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Chapter 46 – East Side of the North Bridge (concluded)., pp.359-363.

The Old Orphan Hospital – Its Foundation, Object, and Removal – Lady Glenorchy’s Chapel – Her Disputes with the Presbytery – Dr. Snell Jones – Demolition of the Chapel and School – Old Physic Gardens Formed – The Gardens – Sir Andrew Balfour – James Sutherland – Inundated in 1689 – Sutherland’s Efforts to Improve the Gardens – Professor Hope.


ABOUT 100 feet east of the bridge, and the same distance south of the theatre which Whitefield to his dismay saw built in the park of the Orphan Hospital, stood the latter edifice, the slender, pointed spire of which was a conspicuous object in this quarter of the city. 

A hospital for the maintenance and education of orphan children was originally designed by Mr. Andrew Gardiner, merchant, and some other citizens, in 1732. The suggestion met with the approval of the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, then located in what was anciently named Bassandyne’s Close; and it was moreover assisted by liberal subscriptions and collections at the church doors. At first a house was hired, and thirty orphans placed in it. According to Maitland, in November, 1733, the hospital was founded; it stood 340 feet north-west of the Trinity College Church, and in its formation a part of the burial ground attached to the latter was used.

In 1738 the Town Council granted the hospital a seal of cause, and in 1742 they obtained royal letters patent creating it a corporation, by which most of the Scottish officers of State, and the heads of different societies in Edinburgh, are constituent members. This charity is so extensive in its benevolence, that children from any part of the British Empire have the right of admission, so far as the funds will admit – indigence, and the number of children in a poor family being the best title to it. 

None, however are admitted under the age of seven, or retained after they are past fourteen at that time of life the managers are seldom at a loss to dispose of them, “the young folks,” says Arnot, “choosing to follow trades, and the public entertaining so good an opinion of the manner in which they have been brought up, that manufacturers and others are very ready to take them into their employment. There are about,” he adds, in 1779, “one hundred orphans maintained in this hospital.”

This number was increased in 1781, when Mr. Thomas Tod, merchant in Edinburgh, became treasurer. It was then greatly enlarged for the better accommodation of the children, “and to enable them to perform a variety of work, from the produce of which the expenses of their education and maintenance were lessened, and healthy and cheerful exercise furnished, suitable to their years.” 

“It is remarkable,” says Kincaid, “that from January, 1784, to January, 1787, out of from 130 to 140 young children not one has died. A particular account of the rise, progress, present state, and intended enlargement of this hospital was published by the treasurer (Mr. Tod), wherein is a print of the elevation, with two wings, which the managers intend to build so soon as the funds will permit, when there will be room for 200 orphans.” 

In its slender spire hung two bells, and therein also stood the ancient clock of the Netherbow Port, now in use at the Dean. 

The revenues were inconsiderable, and it was chiefly supported by benefactions and collections made at the churches in the city. Howard, the philanthropist, who visited it more than once, and made himself acquainted with the constitution and management of this hospital, acknowledged it to be one of the best and most useful charities in Europe. A portrait of him hangs in the new Orphan Hospital at the Dean, the old building we have described having been removed in 1845 by the operations of the North British Railway, and consequently being now a thing of the past, like the chapel of Lady Glenorchy, which shared the same fate at the same time. 

This edifice stood in the low ground, between the Orphan Hospital and the Trinity College Church, about 300 feet eastward of the north arch of the Bridge. 

Wilhelmina Maxwell, Viscountess Dowager of John Viscount Glenorchy, who was a kind of Scottish Countess of Huntingdon in her day, was the foundress of this chapel, which was a plain, lofty stone building, but neatly fitted up within with two great galleries, that ran round the sides of the edifice, and was long a conspicuous object to all who crossed the Bridge. It was seated for 2,000 persons, and the middle was appropriated to the poor, who sat there gratis to the number of some hundreds. “Whether,” says Arnot, “before Lady Glenorchy founded this institution there were churches sufficient for accommodating the inhabitants we shall not pretend to determine. Such, indeed, is the demand for seats, and so little are they occupied when obtained, that we are tempted to conclude the genteeler part of the congregations in Edinburgh deem the essential duties of religion to be concentrated in holding and paying rent for so many feet square in the inside of a church.” 

Lady Glenorchy, whom Kincaid describes as “a young lady eminent for good sense and every accomplishment that could give dignity to her rank, and for the superior piety which made her conspicuous as a Christian,” in 1772 feued a piece of ground from the managers of the Orphan Hospital, at a yearly duty of £15, on which she built her chapel, of which (following the example of Lady Yester in another part of the city) she retained the patronage, and the entire management with herself, and certain persons appointed by her. 

