The House of the Earls of Hyndford – The Three Romps of Monteith – Anne, Countess of Balcarris – South Foulis’ Close – The “Endmylies’s Well” – Fountain Close – The House of Bailie Fullerton – Purchase of Property for the Royal College of Physicians – New Episcopal Chapel – Tweeddale Close – The House of the Marquis of Tweeddale – Rise of the British Linen Company – The Mysterious Murder of Begbie – The World’s End Close – The Stanfield Tragedy – Titled Residents in Old Town Closes.
THE mansion of the Earls of Hyndford immediately adjoined that of the Earls of Selkirk, and the two edifices were thrown into one to form a Catholic chapel house, but the former gave its name to Hyndford’s Close. “This was a Scottish peerage,” says Robert Chambers, “not without its glories – witness particularly the third earl, who acted as ambassador in succession to Prussia, to Russia, and to Vienna. It is now extinct; its bijouterie, its pictures, including portraits of Maria Theresa, and other royal and imperial personages, which had been presented as friendly memorials to the ambassador, have all been dispersed by the salesman’s hammer, and Hyndford’s Close, on my trying to get into it lately in 1868, was inaccessible (literally) from filth.” Another writer, in 1856, says in his report to the magistrates, “that, with proper drainage, causeway, and cleanliness, it might be made quite respectable.”
Prior to the Carmichaels of Hyndford it had been, for a time, the residence of the Earls of Stirling, the first of whom ruined himself in the colonisation of Nova Scotia, for which place he set sail with fourteen ships filled with emigrants and cattle in 1630. Here then, in this now humble but once most picturesque locality – for the house was singularly so, with its overhanging timber gables, its small court and garden sloping to the south – lived John third Earl of Hyndford, the living representative of a long line of warlike ancestors, including Sir John Carmichael of that ilk, who broke a spear with the Duke of Clarence at the battle of Bauge-en-Anjou, when the Scots routed the English, the Duke was slain, and Carmichael had added to his paternal arms a dexter hand and arm, holding a broken spear.
In 1732 he was Lieutenant-Colonel of a company in the Scots Foot Guards, and was twice commissioner to the General Assembly before 1740, and was Lord of Police in Scotland. In the following year, when Frederick the Great invaded Silesia, he was sent as plenipotentiary extraordinary to adjust the differences that occasioned the war, and at the conclusion of the Treaty of Breslau had the Order of the Thistle conferred upon him by George II., receiving at the same time a grant from Frederick, dated at Berlin, 30th September, 1742, for adding the eagle of Silesia to his paternal arms of Hyndford, with the motto Ex bene merito. He was six years an ambassador at the Russian Court, and it was by his able negociations that 30,000 Muscovite troops contributed to accelerate the peace which was concluded at Aix-la-Chapelle.
These stirring events over, the year 1752 saw him leave his old abode in that narrow close off the High Street, to undertake a mission of the greatest importance to the Court of Vienna. On the death of Andrew Earl of Hyndford and Viscount Inglisberry, in 1817, the title became extinct, but is claimed by a baronet of the name of Carmichael.
The entry and stair on the west side of Hyndford’s Close was always a favourite residence, in consequence of the ready access to it from the High Street.
In the beginning of the reign of George III. Here lived Lady Maxwell of Monreith, née Magdalene Blair of that ilk, and there she educated and reared her three beautiful daughters – Catharine, Jane, and Eglantine (or Eglintoun, so named after the stately Countess Susanna who lived in the Old Stamp Office Close), the first of whom became the wife of Fordyce of Aytoune, the second in 1767, Duchess of Gordon, and the third, Lady Wallace of Craigie.
