Your City, Your Place exhibition

On the staircase at Central Library is a exhibition related to historical town planning and the City of Edinburgh Council’s current consultation for a new local development plan for Edinburgh.

The display features a beautiful model of Edinburgh’s traditional architectural style. The amazing cut-out was made by one of Central’s staff team, Kevi Johnstone and her husband, Bulent. The model is inspired by an original artwork by Edinburgh printmaker and designer, Susie Wright who kindly gave permission for her design to be used in the display.

Backlit, the outline of the tenement buildings is an engaging start to the display by the City of Edinburgh Council’s Development Plan Team who would love you to respond to to their ‘Your City, Your Place’ consultation.

You can see the model and the consultation in Central Library from now until the end of January 2019.

Our exhibitions team also welcomes feedback, so let us know what you think at libraries@edinburgh.gov.uk

 

History of the house: White Horse Close

Near the foot of the Canongate lies one of Edinburgh’s hidden architectural treasures. Enter through an archway to find a square of houses and in front of you the distinctive facade of the former White Horse Inn.

Old White Horse Inn, Canongate, 1819 by James Skene

According to a plaque on the wall, the Inn was probably built by Laurence Ord around 1603. It had stabling for horses in an undercroft entered from Calton Road. The stables were used by residents of nearby Holyrood Palace and it’s thought the close is named after a favourite horse of Mary Queen of Scots.

In those early days, a gentleman dressed in his riding boots and gambadoes (leggings) setting out for London would come to the Inn to hire a suitable roadster to take him there.

Another plaque in the Close commemorates a famous former resident. William Dick was born there in 1793. He studied Human Medicine at Edinburgh University and at the Royal College of Surgeons. In 1833, he funded the erection of a building at Clyde Street (today, the approximate site of Multrees Walk). In 1839, this became a college where William Dick was Professor and students were able to also study Veterinary Medicine. By his death in 1866 William Dick had taught more than 2000 students. The College he founded is now the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Edinburgh University.

John Paterson who was Bishop of Edinburgh from 1679 until his move to Glasgow in 1687, was another former resident of White Horse Close. His house was most probably at the entrance where there is now a tenement block. Paterson grew up in the church and in 1642 was elected as minister of the Tron Kirk in Edinburgh. He supported the Stuart Kings’ belief in the Divine Right of Kings and that they were the spiritual head of the Church of Scotland. This view was bitterly opposed by the Covenanters (those who signed and supported the National Covenant in 1638).

Another notable resident was Ned Holt. Holt began his working life as an apprentice baker but gave that up for a career as a showman and then as an actor. His legacy today, though are his colourful paintings of the characters and daily life he encountered in the Old Town. You can see Edinburgh Libraries’ collection of Ned Holt paintings online.

Edinburgh characters at St Giles, 1850 by Ned Holt

In 1889 the Close was purchased by Dr John Barbour and his sister and the courtyard buildings including the Inn were updated and converted into working class accommodation.

White Horse Close, c1885, unknown photographer

The 1901 census shows the industries and occupations of men and women living at White Horse Close. They included maltman, coal carter, core maker in a glass foundry, glass packer, laundress, lemonade bottler, paper folder and clay pipe maker.

One socially mobile occupant who lived at White Horse Close between 1872 and 1900 was John Cowan, a paper manufacturer and political organiser. He arrived in 1872 as Mr John Cowan but having received the Baronetcy of Beeslack, Midlothian in 1894, died in 1900 as Sir John Cowan. The title became extinct on his death.

Like many other areas in the old town, the properties in the Close had become run down again by the mid 1900s. The city council began a programme of Slum Clearance and redevelopment in the 1950s, and fortunately White Horse Close was selected for restoration rather than demolition.

A surveyor noted the difficulties encountered at White Horse Close:

  • poor people living in intolerable conditions
  • no wall was the same thickness as any other
  • no floor levels were the same.

White Horse Close, c2006 by Bernard Murphy

White Horse Close today is a lesser-known tourist spot and a desirable place to live. In the middle of the 20th century considered a deprived and rundown location, it’s now a picturesque and restored Old Town relic.

Read other 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

Calton Hill and its monuments

With exciting developments afoot – or should we say, atop – Calton Hill, and the imminent opening of the Collective Gallery in the restored City Observatory, we thought we’d take a look at some of the fantastic historical images in our collections which depict the area and the distinctive monuments at its summit.

Over the years, the hill has had many uses, including being the site of a quarry, a jousting place, an area for farming, a monastery, and a leper colony. In 1725, the City of Edinburgh bought 22 acres of land on the Hill to be a public open space, making it one of the first public parks in Scotland. Locals enjoyed the space for walking but they would also take their washing up to the summit to dry.

Calton Hill stands 100 metres above sea level and provides superb panoramic views across the city. Today, it is perhaps particularly renowned for the various monuments at its top.

The Old Observatory was the first building to be constructed at the summit. Its foundation stone was laid in 1716, but due to financial problems, the structure wasn’t finished until 1792.

