Leith, pp.235-249.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   LEITH, a district suburban to Edinburgh, lying between it and the frith of Forth, and comprising its port, some outskirts of its streets, part of its parliamentary territory, and a considerable portion of its environs. Parochially, Leith is divided, quoad civilia, into North Leith and South Leith, and quoad sacra, into the additional parishes of Newhaven, St. Thonas’, and St. John’s. NEWHAVEN will be noticed in a separate article. 

   NORTH LEITH is bounded on the north by the frith of Forth; on the east and south-east by the Water of Leith, which divides it from South Leith; and on the south and west by St. Cuthbert’s. It is of an oblong form lying east and west; measures about 1½ mile in length by half-a-mile of extreme breadth; and has an area of only about 270 acres. Its surface is level, or very slightly variegated; and, with the exception of some garden grounds, and a few fields, is all covered by villas, by the villages of Newhaven and Hillhouse-field, and by the town of North Leith. Between North Leith and Newhaven, the coast has, to a considerable breadth, been washed away by the frith, and has received the aid of a very powerful bulwark of stone to protect it from further loss. In the year 1595, the links of North Leith, lying along the coast, were let at an annual rent of 6 merks, while those of South Leith were let at a rent of 30; so that they must then have been one-fifth of the extent of the latter, or nearly ¼ of a mile long, and two or three hundred yards in breadth. For many years, however, they have entirely disappeared; and what must formerly have been an expansive and beautiful plain, is now an irreclaimable waste, regularly flooded by the tide, and displaying at low water a thick aspersion of stones and pebbles washed completely free from mould or soil. The population of the parish, in 1801, was 3,228; in 1831, 7,416. Houses, in 1831, 448. According to an ecclesiastical survey in 1835, it was then 7,559; of whom 4,758 nominally belonged to the Establishment, 2,383 were known to belong to other denominations, and 418 were not known to profess connexion with any religious body. The parish-church was built in 1815-16. Sittings 1,768. Stipend £285 9s.; glebe, including sums derived from fees and rents, £394 16s. 4d. Two missionaries maintained by the parochial mission of North and South Leith, and salaried at £50 each, labour in the districts respectively of Newhaven and Hillhouse-field, and of Coalhill, Brigend, and adjacent places. – An United Secession congregation in the parish was established in 1816, and erected a place of worship in 1819. Sittings 1,100. Stipend £280. – North Leith, previous to the Reformation, belonged partly to the parish of Holyrood-house, and partly to that of St. Cuthbert’s. The port of Inverleith, as it was then called, the village of Newhaven and the adjacent fields, which jointly constituted the St. Cuthbert’s portion, were, along with one-half of the fishery, given by David I. to the monks of Holyrood. A chapel, in the reign of James IV., was built in North Leith by Robert Bellenden, abbot of Holyrood, endowed by him, and dedicated to St. Ninian. This chapel continued subordinate to the abbey till the Reformation; but, along with the chaplain’s house, the tithes, and other pertinents, it was, after that event, purchased by the inhabitants from John Bothwell, the commendator of Holyrood. The spirited purchasers immediately rebuilt both the place of worship and the parsonage; and, in 1606, obtained an act of parliament erecting the district into a parish. In 1630, the commissioners for teinds and plantation of kirks added Newhaven and the rest of the area which had belonged to St. Cuthbert’s. ln 1633, the parish, thus enlarged, was annexed to the episcopate of Edinburgh. Anciently an hospital and a chapel, dedicated to St. Nicholas, stood on the site of the Citadel; and they are commemorated in the name of the alley called St. Nicholas’-wynd. North Leith is in the presbytery of Edinburgh, and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. Patrons, the heads of families. In 1834, there were 16 schools; one of them parochial, conducted by a master and an assistant; and attended by a maximum of 63 scholars; and 15 non-parochial, conducted by 18 teachers, and attended by a maximum of 1,033 scholars. Parish schoolmaster’s salary £21, with about £8 fees, and £40 arising from the offices of recorder and session-clerk. Assessed property, in 1815, £15,415. 