Their house had a dark passage, and in going to the dining-room the kitchen door was passed, according to an architectural custom, common in old Scottish and French houses; and such was the thrift and so cramped the accommodation in those times, that in this passage the laces and fineries of the three young beauties were hung to dry, while coarser garments were displayed from a window pole, in the fashion common to this day in the same localities for the convenience of the poor. “So easy and familiar were the manners of the great, fabled to be so stiff and decorous,” says the author of “Traditions of Edinburgh,” who must vouch for the story, “that Miss Eglantine, afterwards Lady Wallace, used to be sent across the street to the Fountain Well for water to make tea. Lady Maxwell’s daughters were the wildest romps imaginable. An old gentleman who was their relation, told me that the first time he saw these beautiful girls was in the High Street, where Miss Jane, afterwards Duchess of Gordon, was riding upon a sow, which Miss Eglantine thumped lustily behind with a stick. It must be understood that in the middle of the eighteenth century vagrant swine went as commonly about the streets of Edinburgh as dogs do in our own day, and were more generally followed as pets by the children of the last generation. It may, however, be remarked, that the sows upon which the Duchess of Gordon and her witty sister rode when children, were not the common vagrants of the High Street, but belonged to Peter Ramsay, of the inn in St. Mary’s Wynd, and were among the last that were permitted to roam abroad. The romps used to watch the animals as they were let loose in the forenoon in the stable yard (where they lived among the horse litter) and got upon their backs the moment they issued from the close.”
Their eldest brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwel, of the 74th Highlanders, commanded the grenadier companies of the army under Cornwallis in the war against Tippoo, and died in India in 1800.
In the same stair with Lady Maxwell lived Anne Dalrymple, Countess of James fifth Earl of Balcarres, who died in 1768, a lady who is said to have been the progenitrix of as many persons as ever any woman was in the same space of time, for Sir Bernard Burke records her as having eight children, and fifteen grandchildren. Her eldest daughter, Anne – and of all her family almost the only one remembered now – was the authoress of the sweet ballad of Auld Robin Gray, written to the ancient Scottish air called “The bridegroom greets when the sun gaes doon.” She was born on the 8th of December, 1750, and was married to Sir Andrew Barnard, Colonial Secretary at the Cape of Good Hope, and she died at Berkeley Square, London, in 1825, after surviving her husband eighteen years. The whole history of the ballad, and her authorship thereof, are too well known to require repetition here; but the first verse, as she wrote it, is invariably omitted now:-
“When the sheep are in the fauld, and the kye a’ at hame,
When a’ the weary world to sleep are gane,
The waes o’ my heart fa’ in showers from my ee’
While my gudeman lies sound by me.”
Dr. Daniel Rutherford was, of course, a close neighbour of the Countess of Balcarres, and from Lord Lindesay’s “Lives of the Lindesays” we learn that his nephew, Walter Scott, when a boy, occasionally accompanied his aunt on visits to the Countess of Balcarres, and some forty years after, when having occasion to correspond with Lady Anne, he wrote: “I remember the locale of Hyndford’s Close perfectly, even to the Indian screen with harlequin and columbine, and the harpsichord, though I never had the pleasure of hearing Lady Anne play upon it. I suppose the close, once too clean to soil the hem of your ladyship’s garment, is now a resort for the lowest mechanics – and so wears the world away… It is, to be sure, more picturesque to lament the desolation of towers on hills and haughs than the degradation of an Edinburgh close; but I cannot help thinking on the simple and cosie retreats where worth and talent, and elegance to boot, were often nestled, and which now are the resort of misery, filth, poverty, and vice.”
The little tea-parties of Lady Balcarres, who was a daughter of Sir Robert Dalrymple of Castleton, were always famous for the strong infusion of Jacobite spirit that pervaded them, attainted peers and baronets being always spoken of, or announced, with their old Scottish rank and titles in defiance of all acts of attainder, though she lived to see the ninth year of the reign of George III.
The next alley, called South Foulis’ Close, is named Fowler’s in Edgar’s map of the city, and some portion of this alley must have escaped the conflagration of 1544, as Wilson refers to a large mansion “that bears the date 1539 over its main doorway, with two coats of arms impaled on one large shield in the centre, but all now greatly defaced. Another nearly opposite to it exhibits an old oak door, ornamented with fine carving, still in tolerable preservation, although the whole place has been (1847) converted into stone-rooms and cellars.” As in many other instances, not even a tradition or a memory of the names even of the great or noble who dwelt here has come down to us.
The close numbered as 90 in Edgar’s old map is called the Fountain, it is supposed from the circumstance of its entrance being opposite the stone conduit in the recess near John Knox’s house. A fountain named “the Endmylie’s Well,” frequently occurs in old historical works connected with the city, or offices therein, but whether it is the same cannot be determined now. William Powrie, one of Bothwell’s accomplices in the murder of Darnley, says, after they heard the explosion at the Kirk-of-field, “thai past away togidder out at the Frier Yet, and sinderit when thai came to the Cowgate, pairt up the Blackfriar Wynd and pairt up the cloiss which is under the Endmylie’s Well.”