In the following year she executed a deed, which declared that the managers of the Orphan Hospital should have liberty (upon asking it in proper time) to employ a preacher occasionally in her chapel, if it was not otherwise employed, and to apply the collections made on these occasions in behalf of the hospital. On the edifice being finished, she addressed the following letter to the Moderator of the Presbytery of Edinburgh:- 

“Edin., April 25th, 1774. 
   “REVEREND SIR, – It is a general complaint that the churches of this city which belong to the Establishment are not proportioned to the number of inhabitants. Many who are willing to pay for seats cannot obtain them; and no space is left for the poor, but the remotest areas, where few of those who find room to stand can get within hearing of any ordinary voice. I have thought it my duty to employ part of that substance with which God has been pleased to entrust me in building a chapel within the Orphan House Park, in which a considerable number of our communion who at present are altogether unprovided may enjoy the benefit of the same ordinances which are dispensed in the parish churches, and where I hope to have the pleasure of accommodating some hundreds of poor people who have long been shut out from one of the best and to some of them the only means of instruction in the principles of our holy religion. 
   “The chapel will soon be ready to receive a congregation, and it is my intention to have it supplied with a minister of approved character and abilities, who will give sufficient security for his soundness in the faith and loyalty to Government. 
   “It will give me pleasure to be informed that the Presbytery approve of my design, and that it will be agreeable to them that I should ask occasional supply from such ministers and probationers as I am acquainted with, till a congregation be formed and supplied with a stated minister. – I am, Rev. Sir, &c. 

The Presbytery being fully  convinced not only of the piety of her intentions, but the utility of having an additional place of worship in the city, unanimously approved of the design, and in May, 1774, her chapel was opened by the Rev. Robert Walker of the High Church, and Dr. John Erskine of the Greyfriars; but a number of clergy were by no means friendly to the erection of this chapel in any way, on the plea that the footing on which it was admitted into connection with the Church was not sufficiently explicit, and eventually they brought the matter before the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. Lady Glenorchy acquainted the Presbytery, in 1775, that she intended to place in the chapel an English dissenting preacher named Grove. The Presbytery wrote, that though they approved of her piety, they could give no countenance whatever to a minister who was not a member of the Church of Scotland; and Mr. Grove foreseeing a contest, declined the charge, and now ensued a curious controversy. 

Lady Glenorchy again applied to the Presbytery, wishing as incumbent the Rev. Mr. Balfour, then minister of Lecroft; but he, with due respect for the Established Church and its authority, declined to leave his pastoral charge until he was assured that the Presbytery of the city would instal him in the chapel. The latter approved of her selection, but declined the installation, unless there was a regular “call” from the congregation, and security given that the offerings at the chapel were never to be under the administration of the managers of the charity workhouse. 

With this decision she declined to comply, and wrote, “That the chapel was her own private property, and had never been intended to be put on the footing of the Establishment, nor connected with it as a chapel of ease to the city of Edinburgh: That having built it at her own expense, she was entitled to name the minister: That, with respect to the offerings, everybody knew that she had appointed trustees for the management of them, and that those who were not pleased with this mode of administration might dispose of their alms elsewhere; adding that she had once and again sent part of these offerings to the treasurer of the charity workhouse.” 

A majority of the Presbytery now voted her reply satisfactory, agreed to instal her minister, and that he should be in communion with the Established Church. “Thus,” says Arnot, who seems antagonistic to the founders, “did the Presbytery give every mark of countenance, and almost every benefit arising from the Established Church, while this institution was not subject to their jurisdiction; while they dispensed with the ‘moderation of the call,’ a form about which they stickle zealously, if by it they could get a minister presented by the legal patron to be rejected; while they did not insist upon the stipend being properly secured; while they agreed to permit Lady Glenorchy to dispose without control, upon those pious offerings which should have been applied towards the support of the charity workhouse; while they, in fact, eluded that right of patronage over all churches in this city, holding communion with the Established ministers which is vested in the magistrates of Edinburgh; and while they had no power to depose from the benefice in this chapel the minister installed by them in case of his errors in life or doctrine!” 

To avoid unpleasantness, Mr. Balfour, like Mr. Grove, declined the charge. 

It was now that the matter came before the Synod, which not only gave judgment in the matter, but forbade all ministers of probationers within their bounds to preach in this unlucky chapel, or to employ the minister of it in any capacity. From this sentence the Presbytery of Edinburgh appealed to the next General Assembly of the Church, which reversed it, and restored the chapel to all the privileges it had enjoyed by the countenance and protection of the Presbytery. 

In 1776 Lady Glenorchy invited Dr. Thomas Snell Jones, a Wesleyan Methodist, to accept the charge of her chapel, and after being ordained to the office of pastor by the Scottish Presbytery of London he became settled as incumbent on the 25th of July, 1779, and from that date continued to labour as such, until about three years before his death, which occurred on the 3rd of March, 1837, a period of nearly fifty-eight years. 

