History of the house: Cammo House

In 1977, a fire ripped through Cammo House and the house that had been in disrepair for many years, was sadly no more.

Built in 1693 by John Menzies of Cammo, the house had over the years built up a strange and mysterious story.

It had seen many owners through the years, each making additions to the house. One of the owners was brewer Alexander Campbell whose city residence was number 6 Charlotte Square, now Bute House, the official residence of Scotland’s First Minister.

Over the years he would go on to collect memberships to the boards of various organisations in the city including being made an ordinary director of the Commercial Bank of Scotland in 1851.

Alexander Campbell died on 12th June 1887 at Cammo House, his retreat on the edge of the city near Cramond which his beer fortune had enabled him to purchase.

In the 1900s it had been bought by the Clark family. Margaret Louisa Tennent was born in Edinburgh in 1859. She married David Bennet Clark in 1887. Their first son Robert was born in 1892 and his brother Percival in 1898. By 1900 there was trouble in the marriage and they later divorced in 1910. When Margaret’s father died in 1891 his estate was valued at £80,000 (which equates to £10 million in 2020) Her father Robert Tennent had accumulated his fortune from sheep farming in Australia. When her mother died in 1914, her will stated that the trust set up by her father was to be left to Margaret.

After separating from her husband in 1909, Mrs Clark, continued to live at Cammo with her son Percy and adopted the name Maitland-Tennent. She dismissed almost all the staff and rented a portion of the estate to Cramond Brig Golf Club, moving herself and Percy into a caravan nearby. She left behind a house full of valuable paintings and antiques.

Stories began to spread about the family, with Mrs Maitland-Tennent being called by locals the Black Widow, as she was only ever seen being driven in a black car, on regular visits to the bank in Davidson’s Mains.

In 1955, Mrs Maitland-Tennent died aged 95, and was buried under the lawn to the west side of the house. After she died, her estate was estimated to be £500,000.

Between 1955 and 1975 Percy lived in a farmhouse located near the main gate. The farmhouse was home to the tenant farmers a Mr and Mrs Little, who looked after him and cooked his meals.

Cammo Tower – 1960

Percy stayed on becoming more and more of a recluse, only being seen with his pack of dogs that were given free run of the house. Cammo House was deteriorating fast, and the furniture and floors were collapsing.

Over the next few years Cammo suffered several break-ins where paintings and silver were stolen.

Percy died in 1975 and is buried in the family plot in Dean Cemetery. The estate was passed on through his will to the National Trust for Scotland. In 1977 Cammo House was destroyed by fire and in 1980, the NTS feud the estate to the district council. By this time, it was so severely damaged that most of the house was demolished.

In 1980, Cammo Estate became the UK’s first Wilderness Park and was handed over to the public in an official ceremony involving representatives of the National Trust, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, the local MP and local residents.

Although little remains of the house itself, one remainder of Cammo House still remains, the early 19th century fresh water tower built to supply water to the house.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Cammo Estate nowadays, visit Friends of Cammo.

Read more 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
History of the house: White Horse Close
History of the house: 94 and 96 Grassmarket
History of the house: Stockbridge Colonies
History of the house: Milne’s Court
History of the house: Melbourne Place
History of the house: Falcon Hall
History of the house: North British Hotel

 

Blair’s Edinburgh Views

Our current exhibition on Capital Collections is a collection of atmospheric scenes of late 19th century Edinburgh landmarks and landscapes, taken from watercolour paintings by artist John Blair.

The Old Town from the Waverley Bridge

The images are taken from a volume of loose lithographic prints dated 1892 which were printed in Paris and published by Aitken Dott of Castle Street. Many of the pictures contain moonlight or fading light and evocative weather conditions. The views are scenes of Edinburgh’s famous streets populated with typical residents of the time or picture postcard vistas looking from different geographic points towards the city’s famous skyline.

There is one picture however, which sits apart from the rest. It is a view of the Scott Monument looking east along Princes Street. The street characters seem in this view more defined and there are three men walking in a line towards the viewer each wearing sandwich board advertisements. On closer inspection, the signs are promoting a Castle Street exhibition of watercolours by John Blair – a tongue-in-cheek reference to the artist himself and his publishers.