   SOUTH LEITH is bounded on the north-east by the frith of Forth; on the south by Duddingston and Canongate; and on the west by some parishes of the Royalty of Edinburgh, and by St. Cuthbert’s and North Leith. It is nearly triangular in form; measures 2½ miles on the north-east side, 2¾ on the south side, and 1¾ on the west side; and has an area of about 1,200 acres. The boundary is traced for some way with Duddingston by the Fishwive’s-causeway; it then passes nearly along the road between Edinburgh and Portobello till past Jock’s Lodge; it next makes a projecting sweep so as to include Parson’s-green; and after skirting Arthur’s-seat and the King’s-park it runs along the north back of Canongate, debouches through Low Calton, goes down Leith-walk till nearly opposite the mansion of Pilrig, and then moves due westward in a zigzag line to the Water of Leith, and follows that stream to the sea. The parish thus includes, besides its landward districts, Calton-hill, parts of Calton and Canongate, Abbey-hill, Norton-place, the east side of Leith-walk, Jock’s Lodge, Restalrig, and the whole town of South Leith. Except on Calton-hill the soil, not occupied by buildings, is all susceptible of high cultivation, and has had imposed on it dresses of utility and ornament in keeping with its close vicinity to the metropolis. Irrigated and very fertile meadows, green and beautiful esplanades laid out as promenading-grounds, neat, tidy, and extensive nurseries, and elegant fruit, flower, and vegetable gardens, combine, with a few corn-fields, and the little lake of Lochend, and a profusion of odoriferous enclosures, and a rich sprinkling of villas and their attendant flower-plots, to render the open or unedified area eminently attractive. The east corner is part of the lands formerly called the Figgate Whins, notable alike for their having been abandoned to barrenness, disposed of for almost a nominal compensation, and georgically worked into fertility. The built districts, which are compact with the metropolis, have been noticed in the description of EDINBURGH. Separate articles are devoted also to CALTON-HILL, JOCK’S LODGE, LOCHEND, and RESTALRIG. The mansions and villas are so numerous that to notice all would be tedious, and to notice a few would be invidious. The beach, all the way from South Leith to the eastern boundary, is not a little attractive to sea-bathers; a tine clean sandy bottom, – an inclination or slope quite gentle enough to assure the most timid, – and a limpid roll, or ripple, or burnished face of water, the very look of which is luxury on a summer’s day. Population of the parish, in 1801, 12,044; in 1831, 18,439. Houses 1,443. Assessed property, in 1815, £29,048. – The parish is a collegiate charge in the presbytery of Edinburgh, and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. Patron of the first charge, the Crown; of the second, the kirk-session and the incorporations. Stipend of the first minister £395 19s. 11d., with a glebe worth £80, and an allowance of £80 for a manse; of the second minister £247 1s. 2d. Unappropriated teinds £636 2s. 4d. The parish-church is of unascertained antiquity, but is supposed by Maitland, in his history of Edinburgh, to have been built prior to the year 1492; and it has undergone no alteration within the memory of man, except the removal, in 1791, of a gallery which stood across a window, and obstructed the light. Sittings 1,347. Three missionaries, maintained by the United parochial mission, salaried at £50 each, and all licentiates of the Establishment, officiated, in 1835, at five preaching-stations, – respectively in Restalrig, Burns-street, the Charity school-house, Lawrie’s-close, and Broad-wynd. Two missionaries, maintained by the Leith town-mission, but unsanctioned by the Establishment ministers, also laboured in the parish. The dissenting congregations of the parish are eight. The Episcopalian congregation of St. James’ chapel was established about 115 years ago [1732]; and received, 41 years ago, an accession of a non-juring congregation of an earlier date. The chapel was built in 1805, at the expense of about £1,600. Sittings 380. Stipend £200. The minister holds a service every Sabbath morning at Piershill-barracks. – The Wesleyan Methodist congregation was established some years previous to 1818. Their place of worship was, along with three or four attached houses, built in that year at an expense of £5,000; but was afterwards contracted in its accommodation. Sittings 400. Stipend £120. – The United Secession congregation of Kirkgate was established in 1775. Sittings in their place of worship 1,025. Stipend £260. The Independent congregation was formed in 1805, and their chapel was built in 1826, at a cost of £2,000. Sittings 520. Stipend £100. – The Relief congregation’s place of worship was built in 1825. Sittings 1,230. Stipend £210. – A congregation in Storey’s-alley, calling itself Independent, was commenced