On the east side of the Close, and opposite to the house of Bassandyne the printer, one with a highly ornamented double doorway, was the mansion of Adam Fullerton, a man of great note in his time, and an active coadjutor of the early reformers.
The northern door lintel had the legend-
V in Vera
Cit. ONLY . BE . CRYST – ADAM FVLLERTON. Tas.
and the southern –
ARIS . O . LORD – MAIRIORIE . ROGER . 1573.
He was one of the Bailies of Edinburgh in 1561, who, with the Provost, committed to ward the craftsmen who had been guilty of that enormity so hideous in the eyes of the reformers, “playing a Robin Hood,” as we have related in our account of the Tolbooth, and would have hanged him therefor, had not the armed trades made themselves fairly masters of the city.
In January, 1571, he sat as Commissioner for the City in the General Assembly which met at Leith, and in the summer of the same year he was made captain of two hundred armed citizens, who formed themselves into a band or company, and joined forces of the Regent in that seaport, for which he was denounced as a traitor to his Queen; and by an act of the Estates, sitting in the Tolbooth, and presided over on the 18th of August by the Duke of Chatelherault, many rebels to the Queen, “formost among whom is Adam Fullerton,” were declared to have forfeited their lives, lands, goods, and coats of arms. His house in the Fountain Close was seized, and a battery erected on the summit thereof to assail the King’s men. In the “Historie of James Sext” we are told that the Regent Earl of Mar brought nine pieces of ordnance up the Canongate to assail the Netherbow Port, but changed their position “to a fauxbourg of the town, callit Pleasands,” from whence to batter the Flodden wall and to oppose a platform of guns erected on the house of Adam Fullerton.
When this sharp but brief civil disorder ended, Adam returned to his strong mansion in the Fountain Close once more, and on the 4th of December, 1572, he and Mr. John Paterson appear together as Commissaries for the city of Edinburgh, and the supposition is, that the date, 1573, referred to repairs upon the house, after what it had suffered from the cannon of Mar. Thus, says Wilson, “the vincit veritas of the brave old burgher acquires a new force, when we consider the circumstances that dictated its inscription, and the desperate struggle in which he had borne a leading part, before he returned to carve these pious aphorisms over the threshold that had so recently been held by his enemies.”
With a view to enlarging the library of the College of Physicians, in 1704, that body purchased from Sir James Mackenzie his house and ground at the foot of the Fountain Close. The price paid was 3,500 merks (194 8s. 10d.). To this, in seven years afterwards, was added an adjoining property, which connected it with the Cowgate, “then a genteel and busy thoroughfare,” and for which 2,300 merks (£127 15s. 6d.) were given. From Edgar’s map it appears that the premises thus acquired by the College of Physicians were more extensive than those occupied by any individual or any other public body in the city. The ground was laid out in gardens and shrubbery, and was an object of great admiration and envy to the nobility and gentry, to several of whom the privilege of using the pleasure grounds was accorded as a favour. Considering the locality now, how strangely does all this read!
The whole of the buildings must have been in a dilapidated, if not ruinous state, for expensive repairs were found to be necessary on first taking possession, and the same head of expenditure constantly recurs in accounts of the treasurer of the College; and so early as 1711 a design was proposed for the erection of a new hall at the foot of the Fountain Close; and after nine years’ delay, 2,900 merks were borrowed, and a new building erected, but it was sold in 1720 for £800, as a site for the new Episcopal Chapel.
Till the erection of St. Paul’s in York Place, the Fountain Close formed the only direct communication to this the largest and most fashionable Episcopal church in Edinburgh, that which was built near the Cowgate Port in 1771.
Tweeddale’s Close, the next alley on the east, was the scene of a terrible crime, the memory of which, though enacted so long ago as 1806, is still fresh in the city [William Begbie’s story is related later in this chapter]. The stately house which gave its name to the Close, and was the town residence of the Marquises of Tweeddale, still remains, though the “plantation of lime-trees behind it,” mentioned by Defoe in his “tour,” and shown in seven great rows on Edgar’s map, is a thing of the past.