Washerwomen on the Calton Hill (Old Observatory in background), c1887 by Thomas Begbie

The building was soon judged not fit for purpose and a New, or now, City Observatory designed by William Playfair was completed in 1818. By the 1800s, the self-styled ‘Athens of the North’ was taking its architectural influences from ancient Greece and Playfair modelled his new observatory on the Temple of the Winds in Athens.

The Playfair Monument is dedicated to Professor John Playfair, a geologist and mathematician, who was instrumental in the project to build the New Observatory. His monument is situated in the south-east corner of the Observatory wall. It is designed by his nephew, William Playfair, in the Greek Doric style.

The New Observatory and Playfair’s Monument, 1829, from ‘Modern Athens!’ by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd

The Nelson Monument resembles an upturned telescope and was built to commemorate Admiral Lord Nelson. The foundation stone was laid in 1807 and building works were completed in 1816. In 1852, a time ball signal was installed for the benefit of sailors in the Forth and Leith docks who would know the exact time and enable them to calculate longitude.

The monument to Dugald Stewart was designed by William Playfair constructed between 1828 and 1832 and is based on the monument to Lysicarates on the Acropolis in Athens. Although, this monument appears regularly in townscape views of the city, it’s likely that many tourists or locals, are unfamiliar with the writing or even the name of philosopher, Dugald Stewart.

Edinburgh from Calton Hill, with Dugald Stewart Monument in foreground, 1868 by Archibald Burns

 

An idea for a National Monument to commemorate the sailors and soldiers who died in the Napoleonic Wars was first mooted in 1816. In 1822, to the accompaniment of much pomp and ceremony, the foundation stone was laid for a replica structure of the Parthenon Temple in Athens. However, construction did not start until 1826. Sandstone used for the construction was from Craigleith Quarry and the blocks weighed between 12 and 15 tons. It’s reported that it took seventy men and 12 horses to get the largest blocks to the top of hill.

Calton Hill from south-east, showing Nelson Monument and the National Monument completed, postcard, c1937

The monument was supposed to be paid for entirely by public donations but funds ran out and work stopped in 1829. It’s hard to imagine a completed structure today, but there have been several proposals over the years to finish the replica Parthenon design. At the time, there were many critics of the project and even now, its not shaken off the nickname, Edinburgh’s ‘disgrace’. A student of architecture writing about the monument in a letter to the Editor of  Edinburgh Evening Courant in the Saturday 25 July 1829 edition is quoted:

“For what a degrading opinion must strangers form of us from its present neglected state?”

The National Monument from the top of Nelson’s Monument, 2007

View more great pictures of Calton Hill and its monuments in our Capital Collections exhibition.

The Living Memory Association and Edinburgh Collected

We’re thrilled to announce that the Living Memory Association, Edinburgh’s Reminiscence Centre, has moved its photo archive onto Edinburgh Collected (www.edinburghcollected.org) where it is searchable alongside other community photographs and memories of Edinburgh.

The Living Memory Association have been collecting old family and personal photographs donated by members of the public since 2002. Most are of Edinburgh, and the majority are from the 20th century, but the oldest photographs date from 1850.

Some people might wonder why they’ve collected family photos and snaps of everyday life –  images of family life, childhood, work, recreation, school and holidays?

Evelyn Whitfield (née Sime)
“The Guide uniform was a bright blue cotton tunic, worn with a leather belt with a buckle. Later, older Guides were allowed to wear the tunic tucked into a navy skirt. The tie was bright yellow and had to be folded and knotted correctly. The metal badge had to be polished with Brasso and pinned on. The embroidered badge showed I was in the Chaffinch Patrol. The beret was navy…
The calendar was a Guide Association one. The flying duck was, of course, one of a set of three.” – Evelyn Whitfield

Well, simply because they are ordinary. The archive is a celebration and a record of the richness of ordinary lives, lived, quite often, through some extraordinary times.

Violet Watt and sister Alice Flockhart pretending to ride Bryce Watt’s bike. (Probably Calton Hill.)
The bike is a 1952 AJS model 20 500cc twin.

You can now explore over 2500 images in the Living Memory Association’s archive of personal memories online on Edinburgh Collected.

Read more on this story on the City of Edinburgh Council’s News blog.

History of the house: Nicolson Square and Marshall Street

Nicolson Square is one of a collection of small garden areas on the southside of the city including St Patrick Square Garden, Hill Square, and Deaconess Garden.

Nicolson Square was built on land owned by Lady Nicolson (Elizabeth Carnegie) around 1743 as a memorial to her husband Sir James Nicolson of Lasswade Bart. The area became a sought after location attracting notable residents. In 1784, Lady Sinclair of Stevenson moved in. David, Earl of Leven and Melville, Commissioner to the General Assembly was also a resident. The Orientalist and surgeon, John Borthwick lived at number 3 for a time.

The southwest corner is occupied by the Wesleyan Methodist Church which was built in 1814. It was designed by architect Thomas Brown to replace the first octagonal chapel in Scotland. It is Scotland’s only Grade A listed Methodist Church.