in 1832. The meeting-house is the property of the United Secession congregation of the Links, was built 54 years ago, and is rented for £18. Sittings 660. Stipend £50. – The United Secession congregation of the Links was formed about the year 1786; and their present place of worship was erected about 14 years ago. Sittings 1,254. Stipend £262. – The Separatist congregation was established in 1818, and assembles for worship in a Mason-lodge in Constitution-court, rented at £2 12s. Sittings from 200 to 300. No stipend. – An ecclesiastical census of 1835, including St. John’s quoad sacra parish, and a small district, included in the quoad sacra parish of Portobello, showed the population then to be 15,792; of whom 7,423 belonged to the Establishment, 7,360 belonged to other denominations, and 1,609 were not known to belong to any religious body. – In 1834 26 schools, all non-parochial, were conducted by 26 teachers, and attended by a maximum of 1,815 scholars, and a minimum of 1,489. 

   The ancient seat and name of the parish of South Leith was Restalrig. In 1214 Thomas de Restalric, or Restalrig, made a grant of some tenements which he describes as situated “southward of the High-street,” probably the present Leith-walk, “between Edinburgh and Leith;” and, in conformity with the usage of the period, he perhaps had a church on the manor, from which he took his name. A church, with parochial jurisdiction, existed at Restalrig, at all events, in 1296; for, in that year, Adam of St. Edmunds, “parson of Restelric,” swore fealty to Edward I., and had a precept for the delivery of all his rights. During the reign of Robert I. the Logans obtained possession of the manor and the advowson; and they continued to exercise the power of both barons and patrons till the commencement of the 17th century, when they suffered forfeiture for participation in Gowrie’s conspiracy. A collegiate establishment was organized in the church; but it does not seem to have interfered with the patronage. The establishment was set up by James III. and at first included only a dean and canon, supported by the revenue of the parish-church of Lasswade; in 1512 it received from James IV. the addition of six prebendaries supported by the revenues of the parsonage of St. Mary of Rothesay, by a rent of £20 from the King’s new works in Leith, and by the chapelry of St. Trednan’s isle, which had been erected in Restalrig church; and in 1515 it got from James V., the accession of two singing boys, and the grant of the ten pound lands of the parish of Kirkhill, and some rents and tenements in Canongate. A chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and situated in the town of South Leith, preceded, for probably a century, the origin of the collegiate establishment; and was enriched with many donations and annuities for the support, within it, of altars or chaplainries dedicated to St. Peter, St. Barbara, and probably other saints. To this chapel – the choir of which was destroyed in 1544 by the English invaders under the Earl of Hertford – the General Assembly of 1560 drove the parishioners, by dooming the parish and collegiate church to destruction as a monument of idolatry. The revenues of the chaplainries or altarages were now appropriated for the support of the reformed ministers, and half-a-century later, or in 1609, the chapel of St. Mary was constituted by act of parliament the parish-church, and invested with all the revenues and pertinents of Restalrig. The cemetery of the ancient church continues to be in use for the dead, and the walls and area of the chapel for the living. –  A canonry or preceptory of religious knights, called canons of St. Anthony, and the only establishment of its class in Scotland, was, in 1435, founded in the town by Robert Logan of Restalrig. The canons were brought from St. Anthony of Vienne in France, the seat of their order; and they followed the rule of St. Augustine. They had, on the south-west corner of the alley which was named from them St. Anthony’s-wynd, a church, a cemetery, a monastery, and gardens; they possessed various lands, tenements, and rents about Edinburgh and Leith; they got a grant of the church of Hales, in East Lothian; and they obtained a right to a Scottish quart of every tun of wine which was imported into Leith. In 1614 the preceptory was suppressed; its right of wine was transferred to the magistrates for the uses of the town; and all its other rights and possessions were given to the kirk-session for endowing a benevolent establishment under the name of King James’ hospital. Not a vestige of the buildings now remains, except some old vaults. But the seal of the convent – exhibiting St. Anthony habited in a hermit’s mantle, with a book in one hand, a staff in the other, a belled sow at his foot, and a cross over his head, and bearing the legend, “S. Commune Preceptoriae Sancti Anthonii Prope Leicht,” – is preserved in the Advocates. library. 