Even after the general desertion of Edinburgh by the Scottish noblesse at the Union, this fine old mansion (which, notwithstanding great changes, still retains traces of magnificence) was for a time the constant residence of the Tweeddale family. It was first built and occupied by Dame Margaret Kerr Lady Yester, daughter of Mark first Earl of Lothian. She was born in 1572, and was wife of James the seventh Lord Yester, in whose family there occurred a singular event. His page, Hepburn, accused his Master of the Horse of a design to poison him; the latter denied it; the affair was brought before the Council, who agreed that it should be determined by single combat, in 1595, and this is supposed to have been the last of such judicial trials by battle in Scotland.
By Lady Yester, who founded the church that still bears her name in the city, the mansion, with all its furniture, was bestowed upon her grandson, John second Earl of Tweeddale (and ninth Lord Yester), who joined Charles I. when he unfurled his standard at Nottingham in 1642. Six years subsequently, when a Scottish army under the Duke of Hamilton, was raised, to rescue Charles from the English, the Earl, then Lord Yester, commanded the East Lothian regiment of 1,200 men. After the execution of Charles I. he continued with the regal party in Scotland, assisted at the coronation of Charles II., and against Cromwell he defended his castle of Neidpath longer than any place south of the Forth, except Borthwick. With all this loyalty to his native princes, he came early into the Revolution movement, and in 1692 was created, by William III., Marquis of Tweeddale, with the office of Lord High Chancellor of Scotland, and died five years afterwards.
The next occupant of the house, John, second Marquis, received £1,000 for his vote at the Union, and was one of the first set of sixteen representative peers. The last of the family who resided here was John, fourth Marquis, who was Secretary of State for Scotland from 1742 till 1745, when he resigned the office, on which the Government at once availed themselves of the opportunity for leaving it vacant, as it has remained ever since. He died in 1762, and soon after the carriage-entrance and the fine old terraced garden of the house, which lay on the slope westward, were removed to make way for the Episcopal church in the Cowgate – doomed in turn to be forsaken by its founders, and even by their successors.
From the Tweeddale family the mansion passed into the hands of the British Linen Company, and became their banking house, until they deserted it for Moray House in the Canongate, from which they ultimately migrated to a statelier edifice in St. Andrew Square. This company was originally incorporated by a charter under the Privy Seal granted by George II. on the 6th of July, 1746, at a time when the mind of the Scottish people was still agitated by the events of the preceding year and the result of the battle of Culloden; and it was deemed an object of the first importance to tranquillise the country and call forth its resources, so that the attention of the nation should be directed to the advantages of trade and manufacture. With this view the Government, as well as many gentlemen of rank and fortune, exerted themselves to promote the linen manufacture, which had been lately introduced, deeming that it would in time become the linen the staple manufacture of Scotland, and provide ample employment for her people, while extensive markets for the produce of their labour would be found alike at home and in the colonies, then chiefly supplied by the linens of Germany.
By the Dukes of Queensberry and Argyle, who became the first governors of the British Linen Company, representations to this effect were made to Government, and by the Earls of Glencairn, Eglinton, Galloway, Panmure, and many other peers, together with the Lord Justice Clerk Fletcher of Saltoun, afterwards Lord Milton, who was the first deputy governor, and whose mother, when an exile in Holland during the troubles, had secretly obtained knowledge of the art of weaving and of dressing the fine linen known as “Holland,” and introduced its manufacture at the village of Saltoun; by the Lord Justice Clerk Alva; Provost George Drummond; John Coutts, founder of the famous banking houses of Forbes and Co., and Coutts and Co. in the Strand; by Henry Home, Lord Kames; and many others, all of whom urged the establishment of the company, under royal sanction, and offered to become subscribers to the undertaking.
A charter was obtained in accordance with their views and wishes, establishing the British Linen Company as a corporation, and bestowing upon it ample privileges, not only to manufacture and deal in linen fabrics, but also to do all that might conduce to the promotion thereof; and authority was given to raise a capital of £100,000, to be enlarged by future warrants under the sign manual of his Majesty, his heirs and successors, to such sums as the affairs of the company might require. After this the company engaged to a considerable extent in the importation of flax and the manufacture of yarns and linens, having warehouses both in Edinburgh and London, and in its affairs none took a more active part than Lord Milton, who was an enthusiast in all that related to the improvement of trade, agriculture, and learning, in his native country; but it soon became apparent that the company “would be of more utility, and better promote the objects of their institution, by enlarging the issue of their notes to traders, than being traders and manufacturers themselves.”
