History of the house: King’s Wark

In a new series, we investigate the city’s past city through the history of a ‘house’ (or property).

The spotlight falls first on the King’s Wark, a well-known watering hole that sits in a prominent position on Leith’s picturesque Shore. But what is the history of the site? And where does the name come from?

The Shore in Leith, c1884

Work started on the King’s Wark (or fortification) building in 1434 and was to be a residence, store-house and armoury for James I.

In 1477, James III granted an annuity of 12 Scottish merks from it to support a chaplain in the Collegiate Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Restalrig.

During the English Invasions of 1544 and 1547 the building was practically destroyed. It was rebuilt by Queen Mary of Scotland in 1564 and leased to John Chisholm, the comptroller of the Royal Artillery recognising that the building held a strategic position on the approach to Leith.

From 1575 the building even served as a plague hospital for some years.

Around 1613, James VI (and 1st of Britain) granted possession to one of his royal household, Bernard Lindsay, the King’s Wark and the neighbouring land and buildings. He was instructed to keep four taverns on the site and granted the taxes from the wine sold to pay for a merchants’ exchange within the complex. Lindsay’s name lives on in the adjacent Bernard Street.

In 1649, the King’s Wark was taken into the possession of the Magistrates of Edinburgh and converted into a weigh-house. In 1690, the building was destroyed by fire and subsequently replaced by another using the same name.

Between 1799 and 1822 the building was occupied by Ramsay Williamson & Co, merchants for continental suppliers.

Rutherford & Co, a wholesale and retail wine and spirit merchants owned and occupied the building from around 1855. Rutherfords owned many other licenced premises in Edinburgh. They can be traced at the King’s Wark for almost a century, first in the Valuation Rolls from 1855 to 1900 and then in the Post Office Directories from 1911 to 1950.

‘Old Corner’, the Shore, Leith, 1958

For a time, two doors along, at no. 40, was R&D Slimon, an Ironmongers and Ships Chandlers, illustrating the area’s maritime heritage.

The Post Office Directory of 1959 shows that the King’s Wark had been taken over by E Cranston, another Wine and Spirit Merchant, who also had other premises in the City.

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.

The Gretna Disaster. A talk at Leith Library.

Leith Library hosts a talk on the Gretna Rail Disaster and its effect on the people of Leith. Wednesday 18th March, 2.00 – 3.00pm. Call 0131 529 5517 or email leith.library@edinburgh.gov.uk to book a place.

Gretna Rail Disaster Memorial, Rosebank Cemetery, Pilrig Street, Edinburgh

Gretna Rail Disaster Memorial, Rosebank Cemetery

The Quintinshill rail disaster occurred on 22 May 1915 near Gretna Green. The crash, which involved five trains, killed a probable 226 and injured 246 and remains the worst rail crash in the United Kingdom in terms of loss of life. Those killed were mainly Territorial soldiers from the 1/7th (Leith) Battalion, the Royal Scots heading for Gallipoli. The precise number of dead was never established as the roll list of the regiment was destroyed by the fire.

The crash occurred when a troop train travelling from Larbert to Liverpool collided with a local passenger train that had been shunted on to the main line, then to be hit by an express train to Glasgow which crashed into the wreckage a minute later. Gas from the lighting system of the old wood

en carriages of the troop train ignited, starting a fire which soon engulfed the three passenger trains and also two goods trains standing on nearby passing loops. A number of bodies were never recovered, having been wholly consumed by the fire, and the bodies that were recovered were buried together in a mass grave in Edinburgh’s Rosebank Cemetery.

Read history as it happened with free access to the Scotsman Digital Archive.

Introducing Leith Library’s Reader in Residence

Welcome to Emily Dodd, Leith Library’s brand new Reader in Residence. Here Emily tells us a bit about herself and the work she’ll be doing.

My name is Emily Dodd and I’m working for the Scottish Book Trust 2.5 days as the Reader in Residence here in Leith Library.

The library is 80 years old and it’s a wonderful place, full of stories. The stories are in the books but also in the people here in Leith.

I’m here to help share the stories from inside the library.  I’ll be blogging about the events, projects and people. I’ll be taking pictures and recording audio but essentially I’ll be collecting and sharing stories via the Leith Library blog.