    ST. JOHN’S OF LEITH was, in 1834, divided from the parish of South Leith by the General Assembly. It is a town parish ¾ of a mile long, and ¼ of a mile broad. According to the minister’s survey, in 1835, its population consisted then of 1,497 churchmen, 1,290 dissenters, and 148 nondescripts, – in all, 2,935 persons. The church was built in 1770, as a chapel-of-ease, and has at various periods been repaired. Sittings 1,000. Stipend £250, with a manse worth £18.

    ST. THOMAS’ OF LEITH, was erected into a quoad sacra parish by the General Assembly of 1840. The church was gifted to the Establishment by John Gladstone, Esq., of Fasque; and is a remarkable and solitary instance of a place of worship, in reformed Scotland, having had the power of patronage imposed on it by the sole deed of an ecclesiastical court. The same General Assembly which made boldest of all demonstrations in support of a veto upon presentations, and which preceded a stirring movement in demand of the abolition of all patronage, took St. Thomas’ church into its communion, and invested it with quoad sacra parochial jurisdiction, on the admitted and stipulated ground that the election of its minister should be patronial! In February, 1841, Mr. Gladstone presented a minister to the charge.

   LEITH, the sea-port of Edinburgh, a parliamentary burgh, and a populous and important town, stands, as to its proper or assigned boundaries, from ¾ to 1¾ mile north of Edinburgh, – as to its street-lines and edificed area, connected with Edinburgh by the long street called Leith-walk, and extensively built on both sides, – and as to parochial territory, intermingled with Edinburgh, as regards both the metropolis edificed area and its parliamentary burgh. The limits of Leith, as a town, were, previous to 1827, quite uncertain. What popularly bore the name, comprehended the barony of South Leith, part of North Leith connected with the burgh of Canongate, the regality of citadel belonging to the corporation of Edinburgh, and the bailiary of St. Anthony’s, belonging to the kirk-session of South Leith. In 1827, the boundaries were adjusted by a statute providing for the municipal government of the town and suburbs; and, generally speaking, were, Seafield tollbar on the east, the frith of Forth on the north, the stone-bridge at Leith-mills on the west, and the foot of Leith-walk on the south. This territory was to be called ‘The Town of Leith.’ More extensive boundaries were assigned by the 2d and 3d Will. IV., cap. 65; and, in a general view, these are the frith on the north, a line from Lochend to the frith on the east, the middle of Leith-walk on the south, and Wardie-burn on the west. The burgh, if it filled this territory strictly as a town, would vie with the metropolis in extent; for, in that case, it would be a town of 7 furlongs in breadth from north to south, and of 2½ miles or upwards in length from east to west. The limits include all the parish of North Leith, with, of course, the large suburb and separate harbour of Newhaven, – a portion of St. Cuthbert’s, about equal in extent to North Leith parish, – and very nearly one-third of the parish of South Leith. Viewed apart from arbitrary allocations, and regarded simply as a compact field of streets and houses, Leith, with the addition of its portion of Leith-walk and of some small suburban and straggling extensions, measures about ¾ of a mile in length, and, at its broadest part, half-a-mile in breadth, – the length being parallel with the frith. 