By degrees, therefore, the company withdrew from all manufacturing operations and speculations, and finally closed them in 1763, from which year to the present time their business has been confined to the discount of bills, advances on accounts, and other bank transactions, in support of Scottish trade generally, at home and abroad. “By the extension of their branch agencies to a great number of towns,” to quote their own historical report, “and the employment in discounts and cash advances of their own funds, as well as of that portion of the formerly scanty and inactive money capital of Scotland which has been lodged with the company, they have been the means of contributing very materially to the encouragement of useful industry throughout Scotland, and to her rapid progress in agricultural and mechanical improvements, and in commercial intercourse with foreign countries. As regards the particular object of the institution of the company – the encouragement of the linen manufacture – considerably more than half of the flax and hemp imported into the United Kingdom, is now (in 1878) brought to the Scottish ports.”
Now the bank has nearly eighty branch or sub-branch offices over all Scotland alone. The company’s original capital of £100,000 has been gradually increased under three additional charters, granted at different times, under the Great Seal. By Queen Victoria, their fourth charter, dated 19th March, 1849, ratifies and confirms all their privileges and rights, and power was given to augment their capital to any sum not exceeding £1,500,000 in all, for banking purposes. The amount of new capital already created under the last charter is £500,000 stock, making the existing capital £1,000,000, and there still remains unexhausted the privilege to create £500,000 more stock whenever it shall appear to be expedient to complete the capital to the full amount conceded in the charter – a success that the early projectors of the first scheme, developed in Tweeddale’s Close, could little have anticipated.
The British Linen Company for a long series of years has enjoyed the full corporate and other privileges of the old chartered banks of Scotland; and in this capacity, along with the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland, alone is specially exempted in the Bank Regulation Act for Scotland, from making returns of the proprietors’ names to the Stamp Office.
In the sixth year of the 19th century Tweeddale House became the scene of a dark event “which ranks among the gossips of the Scottish capital with the Icon Basilikè, or the Man with the Iron Mask.”
About five in the evening of the 13th of November, 1806, or an hour after sunset, a little girl whose family lived in the close, was sent by her mother with a kettle to get water for tea from the Fountain Well, and stumbling in the dark archway over something, found it to be William Begbie, the messenger of the British Linen Company Bank, a residenter in the town of Leith, where that bank was the first to establish a branch, in a house close to the upper drawbridge. On lights being brought, a knife was found in his heart, thrust up to the haft, so he bled to death without the power of uttering a word of explanation. Though a sentinel of the Guard was always on duty close by, yet he saw nothing of the event.
It was found that he had been robbed of a package of notes, amounting in value to more than four thousand pounds, which he had been conveying from the Leith branch to the head office. The murder had been accomplished with the utmost deliberation, and the arrangements connected with it displayed care and calculation. The weapon used had a broad thin blade, carefully pointed, with soft paper wrapped round the hand in such a manner as to prevent any blood from reaching the person of the assassin, and thus leading to his detection.
For his discovery five hundred guineas were offered in vain; in vain, too, was the city searched, while the roads were patrolled; and all the evidence attainable amounted to this:- “That Begbie, in proceeding up Leith Walk, had been accompanied by a ‘man,’ and that about the supposed time of the murder ‘a man’ had been seen by some children to run out of the close into the street, and down Leith Wynd… There was also reason to believe that the knife had been bought in a shop about two o’clock on the day of the murder, and that it had been afterwards ground upon a grinding-stone and smoothed upon a hone.”
Many persons were arrested on suspicion, and one, a desperate character, was long detained in custody, but months passed on, and the assassination was ceasing to occupy public attention, when three men, in passing through the grounds of Bellevue (where now Drummond Place stands) in August, 1807, found in the cavity of an old wall, a roll of bank notes that seemed to have borne exposure to the weather. The roll was conveyed to Sheriff Clerk Rattray’s office, and found to contain £3,000 in large notes of the money taken from Begbie. The three men received £200 from the British Linen Company as the reward of their honesty, but no further light was thrown upon the murder, the actual perpetrator of which has never, to this hour, been discovered, though strong suspicions fell on a prisoner named Mackoull in 1822, after he was beyond the reach of the law.