I hope to encourage people to get involved and get talking about libraries, books and reading. I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to contribute.

I’ll also be training the staff here to blog so when I leave I know the blog will continue…

Podcasts With Teenagers

After Christmas I’ll be working with teenagers to make podcasts about the books they’re interested in.

They’ll be working together on all aspects of podcast production. They’ll develop the skills needed to produce their own podcasts. They will interview authors and review books. They can work towards SQA recognised qualifications, it’s a really exciting project!

The podcasts will be shared across Scotland and well as being shared on the Leith Library blog.

The Residency 

I started on the 24th September 2012 and my residency is one year. I’ll be working in the Library 2.5 days a week for 9 months and I’ll spend the last three months working on my own practice. That will be writing something, we’ll see what when the time comes.

I worked with Katie Swann at Leith Library to come up with a project proposal and we talked to local authors, agents, publishers, youth groups and Edinburgh City of Literature. Everyone was really supportive of this project.

We were invited for interview (hurrah!) and interviewed by a panel. Then we had to wait.  It’s was brilliant to hear our project was successful. Now we’re going to make it happen.

Five of us were appointed as Readers in Residence across Scotland,  you can read more about the five residencies on the Scottish Book Trust website. We don’t just sit around reading (although that would be great!), we’re all working on innovative approaches to reader development.

If you want to know a bit more about who I am, read about me on my personal blog here. Thanks to The Scottish Book Trust and Creative Scotland for funding this Residency.

What can your library do for you?

‘Your Edinburgh’ at McDonald Road Library

Tomorrow afternoon representatives from local groups and organisations in Leith will be meeting at McDonald Road Library.

If you are part of a community group in Leith come along and tell us what kind of events and information would be useful to you – and we can discuss how libraries can help promote your organisation (for example through the Your Edinburgh community information database).

We want to hear from you! For more information contact eileen.hewitt@edinburgh.gov.uk or call 0131 469 3838

McDonald Road Library, Friday 4 June, 2 – 4pm

Refereshments provided

Sir Tom Farmer on the Leith Business Hub

Watch Councillor Tom Buchanan and Sir Tom Farmer speaking after the launch of the Leith Business Hub at McDonald Road Library.

Leith Festival @ Leith Library

It’s festival time in Leith again soon, and  here at Leith Library we’ll be hosting an exciting series of events for all ages and interests. All our events are free and unticketed, just turn up on the day (although you will have to book for the Family History Workshop):

The Big Bottom Hunt with Lari Don

Friday 18 June, 2.00pm – 2.45pm

Award-winning children’s author Lari Don will read from ‘The Big Bottom Hunt’ and share silly stories about losing, searching and finding. suitable for ages 4 – 7.

Rocking horse war with Lari Don

Fri 18 June 10 3.00 PM to  4.00 PM

Award-winning author Lari Don will read from her new novel, ‘Rocking Horse War’, an adventure set in the Scottish mountains, and tell legends which inspire her magical fiction. Suitable for age 9-12.

Leith Poetry of the Great War

Tue 15 June 10 7.00 PM to  8.00 PM

During the First World War many poems were published in the Leith Observer which were composed by local people. These include poems written by servicemen who served in the conflict. A selection of those will be read on an evening in the Leith Library. Materials relating to the Leith Roll of Honour will also be on view during this event.

Victorian recollections – 500 years of the Pentland family

Thu 17 June 10 2.30 PM to  3.30 PM

Local historian, Joyce Wallace, talks about her latest book looking at the history of the Pentland family going back to the early 16th century – an enthralling history which journeys from Leith to America to Trinity

Family history workshop – exploring online resources

Thursday June 10th   6.30pm – 8pm

With Genealogists from the Edinburgh Family History Centre

 (Telephone Leith Library 0131 529 5518 to book – places are limited at this one!)

There’s lots more going on at this year’s Leith Festival – check out the official web site for more info.

Leith Business Hub

The Leith Business Hub at McDonald Road Library was officially opened on Monday by Sir Tom Farmer.

Read more about the launch on the BBC web site or find out more about how libraries can help you start and grow your business.