The Scott Monument and Princes Street

View the full set of thirteen plates on Capital Collections.

History of the House: Melbourne Place

Today the site is occupied by a bank and a hotel, but step back nearly 200 years and the corner of George IV Bridge was very different. For one thing it was called Melbourne Place, named after the 2nd Viscount Melbourne, who was Prime Minister from 1835-41.

Melbourne Place and Victoria Terrace

Searching through copies of Post Office directories, which are available from our Edinburgh and Scottish Collection within Central Library, we can see that it was home to various businesses including in 1837, Alex Ferguson, Wholesale Confectionery and Lozenge Manufactory, who had its premises at Number 1 and 2. As well as making various confections ranging from medicated lozenges and boiled sugar sweets, it was there that the famous Edinburgh Rock was manufactured. Packaged in tartan boxes and different from the normal lettered Blackpool Rock, it had a crumbly texture and came in various pastel colours.

Another well-known name appears in the 1846-47 Post Office Directory, Kennington and Jenner. One of the other resources available to library users is Findmypast. In the 1851 Census, in number 7, the head of the household is listed as a Charles Jenner, unmarried aged 40 and stating his occupation as a Draper Master employing 35 men, 28 women and 9 boys. We know that when fire destroyed the original Jenner’s Department store in 1892 there were around 120 people employed by the firm who were housed on the premises. Was this an earlier “boarding house” for employees? Listed in the Census, together at the property with Charles was a Housekeeper, a House Porter, a Chambermaid, a Table Maid, a cook and 30 Drapers Assistants!

Demolition of Melbourne Place

By 1852 The Royal Medical Society had taken over number 7 Melbourne Place. The RMS was formally constituted in 1737, providing a meeting place for medical students with the purpose of enhancing their education, and flourished in its educational and social provision. Its contribution to medicine was recognised with the awarding of a Royal Charter 1778. It remains the only student society in the United Kingdom to have attained this distinction. The Society retained its position at number 7 until 1965 when the buildings on Melbourne Place were demolished to make room for office buildings of the Midlothian County Council.

Lothian Regional Council Chambers from Victoria Terrace

In 1975 the building became Lothian Regional Council Chambers and when Lothian Region was dismantled in 1996 the building was taken over by the City of Edinburgh Council, and provided a temporary home for the Scottish Parliament from 1999 until 2004. This building was demolished in 2007 to make way for a new Missoni Hotel (now Radisson Collection Hotel) complex and the largest Bank of Scotland branch in Edinburgh together with two Royal Mile shops and a Pizza Express restaurant.

Hotel at corner of George IV bridge and Victoria Street

Are you interested in discovering the history of your home? The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library has a vast collection of material which can help you.

Read more 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
History of the house: White Horse Close
History of the house: 94 and 96 Grassmarket
History of the house: Stockbridge Colonies
History of the house: Milne’s Court
History of the house: Falcon Hall
History of the house: North British Hotel
History of the house: Cammo House

Libraries Week focus: Edinburgh Collected

Join in this Libraries Week by sharing your pictures and memories of Edinburgh on Edinburgh Collected!

Edinburgh Collected (www.edinburghcollected.org) is a community archive for the city where everyone can browse and enjoy this growing online collection of pictures and memories.

Venchie Fun, 1983 from the Sentinel newspaper, picture memory shared by From There To Here

However, if you sign up for an Edinburgh Collected account, you can upload your own written or picture memories and save your favourite memories to scrapbooks. By joining Edinburgh Collected you’ll be contributing your memories to the city’s heritage collections and helping us to preserve and make history for the future.

My Brother Alec, aged 5 years old, is amongst these 30 children photographed, 1934, picture memory shared by Dean Village Memories

Memories could be from childhood or from yesterday. They all combine to create an online living history for the city.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Edinburgh Collected or need a helping hand to get started, contact the Libraries’ Digital Team via informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk or 0131 242 8033.

Craigmillar Steam Laundry

Our latest Capital Collections exhibition showcases a wonderful collection of photographs of The Craigmillar Steam Laundry.