This man was tried and sentenced to death by the High Court of Justiciary in June, 1820, for robbery at the Paisley Union Bank, Glasgow, and was placed in the Calton gaol, where he was respited in August, and again in September, “during his majesty’s pleasure” (according to the Edinburgh Weekly Journal), and where he died about the end of the year. In a work published under the title of “The Life and Death of James Mackoull,” there was included a document by Mr. Denovan, the Bow Street Runner, whose object was to prove that Mackoull alias Moffat, was the assassin of Begbie, and his statements, which are curious, have thus been condensed by a local writer in 1865:-
“Still, in the absence of legal proof, there is a mystery about this daring crime which lends a sort of romance to its daring perpetrator. Mr. Denovan discovered a man in Leith acting as a teacher, who in 1806 was a sailor-boy belonging to a ship then in the harbour. On the afternoon of the murder he was carrying up some smuggled article to a friend in Edinburgh, when he noticed ‘a tall man carrying a yellow coloured parcel under his arm, and a genteel man, dressed in a black coat, dogging him.’ He at once concluded that the man with the parcel was a smuggler, and the other a custom-house officer. Fearful of detection himself, he watched their manoeuvres with considerable interest. He lost sight of the parties for a short time, but when he came opposite to Tweeddale’s Close, he saw the (presumed) Custom House officer running out of it, with something under his coat. There can be no doubt that this was the murderer, and the description given coincided exactly with the appearance of Mackoull. Although the boy heard of the murder before he left Leith, he never thought of communicating what he had seen to the authorities; he was shortly after captured and carried to a French prison, where he remained for many years. Mackoull resided in Edinburgh from September, 1805, till the end of 1806, lodging very near the scene of the murder, and was a frequent visitor at the coffee-room of the Ship Tavern in Leith.”1
Shortly before his death, when abruptly questioned by Denovan as to where he resided in November, 1806, Mackoull was seized with convulsions, and threw himself back on his bed and began to rave.
Tweeddale House, after being quitted by the British Linen Company for their new office in St. Andrew Square, became, and is still, the establishment of Messrs. Oliver and Boyd, the well-known printers and publishers.
The World’s End Close was the curious and appropriate name bestowed upon the last gloomy, and mysterious-looking alley on the south side of the High Street, adjacent to the Netherbow Port, when it lost its older name of Sir John Stanfield’s Close.
At the foot of it an ancient tenement has a shield of arms on its lintel, with the common Edinburgh legend – “Praisze.the.Lord.for.all.His.giftis,M.S..;” but save this, and a rich Gothic niche, built into a modern “land” of uninteresting aspect, nothing remains of Stanfield’s Close save the memory of the dark tragedy connected with the name of the knight.
Sir James Stanfield was one of those English manufacturers who, by permission of the Scottish Government, had settled at Newmills, in East Lothian. He was a respectable man, but the profligacy of Philip, his eldest son, so greatly afflicted him that he became melancholy, and he disinherited his heir by a will. On a day in November of 1687 he was found drowned, it was alleged, in a pool of water near his country house at Newmills. Doubts were started as to whether he had committed suicide, in consequence of domestic troubles, or had been murdered. The circumstances of his being hastily interred, and that Lady Stanfield had a suit of grave-clothes all ready for him before his death, seemed to point to the latter; and two surgeons were sent from Edinburgh to examine the body and report upon it.
It was raised from the grave, after it had lain there two days, and the surgeons having made an incision near the neck, became convinced that death had been caused by strangulation, so all supposition of suicide was abandoned. This examination took place in a church. After the cut had been sewn up, the body was washed, wrapped in fresh linen, and James Row, merchant in Edinburgh, and Philip Stanfield, the disinherited son, lifted it for deposition in the coffin, when lo! On the side sustained by Philip an effusion of blood took place, and so ample as to defile both his hands.
