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.

 

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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.

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

 

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.

The Picturesque Antiquities of Scotland – an early travel guide

As you can imagine, we have thousands of books in our collections in Central Library. Most are on the shelves ready to be picked up and read or just looked at. However, there’s a large part of our collection which is kept behind the scenes to protect from too much handling.

The downside of this is that few people get to see them, and so now and again we like to show off some of these hidden gems from our collections.

Strathaven

One of these is a small half leather bound volume titled Picturesque Antiquities of Scotland which was published in 1788 by the British engraver and archaeologist Adam de Cardonnel. Inside the book which contains part one and two of a four part set, we find a preface by de Cardonnel himself where he states,

the work was at first intended to have been on a much larger scale, and I had finished several of the plates; but at the particular desire of a learned author, I reduced the size, and altered my plan, as better adapted to the convenience of travellers, who wish to be acquainted with a few circumstances relating to the ruins they may chance to visit”.

So, this was a sort of early travel guide, small enough to be packed in the traveller’s bag and filled with information relating to the sites that were at the time of writing, mostly in ruins. De Cardonnel had served as curator of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland from 1782 to 1784, and being both an engraver and an archaeologist, he was well suited to produce such volumes.

Tantallon

Why not have a look for yourselves and explore the contents of this book online – you’ve probably even visited a few!

You can view all the engravings from this delightful 18th century book on Capital Collections.

Roslin