   The site of the town is disadvantageous for the purposes at once of the port, the police, and the artist, – affording indifferent accommodations and capacities for a harbour, poor facilities for the drainage and cleaning of the streets, and little scope for the imposing or agreeable intersectioning of thoroughfares, or location of public buildings. An expanse of low ground, generally as level as a bowling-green, receding from a flat sandy beach, which is left dry by the ebbing tide over a mile’s breadth from high-water mark, could not, by even surpassing skill, be made the arena of either a picturesque town, or a very prosperous and facile port. The water of Leith, indeed, bisects the dreary level, or the insensibly descending slope; but it is here a sluggish, and, at most seasons, an inconsiderable stream, having scarcely power enough to carry its own freight of alluvium into the sea, and no capacity for sweeping tidily away the drainings of a large town, or bringing boldly up into its recess a deep flood, or a sufficient sea-room of ship-bearing tide. The town, like its cognominal parochial territory, is cut by this rivulet into the divisions of North Leith and South Leith. A stone-bridge, built by Robert Ballendean, abbot of Holyrood, to afford the inhabitants on the east side access to the chapel which he erected in North Leith, was, for a long period, the only medium of connexion between the two divisions. This venerable bridge having been at length removed, its place was supplied by two wooden drawbridges, which, besides doubling the facility of communication, admit the entrance and the egress of vessels on the bosom of the tide. On the southern outskirts of the town, too, a handsome stone-bridge was, several years ago, erected over the river, to carry a thoroughfare from the foot of Leith-walk direct into North Leith. Seen from any of the high grounds of Edinburgh, or even closely examined in a walk round its own immediate environs, the town appears to be, if not picturesque, at least neat, showy, in some places beautiful, and in others eminently elegant. But, with some not very trivial exceptions, it is a field of waste lands and manure plots, with the enclosures and approaches of a garden, – a confused arena of filthy alleys and squalid lanes, and dingy streets, – encinctured with a broad belt of gay and attractive buildings. North Leith, which contains the docks, and anciently comprehended the citadel and the chief seat of traffic, was of old a congeries of low houses, huddled into groups or irregular lines, and straddling their way among nuisance in front and in rear, very much in the style of a Portuguese or Spanish town of the present day. But within the last thirty years, and particularly since about 1818, it has undergone great and renovating changes; and besides being disencumbered of the ungainly citadel and a crowd of pauper tenements which cowered slothfully in the vicinity, it now presents toward the south and the west some entirely new streets, which vie in elegance with those of the second-rate parts of the New Town of Edinburgh. Leith-walk, which, in consequence of its connecting thoroughfare along the new bridge with North Leith, may be viewed as common to the two divisions of the town, though in its own direct northward course it leads right into the principal thoroughfares of South Leith, – this spacious and beautiful street, so far as it belongs to Leith, is even more attractive than in its Edinburgh portion, rising in a gentle, almost imperceptible, and very regular ascent, – alternately edificed with neat houses or splendid mansions, and ruralized with nursery-grounds, or openings to the fields, – and commanding, over all its length, one of the most superb views of Arthur’s-seat and the Calton-hill, and the waving surface and outline of Edinburgh. Diverging a little eastward from the foot of Leith-walk, a brief thoroughfare leads the way into Leith-links. This is a beautiful grassy plain of nearly a mile in length from west to east, and of very considerable breadth, used as the play-ground of a company of golfers, and as the bleaching-ground and public promenade of the inhabitants of the town. On its east side, it is skirted by some fine fields and pleasure-grounds, and looks up an agreeable ridgy slope which intervenes, to the ancient village of Restalrig; on its south side, it has a rugged and rather picturesque frame-work of varied scenery, partly urban, and partly seaward; and on its south and west sides, it is edificed with rows of private houses, and in two or three instances mottled with public edifices, which would