He preached the funeral sermon on the demise of Lady Glenorchy on the 17th July, 1786, in her forty-fourth year. She was buried, by her own desire, in a vault in the centre of the chapel. By a settlement made some time before her death, she endowed the latter with a school which was built near it. Therein, a hundred poor children were taught to read and write. It was managed by trustees, with instructions which secure its perpetuity. Lady Glenorchy’s Free Church school is now at Greenside. 

In 1792 Dr. Jones had as a colleague, Dr. Greville Ewing, afterwards editor of The Missionary Magazine (started in Edinburgh), and minister of the Congregational church in Glasgow. 

In 1828, on the 8th of June – the fiftieth year of his ministry being complete – a hundred gentlemen, connected with Lady Glenorchy’s chapel, entertained Dr. Jones at a banquet given in his honour at the Waterloo Tavern, and presented him “with an elegant silver vase, as a tribute of the respect and esteem which the people entertained for the uniform uprightness of his conduct during the long period they had enjoyed his ministry.” 

Lady Glenorchy’s chapel and school were alike demolished in 1845, as stated. The former, as a foundation, is now in Roxburgh Place, as a chapel in connection with the Establishment. “It has now a quoad sacra district attached to it,” says Fullarton’s Gazetteer; “the charge in 1835 was collegiate. There is attached to the chapel a school attended by 100 or 120 poor children.” 

In the same quiet and secluded hollow, overlooked by the Trinity Church and Hospital, the Orphan Hospital, and the Glenorchy Chapel – in the very bed of what was once the old loch, and where now prevail all the bustle and uproar of one of the most confused of railway termini, and where, ever and anon, the locomotive sends up its shriek to waken the echoes of the Calton rocks or the enormous masses of the Post-office buildings, and those which flank the vast Roman-like span of the Regent Bridge – lay the old Physic Gardens, for the creation of which Edinburgh was indebted to one or two of her eminent physicians in the seventeenth century. 

They extended between the New Port at the foot of Halkerston’s Wynd, i.e., from the east side of the north bridge to the garden of the Trinity College Hospital, which Lord Cockburn describes as being “about a hundred feet square; but it is only turf surrounded by a gravel walk. An old thorn, and an old elm, destined never to be in leaf again, tell of old springs and old care. And there is a wooden summer house, which has heard many an old man’s crack, and seen the sun soften many an old man’s wrinkles.” 

In Gordon of Rothiemay’s view this particular garden (now among the things that were) is shown as extending from the foot of Halkerston’s Wynd to the west gable of the Trinity Hospital, and northward in a line with the tower of the church. 

From the New Port, the Physic Garden, occupying much of that we have described, lay north across the valley, to where a path between hedgerows led to the Orphan Hospital. It is thus shown in Edgar’s plan, in 1765. 

It owed its origin to Sir Andrew Balfour, the son of Sir Michael Balfour of Denmylne. An eminent physician and botanist, he was born in 1630, graduated in medicine at St. Andrews, prosecuted his medical studies under the famous Harvey in London, after which he visited Blois, to see the celebrated botanical garden of the Duke de Guise, then kept by his countryman Dr. Robert Morison, author of the “Hortus Regius Bloisensis,” and afterwards, in 1669, professor of botany at Oxford. 

In 1667 Balfour commenced to practise as a physician in St. Andrews, but in 1670 he removed to Edinburgh, where among other improvements he introduced the manufacture of paper into Scotland. Having a small botanical garden attached to his house, and chiefly furnished with rare seeds sent by his foreign correspondents, he raised there many plants never before seen in Scotland. His friend and botanical pupil, Mr. Patrick Murray of Livingstone, had formed at his seat a botanic garden containing fully a thousand specimens of plants; and after his death Dr. Balfour transferred the whole of this collection to Edinburgh, and, joining it to his own, laid the foundation of the first botanic garden in Scotland, for which the magistrates allotted him a part of the Trinity garden, and then, through the patronage of Sir Robert Sibbald, the eminent physician and naturalist, Mr. James Sutherland, an experienced botanist, was appointed head-gardener. 

After this Balfour was created a baronet by Charles II. He was the first who introduced the dissection of the human body into Scotland; he planned the present Royal College of Physicians, projected the great hospital now known as the Royal Infirmary; and died full of honours in 1694, bequeathing his museum to the university. 