Initially formed as the Edinburgh Steam Laundry Company, when a property was bought in West Craigmillar on West Saville Terrace, the laundry opened in July 1883 as the Craigmillar Steam Laundry.

Craigmillar Steam Laundry, Edinburgh – ironing and finishing department

By 1891 the laundry was handling over 30,000 articles of clothing a week. It was described as “the largest, best arranged, and most perfectly equipped establishment of its kind in Scotland”. The laundry used state of the art equipment including steam driven washing machines and hydro extractors which were a type of spin drier. In addition to cleaning, ironing, and finishing the clothes, the laundry dealt with a whole range of materials including carpets and curtains. All finished goods were dispatched in the company’s horse drawn vans. By the late nineteenth century, the laundry employed over 130 people.

Craigmillar Steam Laundry, Edinburgh – delivery cart

As the twentieth century progressed, the company began buying up other laundries, and the original Craigmillar site was redeveloped. In 1951 the company took over the Caledonian Laundry, and in 1958 opened a petrol station on the Craigmillar site, which was later followed by a car showroom in 1960.

By the early 1970s the company had 6 laundries around the Edinburgh area all using automatic coin operated machines.

Craigmillar Steam Laundry, Edinburgh

The West Saville Terrace property was sold in 1978, and the remaining buildings were let to their tenants as the company became a property letting agency. The company was then sold to Cala Homes in 1986.

View the full collection of images of this remarkable snapshot into past working lives on Capital Collections.

Edinburgh Festival, 1949

We’ve published some wonderful pictures of the early days of the festival on Capital Collections. This mini-exhibition is a set of black and white promotional images dated 1949, when the festival was still in its infancy.

In 1947, following the devastation of World War Two, the International Festival of Music and Drama in Edinburgh aimed to unite people through a shared experience of art and culture, to “provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit”. The city staged a major international cultural event, showcasing first-rate performances of classical music, dance, opera and theatre.

Since this time, the original festival has grown and flourished and spawned and inspired other festivals held during August and throughout the year.

Seventy years later, Edinburgh continues to welcome the world to the greatest arts festival.

View the full set of Edinburgh Festival 1949 photographs on Capital Collections.

All aboard…. 100 years of Lothian Buses

Over the years we have probably all had our favourite buses. Possibly it was the double decker with the driver and conductor or “clippie”. Many a story has been told of being able to jump on… and off while the bus was still moving! Maybe you remember fondly the bus and route through Edinburgh you used to travel to work every morning, and back home every evening. Or the bus taking you into town on a Saturday night to go dancing…

This year 2019, marks the centenary of Lothian Buses. Originating in 1871 as the Edinburgh Street Tramways Company, it operated a horse-drawn tram line from Haymarket to Bernard Street in Leith, which was then a separate burgh from Edinburgh. Through several changes the Corporation of the City of Edinburgh introduced a motor bus service in July 1914. However, this service was short-lived, with the buses being requisitioned for wartime use, and services did not resume until after World War One.

Edinburgh & District Tramway Co. Horse Bus

The City Corporation took over Edinburgh and District Tramways on 1 July 1919, forming Edinburgh Corporation Tramways. The first post-war regular bus service began on 2 December 1919. The route ran between Ardmillan Terrace and Abbeyhill via Holyrood Palace, the Royal Mile and the Castle.

Waverley to Comeley Bank omnibus at its terminus in East Fettes Avenue

From that one bus route, today over 700 buses cover over 70 routes across Edinburgh and the Lothians, carrying 120 million passengers annually.

See more fabulous pictures in a special exhibition on Capital Collections commemorating Lothian Buses centenary anniversary. Happy 100th Birthday Lothian Buses!

Corporation buses Waverley Bridge

 

 

Goal! Edinburgh women’s football heritage

With the Women’s World Cup underway in France, we thought we’d look at the heritage of women’s football in the city. We found some fabulous images of the Edinburgh Dynamos which have been added to Edinburgh Collected, our online community archive by The Living Memory Association.

The Edinburgh Dynamos played in the late 1940s and early 1950s and were revived again in the 1960s winning the Scottish Women’s Cup in 1972.