Nicolson Square, Methodist Chapel c1914

In the latter part of the 19th century numbers 1-11 and 43-45 Nicolson Square began to change as properties were subdivided into flats, shops and a school. This continued into the 20th century with many buildings losing former unique architectural features.

Marshall Street is the link from Nicolson Square to Potterrow and we have focused our research on number 16. We’ve looked at census reports, valuation rolls and the Edinburgh Post Office Directories to enable us to look closer at a few of the previous inhabitants.

Nicolson Square and Marshall Street by J. R. Hamilton, 1914

In 1881 we find several tradesmen living at the property including Duncan MacDonald (57), a tailor clothier from Aberdeen, James Hayes (39), a paper cutter and bookbinder born in Edinburgh and Peter Wood (25) a fruit warehouseman from Coldstream.

Rogerson family
There is also Charles Rogerson aged 32 and a plumber who was born in London. He’s living at the property with his wife Jane and two sons Charles (4) and William (3) and his retired and widowed father, William.

Jane died in 1882 and Charles remarried in 1883 to Catherine. His family continued to live at number 16 and in the 1891 census son Charles, now 15, is a confectioner and William (6), a scholar. In addition there are three stepdaughters Elizabeth A Porter (19) working as an envelope machinist, Barbara Porter (17), a box maker and Auqusias Porter (11), a scholar.

Somerville family
Also living at number 16 was Peter Somerville, aged 32 and working as a journeyman joiner, born in Auchterarder. (Ten years earlier he was living in Auchterarder in Perthshire with his parents who were cotton weavers.) By 1881, Peter was married to Helen (28) and they had three young children Helen (7), John (5) and William (1).

The Somerville family was still living at number 16 in 1891 and the census shows daughter Helen is now a dressmaker and both sons are employed as message boys. A niece, Kate Porteous aged 21 is also listed at the address at the time of census.

By 1901, the family had moved a few streets south to Buccleuch Terrace. Daughter Helen (listed as Nellie) is still a dressmaker but John is now a joiner like his father and William is a bricklayer.

World War One zeppelin raid
During World War One, on the night of 2 April 1916, tragedy struck Marshall Street. A German Zeppelin dropped a bomb which landed outside number 16 killing 6 people, 4 of whom lived at number 16.

After the 1916 Zeppelin Raid, Marshall Street, image from The Evening Dispatch

John and William Smith
John Smith was a tinsmith married to Helen Thomson. From the 1891 Census we learn that aged 16 he lived in Marshall Street and was an apprentice tinsmith. His father William aged 50, was a plumber. John had six sisters and two brothers. One sister was a dressmaker and another a shirt maker. One brother was also an apprentice tinsmith. The other children, even down to a 3 year old, are listed as scholars.

By the time of the 1901 census, his father William has moved to 4 Melville Terrace with his wife Margaret, four daughters and one son.

John, now 26 and a qualified Tinsmith, has moved to 26 Buccleuch Place with his wife Helen and their new baby William.

By the 1911 census, John and family are living at 15 West Cross Causeway and a Victor Macfarlane is a visitor on census night.

The family move again and the valuation roll of 1915 shows them at 16 Marshall Street.

Both John and and his son, William aged 15, were victims of the bomb.

Henry Rumble
Henry Rumble was born at Roslin in 1899 when his parents were living in married quarters at Glencorse. By the 1901 census, the family had moved to 51 Drummond Street in Edinburgh. His father Alfred (49) was a tramcar driver who was born in England. His mother Mary was born in Ireland, sister Sarah (15) in Glasgow, brother William (12) in England and sisters Alice (7) and Ida (4) at Roslin. Alfred died in 1908.

The 1911 census shows his mother Mary living very near to Marshall Street at 11 Lothian Street with three children. Henry, aged 12 is by this time an inmate of the St Joseph’s Industrial School for boys at Tranent where he would have received work training in addition to classroom tuition.

The 1915 Valuation Roll lists Mary Rumble, his mother at 16 Marshall Street. Henry who may have moved back to be with her, was another victim of the bomb blast.

David T Graham
David was born in 1865 at North Sunderland. His father Alexander was carrying on the family trade as a baker and he and his wife Sarah already had three sons and three daughters. David’s occupation by the time of the 1901 census is a grocer. At that time, he was living with his mother in Northumberland but little more is known of him. His mother died in the first quarter of 1916.

David died in the bomb but we do not know how he got caught up in the blast on Marshall street. His occupation on the death certificate, verified by his brother, is Chief Cinema Attendant.

Victor Macfarlane
Victor Macfarlane was born in 1892 and was married to Jean Boyd on 29 March 1913. They lived at 16 Marshall Street and both had jobs as waiters. (Victor also had a connection with the Smith family (see above) as he appears as a visitor to their house in the 1911 Census.)

Victor was killed by the zeppelin bomb on Marshall Street.

William Ewing
William was a master hairdresser and aged 23. His usual residence was in Kirkintilloch and he must have been on a visit to Edinburgh when he was caught in the bomb blast.

 

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
History of the house: Bowhead house

 

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.

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.