“Lord, have mercy on me!” he exclaimed, and let the body fall. He then rushed horror-stricken into the precentor’s desk, where he lay for some time groaning in great anguish, and refusing to touch the corpse again, while all looked on with dismay. The incident was at once accepted by the then Scottish mind in the light of a revelation of Philip’s guilt as his father’s murderer. “In a secret murther,” says King James in his ‘Dæmonology’ – “if the dead carkasse be at any time thereafter handled by the murtherar, it will gushe out of blood, as if the blood were crying to heaven for revenge of the murtherar.”
Accordingly, on the 7th of February, 1688, Philip was brought to trial at Edinburgh, and after the household servants had been put to torture without eliciting anything on the strength of the mysterious bleeding, according to Fountainhall, save that he was known to have cursed his father, drunk to the king’s confusion, and linked the royal name with those of the Pope, the devil, and Lord Chancellor, he was sentenced to death. He protested his innocence to the last, and urged in vain that his father was a melancholy man, subject to fits; that once he set out for England, but because his horse stopped at a certain place, he thought he saw the finger of God, and returned home; and that he once tried to throw himself over a window at the Nether Bow, probably at his house in the World’s End Close.
Philip Stanfield was hanged at the Market Cross on the 24th of February. In consequence of a slip of the rope, he came down on his knees, and it was necessary to use more horrible means of strangulation. His tongue was cut out for cursing his father; his right hand was struck off for parricide; his head was spiked on the East Port of Haddington, and his mutilated body was hung in chains between Leith and the city. After a few days the body was stolen from the gibbet, and found lying in a ditch among water. It was chained up again, but was a second time stolen; and in the strangulation on the scaffold, and the being found in a ditch among water, the superstitious saw retributive justice for the murder of which he was assumed to be guilty. “It will be acknowledged,” says the author of the “Domestic Annals,” “That in the circumstances related there is not a particle of evidence against the young man. The surgeons’ opinion as to the fact of strangulation is not entitled to much regard; but, granting its solidity, it does not prove the guilt of the accused. The horror of the young man on seeing his father’s blood might be referred to painful recollections of that profligate conduct which he knew had distressed his parent, and brought his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave – especially when we reflect that Stanfield would himself be impressed with the superstitious feelings of the age, and might accept the hæmorrhage as an accusation by heaven on account of the concern his conduct had in shortening the life of his father. The whole case seems to be a lively illustration of the effect of superstitious feelings in blinding justice.”
We have thus traced the history of the High Street and its closes down once more to the Nether Bow.
In the World’s End Close Lady Lawrence was a residenter in 1761, and Lady Huntingdon in 1784, and for some years after the creation of the New Town, people of position continued to linger in the Old Town and in the Canongate. And from Peter Williamson’s curious little “Directory” for 1784, we can glean a few names, thus:-
Lady Mary Carnegie, in Bailie Fyfe’s Close; Lady Colstoun and the Hon. Alexander Gordon, on the Castle Hill; General Douglas, in Baron Maule’s Close; Lady Jean Gordon, in the Hammerman’s Close; Sir James Wemyss, in Riddle’s Close; Sir John Whiteford of that ilk, in the Anchor Close; Sir James Campbell, in the Old Bank Close; Erskine of Cardross, in the Horse Wynd; Lady Home, in Lady Stair’s Close.
In Monteith’s Close, in 1794, we find in the “Scottish Hist. Register” for 1795 recorded the death of Mr. John Douglas, Albany herald, uncle of Sir Andrew Snape Douglas, who was captain of the Queen Charlotte, of 110 guns, and who fought her so valiantly in Lord Bridport’s battle on “the glorious 23rd of June, 1795.” The house occupied by Lady Rothiemay in Turk’s Close, below Liberton’s Wynd, was advertised for sale in the Courant of 1761; and there lived, till his death in 1797, James Nelson, collector of the Ministers’ Widows’ Fund.
In Morrison’s Close in 1783, we find one of the most fashionable modistes of Edinburgh announcing in the Advertiser of that year, that she is from “one of the most eminent houses in London,” and that her work is finished in the newest fashions:- “Chemize de Lorraine, Grecian Robes, Habit Bell, Robe de Coure, and Levites, different kinds, all in the most genteel and approved manner, and on the most reasonable terms.”
In the same year, the signboard of James and Francis Jeffrey, father and uncle of Lord Jeffrey, still hung in the Lawnmarket.
10 thoughts on “Chapter 33 – Alleys of the High Street (concluded)., pp.274-282.”