Edinburgh Dynamos Ladies Football Club Team c.1950

Edinburgh Dynamos Ladies Football team c.1950s, Living Memory Association

They were even effectively banned by Edinburgh when in 1946, councillors of the General Purposes Committee voted 8-4 against allowing them to play a match at Old Meadowbank. This was because the Scottish Football Association had decreed that “all grounds which allowed women’s football would be banned” and so the councillors feared allowing women to play could have a potential detrimental impact on Hearts or Hibs.

Edinburgh Dynamos Ladies Football Club Team In Away Strip, mid -1950s

Edinburgh Dynamos Ladies Football Club team in away strip, mid -1950’s, Living Memory Association

These days there are half a dozen or more women’s football teams in Edinburgh, with Hearts, Hibs, Hutchison Vale and Spartans all in the Scottish Women’s Premier Leagues, and Hibs securing the Scottish Cup for the 4th year in a row this season.

Edinburgh Dynamos Ladies Football Club Team, mid-1950s

Edinburgh Dynamos Ladies Football Club Team, mid-1950s, Living Memory Association

Panorama print goes on display

Thanks to the generous support of Edinburgh Old Town Association, a long ignored panorama of ‘Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside from Calton Hill’ has again found a home in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection of Central Library.

The print depicts the view seen from Calton Hill in the 1820s and highlights points of interest.  Measuring more than 6ft in length it is full of detail not only of the architecture and town planning, but of the many people who used Calton Hill as a viewpoint.

Cleo Jones, Schools and Lifelong Learning Strategic Officer accepts a cheque from Barbara Logue, Convenor of Edinburgh Old Town Association.

Remounted and framed by Edinburgh Arts we hope many of our visitors from both near and far will appreciate seeing such a charming and informative image of Edinburgh.

Members of the Edinburgh Old Town Association who attended the presentation:
Naomi Richardson, Vice Convenor ; Rosemary Mann, Treasurer; Eric Drake, Newsletter Editor; Laura Harrington, Membership Secretary; Kate Marshall, committee member.

History of the house: 94 and 96 Grassmarket

Our house history spotlight falls on no.s 94 and 96 Grassmarket, now occupied by Biddy Mulligans Irish pub but which facade hides an interesting past.

First though, we need to set the scene and go back to the mid 19th century when the Grassmarket was a melting pot of activity and commerce.

East end of Grassmarket showing foot of West Bow, c1856

Using the old Edinburgh Post Office records we find in 1854, the occupations of Grassmarket residents included surgeon, draper, brewer and spirit dealers, baker, flesher (butcher), an Innkeeper at no 100, victual dealer, grain merchant, ropemaker, saddler, ironmonger, china merchant, stables worker and corn merchant.

By 1874 new occupations have appeared including horse dealer, tanner, tobacco manufacturer, wright, iron merchant, brass founder, cork cutter, sack manufacturer, clockmaker and saw maker.

In 1884, rag merchant, teacher, hairdresser, egg merchant are added to the variety or working lives in the Grassmarket area.

Let us look now at no.s 94 and 96.

The Grassmarket Mission was founded by James Fairbairn in 1886 for the relief of those in need. It supported the local community by providing food and clothing, and fellowship through meetings and refuge.

Grassmarket Mission, c1920

With financial support, Fairbairn bought the site at 94 Grassmarket and in 1890 commissioned architect James Lessels to build the Mission Hall. Fairbairn was one of eight Trustees and also Superintendent of the Mission.

At this time many properties in the area were very dilapidated and could have been classified as slum dwellings. One study in the 1860s for the Canongate, Tron, St.Giles and Grassmarket  recorded that of the single room homes surveyed as many as 1530 had between 6 and 15 people living in them. This overcrowding was made worse by the practice of taking in lodgers, necessary to enhance meagre incomes.

Some people turned to drink to try to escape the harsh realities of their existence and environment. It was principally the children of these families and homeless people who the Mission sought to help.

A later survey in 1913 recorded that Edinburgh had 7106 one roomed houses where 94% shared a common WC and 43% a common sink.

In 1930 the Mission bought the building next door at number 96 and converted it to contain a new Mission Hall, an up to date kitchen, a clothing department and flats upstairs all of which allowed it to expand the services it could provide.

