Album of Victorian travel photography

By the mid 1800s, photography was bringing foreign destinations closer to home. Previously, if you wanted to know what far off lands looked like, you were reliant on descriptions or artistic interpretation. Photography provided an unprecedented ‘true’ picture of unknown places.

Street in Chester

The growth in photography allowed armchair travellers to obtain a record of the world beyond their experience. It also encouraged those fortunate enough to have the means to travel, to venture to new exotic destinations where they could collect photographic mementoes of their holidays.

By the late 1800s, several professional photographers employed teams armed with heavy cameras, equipment and glass plates who would travel across Britain, Europe and further afield to China, Japan and the USA photographing popular tourist attractions and daily life in these unfamilar locations. Some employed sales representatives who would visit stationers and newsagents shops persuading them to stock and sell their company’s souvenir views.

Naples

Our latest Capital Collections exhibition features an album containing examples of some touring photographers’ work. We don’t know who compiled this photograph album but most of the photographs have dates noted underneath as if to indicate when the locations were visited. The dates start at 23 August 1881 and finish at 12 July 1882.

The album features scenes from England, Wales and Scotland and also places in Europe such as Genoa, Nice and Pompeii. Some of the photographers can be identified by their stamp on the image, but many are unknown. There are photographs by Francis Frith, a pioneer travel photographer who set out to create accurate and unromantic photographs of as many cities, towns, and villages of the British Isles as possible and sell copies of the photographs to the public.

Fingal’s Cave

Another photographer who features in the album is James Valentine from Dundee who produced Scottish topographical views from the 1860s. He later became internationally famous as a producer of postcards. George Washington Wilson, who established himself as one of Scotland’s premier photographers, is also represented. By the time of his death in 1893, his firm was one of the largest publishers of photographic prints in the world.

Worshippers in the Temple of Isis, Pompei

You can view all of the fantastic photographs from this early travel photography album on Capital Collections.

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

 

Harpies, Fechters and Quines 2018 – Women, War and the Book

Monday’s launch of the Harpies, Fechters and Quines festival saw the annual 2 week programme of events off to a flying start!

Edinburgh Libraries is working in association with the Bonnie Fechters, a local women’s group, and with Scotland’s War, the Glasgow Women’s Library, the Scottish Poetry Library and the Workers’ Educational Association to deliver a range of activities. These include talks, workshops, an exhibition, a film and a concert.  As a result, there are lots of opportunities to come along and join in.

Tapestry kindly loaned for display by the Workers’ Educational Association stitchers (Mezzanine, Central Library)

Whether you want to sing along at the Lena Ashwell concert, produce some creative writing, experience early film or simply look at the commemorative tapestries you are warmly welcome. You’ll find details of all the forthcoming events at www.edinburghreads.eventbrite.co.uk.

 

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.

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

 

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