Bow used to be the main entrance to the city of Edinburgh from the West. After passing through the Grassmarket the zigzag road climbed steeply to the Lawnmarket and the Castle. The tenement at the top was long known as the Old Bowhead or Bow Head House.

When the Town Council drew up plans for a new road, the middle section of the West Bow was demolished to make way for it. The new Victoria Street was established in 1829 cutting across the former West Bow and connecting George IV Bridge to the Grassmarket.

The West Bow, from the Lawnmarket by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1829

Bowhead House stood firm at the top of the Bow and had many occupants during its long life, some of whom will remain unknown as there are few records available.

The Thomas Nelson bookshop and publishing company have connections with the site. Under the original name of Thomas Neilson, the company began by selling second-hand books before expanding into publishing. The firm was sited at the West Bow for many years, where they even incorporated an image of Bowhead House within their publisher’s imprint. The business moved to custom-built premises in Edinburgh’s southside around 1845.

Edinburgh company, William Waugh, who have been involved in the recycling industry since the middle of the 19th century, were at Bowhead House around 1870.

J Waugh’s Woolen and Rag Store, Lawnmarket and head of West Bow, c1870

Bowhead House had survived the changes to the road layouts round about it, but was demolished in 1878-79. The demolition is described in James Grant’s Old and New Edinburgh:
“One of the finest specimens of the wooden-fronted houses of 1540 was on the south side of the Lawnmarket and was standing all unchanged after the lapse of more than 338 years, till its demolition in 1878-9.”

West Bow, Bowhead House (demolished) c1878

The Scotsman edition of 8 February 1878 also noted the demise of the distinctive ‘inverted pyramid’ building:
“… in a few days modern improvement will lay its remorseless hand upon the well known tenement at the corner of West Bow and Lawnmarket. This latter house whose gables and eaves are richly carved has long been regarded as a most characteristic relic of old Edinburgh. Its quaint timber framed facade, irregular dovecot gables and projecting windows have been a favourite subject of study alike for the architect and artist’.

Head of the Bow and the Lawnmarket, c1950

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 informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk if you want to find out how to get started.

Read other articles in this ‘History of the house’ series:
History of the house: King’s Wark