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.

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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.

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!

Daredevils and wing-walkers

When World War One ended many ex-military pilots wanted to continue flying and to use it as a source of income. They purchased used aircraft at cheap prices and charged members of the public for short flights, gave flying lessons or provided chartered flights. Some pilots used their flying expertise to develop daredevil flying shows.

Crowd scene from a flying circus air show, c1935

These thrilling flying circus shows became known as barnstorming because many events were held on farms or near barns.

Flying circus biplanes in formation, c1935

As the popularity of barnstorming grew so did the daring of the flyers. In 1918 an American called Ormer Locklear started to climb out of the cockpit to walk along the wing and even to step from one plane to the other.  Although this was extremely dangerous it became an expectation that a Flying Circus would have such an stunt. In 1938 the American authorities made it mandatory to wear parachutes at all times. This diminished the daredevil antics and hastened the end of these shows.

A wing-walker in mid-flight at a flying circus

In the earliest days of flight when most aircraft had open cockpits, these intrepid pilots needed protection from exposure to the cold, noise, heat and air pressure. At first, aircraft were flying at slower speeds than motorists and the clothing worn was similar, perhaps a tweed jacket and trousers, hat and goggles.

Louis Paulhan and Claude Grahame-White, c1912

Leading stores like Gamages or Burberry’s soon recognised a new growing market and introduced flying combination suits, fleece lined boots, rainproof gauntlets, leather coats and special goggles. Further developments produced a new range of flying shockproof helmets.

Early aviator, Hilda Beatrice Hewlett, 1911

In 1916 Sidney Cotton, a Royal Naval Air Service pilot made an accidental discovery when having been scrambled for action in his working overalls. He found that the oil and grease which had soaked into the material kept him warm when his fellow pilots were suffering from the cold. He took his idea to Robinson and Cleaver in London and got them to make him a flying suit to his new design. It had 3 layers, a thin fur lining, an airproof silk layer and an outside light Burberry material layer. And so, the Sidcot flying suit came into general operational use.

Pilot beside Avro 504 plane, c1935

See more fantastic images from our Early aviators and their flying machines exhibition on Capital Collections.

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

Early aviators and their flying machines

Chocks away! Edinburgh from the air

Early aviators and their flying machines

We’re delighted to launch a new exhibition on Capital Collections hosting a collection of glass lantern slides documenting early flight in Edinburgh and beyond.

Airspeed Ferry in flight, c1936. Granton Harbour in distance

The early days of flight had many intrepid characters and designs of flying machines. The Wright brothers of the USA and Louis Bleriot of France are well known but there are many others who dedicated time and money to achieving the seemingly impossible.

In the early 1900s as new aircraft were developed, Air Races with considerable cash prizes were sponsored by newspapers in the United States and the UK. The Daily Mail newspaper was a leading sponsor of air races, using the events to both promote the newspaper and to encourage the development of aviation.

A model aeroplane competition took place at Alexandra Palace in London in 1907 where Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe won all three prizes on offer. Just two years later, Louis Bleriot became world-famous for making the first flight across the English Channel and claimed the £1000 prize money offered by the Daily Mail.

Louis Bleriot prepares for his cross channel flight

The stakes were much higher in 1911 when a frenchman flying under the name of André Beaumont won the Daily Mail Circuit of Britain race starting and finishing at Brooklands in Surrey and touching down in Edinburgh en route. His prize money was £10,000, the equivalent of over £1 million today.

Commercial flying developed from the mid-1920s. In 1924, Imperial Airways was formed from a combination of several small struggling companies subsidised by the government to develop Britain’s external air routes. Passenger numbers grew from 10,300 in 1925 to 62,100 in 1938.

Early airliner, possibly of type used by Imperial Airlines, c1925

Aeroplanes have even been manufactured on Leith Walk in Edinburgh. Local cycle maker John Gibson also described himself from 1910 to 1913 as an aeroplane designer and builder. He built a biplane which was followed by two further improved versions. The second had a production run of 10 and the third version had twin propellers. His advert from c1911 offers a complete biplane for £450 pounds – that’s about £50,000 in today’s money.

Gibson’s Aeroplanes of Leith Walk, c1910

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

Daredevils and wing-walkers

Chocks away! Edinburgh from the air

Have you had a look yet?

Today is Heritage Awareness Day, and whether you love history, are researching your own family history or a sports fan, there are resources to cover all interests in the British Newspaper Archive! The British Newspaper Archive is available to use free in all our libraries. Just click on the ‘Register’ link on the main page and create an account. Once signed in, you will have unlimited access to millions of scanned pages of newspapers.

The opening of our own Central Library’s Lending Department featured in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph of 3 July 1890, stating that crowds gathered outside and “when admission was got nine-tenths of the people rushed to the counters and demanded Stanley’s (explorer Henry Stanley) new book”.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 3rd July 1890

A recent feature of the British Newspaper Archive is a collection of illustrated magazines. Here you can flick through the pages of the likes of The Tatler, The Illustrated War News and The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News, where in 1908 there was an article on racing in Scotland, featuring Musselburgh Racecourse. How many more people could you fit in the stands?

The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News 1908.

For those of you researching your family history the British Newspaper Archive is a great resource to use and goes hand in hand with Find my past, which is also available to use free in all our libraries. Just type in the name of a relative, and see what comes up!

The British Newspaper Archive now provides a title from all 32 counties across Ireland, so if any of your forefathers originated there, this is the place to look for local newspapers.

Derry Evening Post

There is so much more to the British Newspaper Archive, so why not have a look the next time you are in the library. Take it from us you’re sure to find something interesting.