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!


Scars on the City

Scars on the City: Edinburgh in World War One was an exhibition that ran from February to June 2015 at the Museum of Edinburgh. The exhibition drew on Edinburgh Museums & Galleries’ extensive wartime collections to explore the everyday lives of Edinburgh people during the War. Objects like shrapnel from a zeppelin raid, soldiers’ knitted socks and a Red Cross nurse doll were displayed to help transport visitors to a time of terror, hardship and, sometimes, adventure.

Doll: Red Cross nurse of World War 1

Doll: Red Cross nurse of World War 1

The exhibition’s curator, Vicky Garrington, says that the wartime toys and games from the Museum of Childhood were a big hit with visitors:

“People were surprised to find out how clued up young people were about the details of the War. Cigarette cards taught them about ranks, army signals and artillery, while board games challenged them to evade mines and bombs en route to Berlin!”

Board game from World War 1: To Berlin

Board game from World War 1: To Berlin

Meanwhile, shrapnel from bombs dropped by German zeppelins bring home the reality of the first war to be fought not just overseas, but on the Home Front.

The quirky and poignant objects from the exhibition are now available to view on Capital Collections, together with the stories that bring them to life.

The Assembly Rooms

Today, we hand over our blog to Russell Clegg, Heritage and Outreach Assistant with Edinburgh Museums and Galleries. We’ve just had a ball working with Russell on a story about the Assembly Rooms for Our Town Stories

‘I love it when a plan comes together!’ – heard that one before?

Well, I am most grateful to have had my own A-Team to work with in the shape of the Libraries’ Digital Team when creating an Assembly Rooms story for

As Heritage Assistant for such a prestigious building I have the privilege of tracing the footsteps of many illustrious visitors from the past as well as guiding tour groups and the general public around what they see as a familiar and, for many, an evocative space.

Assembly Rooms, George StreetAs you will read, this iconic Georgian venue has graced the built landscape of the city since 1787 and trying to capture the architectural, social and civic history of the place through stories and pictures has been a fascinating experience.

Whilst working on the heritage project, following the refurbishment of the venue, I have been collecting the many memories and stories that people have donated and this was an aspect of the building’s history which I wanted to include in the story.

I sometimes wonder what the Assembly Rooms itself would say if it could speak and by including these voices, readers get to hear about some of the weird and wonderful events that the Assembly Rooms has witnessed over the years.  The personal testimonies I have received and the interviews I have conducted have revealed that this venue has a very special place in the hearts and minds of those I have spoken to.

My collaboration with Libraries is set to continue over the next few months as I continue to prepare a touring exhibition, charting the social history of the Assembly Rooms, which will be visiting selected Edinburgh Libraries in the autumn.

Please do contact me if you have a story to tell or maybe if you have an object which relates to an event you once attended at ‘The Grande Dame’ of George Street.
Russell Clegg is the Heritage and Outreach Assistant with Edinburgh Museums and Galleries.

You can read more from Russell and keep up with news and events from Museums at the Edinburgh Museums and Galleries Outreach blog.

Bessie, 9, piper and suffragette

At the start of the last century, women continued to campaign for sexual equality and the right to vote. When the peaceful women’s suffrage movement of the 1860s proved unable to achieve change, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was established in 1903. The members of this militant group, called suffragettes, were even prepared to go to prison for their cause. In 1909, the first militant demonstrations took place throughout Scotland, including Edinburgh. Bessie WatsonThat’s when a nine year old girl named Bessie Watson entered the stage. As a female piper she played not only the bagpipes, but also an important role in the suffragette’s movement. Read our latest story on Our Town Stories and find out more about Bessie’s extraordinary childhood as a young suffragette.