After World War Two the number of people requiring support and help fell due to the assistance provided by the agencies of the new welfare state and the rehousing of families from the city centre to new outlying council estates. As a result, the Mission reached the point of being underused and with costs increasing due to regulation changes, staffing and maintenance, in 1989 it was decided to sell the properties.

The important work of the Mission however continues with its involvement in the Grassmarket Community Project, a joint venture Charity with Greyfriars Kirk and New College Students.

Discover more about the Grassmarket Mission’s history and activity today.

View of Grassmarket and Hub from the Apex Hotel, 2007

During the 1990s the buildings at 94 and 96 became a pub and applications were made to alter and restore 101-107 West Bow to form an extension to the hotel at 96 Grassmarket.

Biddy Mulligan’s pub now occupies numbers 94 and 96 and continues the tradition of being a place where people come to meet and receive hospitality, albeit now on commercial terms. Next time you’re passing, look up, and you’ll see the ‘Mission Hall’ sign still visible above the door.

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
History of the house: White Horse Close
History of the house: Stockbridge Colonies
History of the house: Milne’s Court
History of the house: Melbourne Place
History of the house: Falcon Hall
History of the house: North British Hotel
History of the house: Cammo House

 

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
History of the house: 94 and 96 Grassmarket
History of the house: Stockbridge Colonies
History of the house: Milne’s Court
History of the house: Melbourne Place
History of the house: Falcon Hall
History of the house: North British Hotel
History of the house: Cammo House

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.

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.

Chocks away!

We thought we’d end our short series on early flight pictures with a quick fly-by over Edinburgh. Our journey takes in Calton Hill, the New Town, travelling west over the West End and Water of Leith to Craigleith Quarry before looping back to the docks at Leith.

Enjoy these simply breath-taking views of 1930s Edinburgh from the air.

Calton Hill from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

Castle Street and George Street.

Castle Street and George Street from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

West End of Edinburgh and Water of Leith

West End and Water of Leith from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

Craigleith Quarry (aerial view)

Craigleith Quarry from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

Leith Docks from the air

Leith Docks from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

To view more great pictures of early flight in Edinburgh and beyond and to zoom into the incredible detail browse the full exhibition of early aviators and their flying machines on Capital Collections.

Catch up with the other blog posts in this short series on early flight:

Early aviators and their flying machines

Daredevils and wing-walkers

The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: Robert Butchart

Robert Butchart held the post of Edinburgh City Librarian from 1942 until 1953. Mr Butchart had a particular interest in topographical prints of Old Edinburgh, and collected drawings by the likes of Bruce J. Home and engravings by John Ewbank. After Mr Butchart retired, he published a book in 1955 entitled, ‘Prints and Drawings of Edinburgh’, giving ‘A descriptive account of the collection in the Edinburgh Room of the Central Public Library’. Mr Butchart wrote with pride of the collection of prints and drawings held by the then Edinburgh Room which had been accumulated over the previous 25 years, claiming it ‘undoubtedly ranks as the finest collection in existence of topographical and historical prints of the City’.

In October 1982, Mr Butchart’s personal collection was presented to the Central Library by his daughter, Miss Jean Butchart. In this short film, she explains why she felt it appropriate that the majority of the prints from her father’s collection should be housed in the library where he had first become inspired by the subject.

The prints collection of the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library has continued to grow since Mr Butchart’s tenure and you can now search many more hundreds of stunning images of Edinburgh from our collections on Capital Collections.

Read all the articles in this series of ‘The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries’:

George Washington Browne: architect

Andrew Carnegie: steelmaker and philanthropist

Henry Dyer, engineer, educationist and Japanophile

William McEwan: brewer and philanthropist

David Mather Masson: scholar and biographer

Thomas Ross: architect and antiquarian

Charles Boog Watson: local historian and antiquarian

Large-scale sketch of Edinburgh on display at Edinburgh Central Library

Visitors to Edinburgh Central Library will be able to gain a new perspective of their city as a huge, intricately detailed, ink-sketch of the city of Edinburgh goes on display.