It was in September, 1676, that he placed the superintending of the Physic Garden under James Sutherland, who was by profession a gardener, but of whose previous history little is known. “By his own industry,” says Sir Robert Sibbald, “he obtained to great knowledge of plants,” and seems to have been one of those self-made men of whom Scotland has produced so many of whom she may well be proud. In 1683 he published his “Hortus Medicus Edinburgensis, or a catalogue of the plants in the Physic Gardens at Edinburgh, containing the most proper Latin and English names,” dedicated to the Lord Provost, Sir George Drummond. In his little garden in the valley of the North Loch he taught the science of herbs to the students of medicine for small fees, receiving no other encouragement than a salary of £20 from the city, which did not suffice to pay rent and servants’ wages, to say nothing of the cost of new plants, so difficult to procure in those non-travelling times. 

In the spring of 1689, during the siege of the Castle, a woeful mishap befell him. For certain strategic reasons it had been thought necessary by Sir John Lanier and other leaders to drain the North Loch, and, as the water thereof ran through the Botanic Gardens, as it had done of old through that of the Hospital, it came to pass that for several days the place was completely inundated, and when left dry was found to be covered with mud, and the rubbish of the city drains, so that nearly all the delicate and costly plants collected by Balfour, by Sibbald, and by Sutherland, were destroyed; and it cost the latter and his assistants nearly a whole season to clear the ground, and in his distress he appealed to the Privy Council.

That body considered his memorial, and the good services he was rendering, “whereby not only the young physicians, apothecaries, and chirurgeons, but also the nobility and gentry, are taught the knowledge of herbs, and also a multitude of plants, shrubs, and trees, are cultivated, which were never known in this nation before, and more numerous,” continues the Privy Council Record, “than in any other garden in Britain, as weel for the honour of the place as for the advantage of the people.” They therefore awarded him a pension of £50 yearly out of the fines accruing to them. 

Encouraged by this, and further aided by the Lords of the Scottish Treasury, James Sutherland, in 1695, extended his operations to a piece of ground lying between the porch of Holyrood palace and the old road to Restalrig, near where the great dial stands now, where in that year he raised “a good crop of melons,” and many “other curious annuals, fine flowers, and other plants not ordinary to this country.” In a few years he hoped to rival London, if supplied with means to procure “reed hedges to divide, shelter, and lay the ground ‘lown,’ and warm, and a greenhouse and store to preserve oranges, myrtles, and lemons, with other tender plants and fine exotics in winter.” He entreated the Lords of Council to further aid him, “without which the work must cease, and the petitioner suffer in reputation and interest, what he is doing being more for the honour of the nation, and the ornament and use of his majesty’s palace, than his own private behoof.” 

This place remained still a garden ground till about the time of Queen Victoria’s first visit, when the new north approach to the palace was run through it. 

James Sutherland is supposed to have died about 1705, when his collection of Greek, Roman, Scottish, Saxon, and English coins and medals, was purchased by the Faculty of Advocates, and is still preserved in their library. 

The old Physic Garden, which had been his own, eastward of the bridge, continued to be used as such till the time when the chair of botany was occupied by Dr. John Hope, who was born at Edinburgh in 1725, and was the grandson of Sir Alexander Hope, Lord Rankeillor. On the 13th April, 1761, he was appointed king’s botanist for Scotland, and elected a few days after, by the town council, Professor of materia medica, and of botany. He was the first who introduced into Scotland the Linnæan system; and in 1768 he resigned the professorship of materia medica, that, in the end, he might devote himself exclusively to botany, and his exertions in promoting the study of it in Edinburgh were attended with the most beneficial results. His immediate predecessor, Dr. Alston, was violently opposed to the Linnæan system, against which he published an essay in 1751. 

It was in the humble garden near the Trinity College that he taught his students, and, for the purpose of exciting emulation among them, he annually, towards the close of the session, gave a beautiful medal to the student who had displayed most diligence and zeal in his studies. It was inscribed – “Acedro hysopum usque. J. HOPE, Bot. Prof., dat…” In Kay’s portraits we have a clever etching of the Professor superintending his gardeners, in a roquelaure and cocked hat. Besides some useful manuals for facilitating the acquisition of botany by his students, two valuable dissertations by him, the one on the “Rheum Palmatum,” and the other on the “Ferula Assafætida,” were published by him in the “Philosophical Transactions.” 

Finding that the ancient garden was unsuited to advancing science, he used every exertion to have it removed to a more favourable situation. To further his objects the Lords of the Treasury granted him, says Arnot, “£1,330 1s. 2 ½d. to make it, and for its annual support the sum of £69 3s. At the same time the magistrates and town council granted the sum of £25 annually for paying the rent of the ground.” 

The place chosen was on the west side of Leith Walk. It was laid out under the eye of Professor Hope, who died in November, 1786. After the formation of the new garden, the old one was completely abandoned about 1770, and continued to be a species of desolate waste ground, enclosed by a rusty iron railing, with here and there an old tree dying of neglect and decay, till at length innovations swept it away. 

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