Self-taught cityscape artist Carl Lavia, aka Sketch, and project partner photographer Lorna Le Bredonchel are on a country-wide mission: Carl is attempting to sketch, in large-scale, every single city within the UK – together they aim to exhibit each cityscape within its city and eventually to form one large exhibition of all the 69 artworks to be shown in several spaces throughout the UK. The Edinburgh cityscape is the latest in their ’69 Cities of The UK’ project.

Carl says: “Each artwork is a celebration for the people who live, work and simply love the city.”

The immense Edinburgh cityscape covers a radius of around 6 miles – as far North as Stockbridge, as far South as The Meadows, as far East as Holyrood Palace and as far West as the Murrayfield stadium – all the familiar landmarks are depicted plus the yet to be completed St James shopping centre.

Councillor Ian Perry, Education, Children and Families Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “We’re delighted to be able to host Carl’s wonderful piece of work here in the Central Library – it truly is a sight to behold and I’m sure it will mesmerize many library-users during its time here.

“As one of the city’s prominent historical buildings, the Central Library itself features in the sketch, alongside the fantastic variety of architecture and attractions that span Edinburgh, and this piece provides a great new perspective.”

Project partner photographer Lorna Le Bredonchel says: “We hope that the Edinburgh cityscape shall be seen as an affectionate document of the city’s present time in history, hints at the indelible ties connecting people to places, a ‘sketched page’ in Edinburgh’s incredible and continually unfolding story.” 

Visit the website for prints and to follow The 69 Cities Project 

Sketch will be on display in the Central Library from 28th September 2017 until end of September 2018.

 

Edinburgh Photographic Society survey 1912-1914

Edinburgh Photographic Society Section was established in 1899, and over the early years of the 20th century created a collection of photographs of streets and buildings of Edinburgh.

It was proposed that 2 copies of each photograph were created, one to be given to the City of Edinburgh and one to be retained by the Edinburgh Photographic Society.

The images in our latest Capital Collections exhibition feature Ward XIV (George Square) and most of the photos were taken between 1912 and 1914. There were some earlier images collected, but not taken by the EPS Survey Group members.

Many of the photographs feature places that are still very much recognisable today but there are also many that no longer exist.

Do you recognise this area? Taken in 1904 you might be able to spot the street sign that says Tarvit Street. These buildings were probably demolished very shortly after this photograph was taken as two years later the King’s Theatre opened its doors on the site.

Leven Street, east side

The picture below shows an area that has changed quite a bit, well, at least one side of the street! This is looking towards Earl Grey Street and on the corner on the left-hand side, is Central Hall.

Earl Grey Street looking north from Brougham Street

The cottages below were demolished and built on the site that was the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary College. Nowadays it is known simply as Summerhall, an arts hub for theatre, music, art and literary events throughout the year. It even has its own gin distillery and microbrewery.

Cottages, Summerhall

Many would think that somewhere like the Grassmarket with its original old buildings wouldn’t have changed very much. However as you can see, this impressive looking building, the Corn Exchange, is no longer there. It stood on the site that is now the Apex Hotel.

The Corn Exchange , Grassmarket

Visit Capital Collections to see the full set of amazing photographs from the George Square Survey by the members of the Edinburgh Photographic Society.

All the world’s a stage – 70 years of Edinburgh festivals

In 1947, Sir John Falconer, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, spoke of his ambition that the International Festival of Music and Drama should provide “a platform of the flowering of the human spirit”.

The first Edinburgh International Festival programme 1947

This year (2017) sees the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe. In 1947, eight uninvited theatre groups turned up at the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival. With the ‘official’ festival using the city’s major venues, these groups took advantage of the large assembled theatre crowds to showcase their own alternative theatre. Although at the time it was not recognised as such, this was the first Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Map of major venues 1947

The EIF has played host to many international stars over its 70 years. Maria Callas performed in the King’s Theatre in 1957 and Rudolf Nureyev first appeared at the festival in 1984 dancing in a production of ‘Swan Lake’ at the Playhouse Theatre. In 1965 Marlene Dietrich performed, singing a collection of late night cabaret songs at the Lyceum assisted by an orchestra conducted by Burt Bacharach.

Harmonium Project, opening the 2015 Edinburgh International Festival

Many of today’s well known faces have launched their careers at either the Festival or Fringe. Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller appeared in Beyond the Fringe in 1960. Billy Connolly appeared in The Great Northern Welly Boot Show in 1972. Rowan Atkinson took a break from his engineering degree in 1976 to perform alongside Richard Curtis for the Oxford Review. In 1981 Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were members of The Cambridge Footlights who won the first Perrier Award (now Edinburgh Comedy Award) and in 2001 Eddie Redmayne appeared as the MC in Cabaret.

Street performer at Parliament Square, 2015

If you want to get a real taste of what’s happening during the festivals, take a stroll – though it may take some time – down the High Street and to The Mound where you will be able to see Fringe groups, buskers and street performers. You might even be “persuaded” to join in!

Street performer on High Street, 2015

The Edinburgh Festivals continue to go from strength to strength. In 2016 the combined ticket sales of both the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival reached 2,915,143.

Find many more great pictures of our festival city on Capital Collections including our collection of Edinburgh International Festival programme covers.

James Craig’s New Town

By the mid-1700s Edinburgh’s growing population was crammed into the tall, dark and insanitary tenements of the Old Town. The council wanted to improve living conditions and to encourage people with affluence and influence back to the city. Proposals were put forward to develop and expand Edinburgh to benefit the citizens, the city and Scotland. Part of the proposals demanded the upgrading of the Nor’ Loch in the valley beneath the castle, an expanse of water which had become a dumping place for all kinds of filth. The proposal suggested a canal with walks and terraces on either side but this was never realised. In 1759 the drainage of the Nor’ Loch began, and a couple of years later the Lord Provost laid the foundation stone of North Bridge paving the way for the city expansion to the north and improved connection with the port of Leith.

North Bridge, Edinburgh, 1809

Submissions were invited for a detailed plan which could interpret the proposals and envisage a new town on the grassy ridge to the north of the castle. Six submissions were received and the competition was won by the young and little-known architect, James Craig. After some alterations a final design was agreed by the town council in July 1767.

James Craig’s Plan of the new streets and squares intended for the City of Edinburgh

Craig’s plan was simple, geometric and spacious. It also symbolised the union of Scotland and England referencing the King, George III. Streets were named for him, his queen and his sons. The smaller back lanes were named after the national emblems of the two countries, rose and thistle. The plan included grand squares at either end of the George Street vista named in honour of each country’s patron saints with similarly named churches to be built facing each other. Castle Street would give a fantastic view to the castle, while Frederick and Hanover Streets again both referenced the royal family.

Craigleith Quarry supplied stone for the building works on Edinburgh’s New Town

In the end, George’s Square became Charlotte Square in honour of the queen and to prevent confusion with the newly built George Square near the university. The prime site allocated for the church at St Andrew Square was instead acquired by Sir Laurence Dundas, a wealthy landowner and businessman. His mansion, Dundas House would later become headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland. St Andrew’s Church, now known as St Andrew’s and St George’s West, instead opened at the east end of George Street in 1784 to meet the needs of the new residents of the New Town.

This first phase of the New Town was in place.

George Street, 1925

Two of Craig’s later greatest architectural achievements, the Physician’s Hall on George Street and St James Square at the east end of Princes Street have long since been demolished. After such initial promise, success eluded James Craig and he would die in 1795 insolvent and unknown.

In 2017 the 250th anniversary of James Craig’s plan, our latest exhibition on Capital Collections celebrates his visionary New Town plan for Edinburgh.

 

February’s Art Exhibition

michael-topley-poster-image-2Why not pop along to the Art & Design Library and see their February exhibition. This month’s exhibition is entitled Edinburgh Scenes & Others and is by Michael Topley. You can see his work from 3 – 27 February.

Michael lives  in Morningside having moved up from North Somerset five years ago and started painting seriously having been previously involved in photography. His job as an engineer and family commitments prevented him from giving too much time for art, but he has always had a strong interest.  Along with his wife he is a member of an Edinburgh Art Group which meets once a week.

About his work Michael says “As I hope I have expressed in my paintings, I like to reflect modern life, particularly with urban street scenes, but don’t limit myself to these and will tackle most subjects with varied results. I feel that watercolours can be as expressive as any other medium and try hard to show this in my work”.