be as harmonious with the immediate outskirts of Edinburgh, as they are highly ornamental to those of Leith. Immediately behind the west side of the Links, but with the intervention of some brief and limited streets and places, modern in structure, and of fair appearance. Constitution-street leads down toward the sea from Leith-walk, and, at its termination, sends off Bernard-street westward, to communicate with the quay near the beach. Both of these streets are modern and spacious, generally well-edificed, and in some places handsome. Somewhat parallel with Constitution-street, going off, like it, in continuation of Leith-walk, and forming with it at the point of plunging into the town a very acute angle, is Kirkgate, – a street containing many modern houses, but in general, orientally narrow, and looking foully like a street of Lisbon. From the foot of Kirkgate, a thoroughfare more disagreeable still, and bearing the dreary, but not inexpressive name, of Tolbooth-wynd, goes off westward to the quay, at a point south of the termination of Bernard-street. This wynd and Kirkgate are noticeable chiefly from their having anciently formed the outlet from the quay to the country, and the path of communication between the metropolis and the harbour. The quay is the most ancient part of the town; and, apart from its accommodation for vessels, consists of a terrace or one-sided street, curiously and antiquely varied in the appearance of its houses, and winding paralleled with the river for about half-a-mile from the shore. From this terrace, alleys and lanes diverge eastward, to be crossed and chequered with narrow thoroughfares connecting them, and to form with these the great body of the town, or at least the seat of by far the greater part of its population. But one broad daub with the brush will give a picture of them all, – “they are, for the most part, irregularly and confusedly built,” – and are “extremely filthy, crowded, and inelegant.” 

   The Exchange buildings, erected at the cost of £16,000, and situated at the foot of Constitution-street, are a large and elegant structure in the Grecian style of architecture, three stories high, ornamented with Ionic pillars, and containing a hotel, a spacious assembly-room, and a commodious public news-room. The whole pile and its accommodations, while they showily adorn the town, rather display the taste and public spirit of a few individuals, than indicate the amount of the town’s prosperity, or the range of its commercial importance. – The Custom-house, built in 1812, at the cost of £12,000, and situated at the North Leith, or west end of the lower drawbridge, is a noble edifice, likewise in the Grecian style, and adorned in front with pillars and pediment. – The new Court-house, built at the expense of £3,300, and situated at the corner of Constitution-street and Charlotte-street, is a square building, by far the most elegant edifice in the town, and forming, both in chasteness of design, and in neatness of execution, a very favourable, though limited specimen of modern architecture. Its interior arrangements are as commodious as its external aspect is agreeable, and afford accommodation for both the sheriff-court and the police establishment. – The Leith Bank’s office, built in 1806, situated on the south side of Bernard-street, is a small but neat and even handsome building, surmounted by a vane. – The Tolbooth, situated on the south side of the Tolbooth-wynd, occupies the site of a predecessor which was built in 1565, and became decayed or ruinous after the commencement of the present century. The modern edifice was erected in 1822, at the expense of the city of Edinburgh, and is in the Saxon style of architecture. But though it has several suites of well-lighted cells, and is said to be ‘a very complete jail,’ it remained, at the date of the commissioners’ Report on Municipal Corporations, and possibly remains still, unlegalized. An objection having been judiciously made to its security, the court-of-session refused an application to legalize it; and a misunderstanding having afterwards arisen between the corporation of Edinburgh and the community of Leith, the place was neglected, and not allowed the benefit of any further proceedings in its favour. A lock-up-house consisting of cold, damp, and unhealthy cells, such as endangered life, was coolly permitted to do for the police-prisoners the honours and offices of the sinecure tolbooth. – The Seafield baths, situated at the eastern extremity of the Links, overlooking one of the finest parts of the delightful beach, and built in 1813 at an expense of £800, are a capacious and neat structure, containing a hotel and suite of baths, constructed and arranged on a plan which has been thought worthy of imitation in later erections of the same class at other sea-bathing resorts. The establishment was erected by shareholders, and does not want from good management; but, owing to its distance from Edinburgh, it has proved a failure. – The Grammar-school, or High school, built in 1806, and situated on the south-west corner of the Links, is a spacious oblong building, in the Grecian style of architecture, surmounted by a small spire and clock, and internally arranged into excellent apartments for two classes in classics, two in English, one in mathematics, and one in writing and arithmetic. The predecessor of this edifice – which is neither burgh-school nor parish-school, but is anomalously managed by of bodies who have no mutual connexion – stood in the Kirkgate, and unlike the present one, was endowed with considerable funds. – Dr. Bell’s school, built in 1839, and situated in Great Junction-street, the thoroughfare between the foot of Leith-walk and the Stone-bridge, is a large and elegant Gothic edifice. The amount of funds transferred from the bequest of Dr. Bell, the well-known founder of the Madras system of education, for the establishing and endowing of this school, was nearly £10,000. – The Trinity-house, erected in 1817, at the cost of £2,500, and occupying a confined site on the west side of Kirkgate, is a handsome Grecian edifice, the successor of a venerable building which stood on the same spot, and was erected in 1555. In one apartment there is an ancient view of Leith; and in the large hall used for the meetings of the masters, there are several good portraits, particularly one of Mary of Lorraine by Mytens, and one of Admiral Lord Duncan. From time immemorial the shipmasters and mariners of Leith received from all the vessels of the port, and all Scottish vessels visiting it, certain duties called ‘primo gilt,’ which were expended in aiding poor sailors; and near the middle of the 16th century they acquired a legal right to levy the prime gilt dues, and apply them in maintaining an hospital, and sustaining ‘poor, old, infirm, and weak mariners.’ Previous to 1797, the association, though calling itself ‘The Corporation of Shipmasters of the Trinity-house of Leith,’ were a corporation only by the courtesy of popular language, and possessed the powers of only a charitable body; but in that year they were regularly erected by charter into a corporate body, whose office-bearers were to be a master, an assistant-master, a deputy-master, a manager, a treasurer, and a clerk, and were vested with powers – reserving, however, the powers of the corporation of the city of Edinburgh – to examine, and under their common seal to license persons to be pilots, and to exact admission-fees from the licentiates. During the year ending 25th December, 1833, their income was £2,159 1s. 5d., and their expenditure £2,335 9s. 1d.; and, in 1834, their property in houses, government stock, and other items, amounted to £17,761, and their annual revenue from prime gilt to £756 7s. 6d. – The Markets of Leith, occupying the site of the old custom-house and excise-office, a little east of the jail in Tolbooth-wynd, are commodious and of creditable appearance, and have their areas surrounded with neatly constructed stalls. They were long but vainly demanded by the inhabitants from the corporation of Edinburgh, who had power to hinder or promote their erection; they were eventually reared, in 1818, by the impelling influence of a voluntary subscription, and by means of a compromise which subjected them to feu duties to Edinburgh of £219; and when completed, they formed a prominent and very vexatious subject of dispute in the course of a long and mischievous misunderstanding between the metropolis and its port. 

   Ancient civil edifices, extinct public buildings, and remarkable localities form quite as interesting a chapter in the topography of Leith as that of existing and modern public structures. Not the least noticeable were its fortifications. Those which rendered it a walled town were raised in 1549, amid the hurricane which swept over Scotland during the infancy of Mary; they were built by D’Essé, the French general, to give Mary of Lorraine’s party a footing against Edinburgh castle, which held out for the Protestants; and they were strong enough to offer successful defiance to all the besieging efforts of the Protestant forces. Captain Colepepper, in Sir Walter Scott’s tale of ‘the Fortunes of Nigel,’ indeed speaks of them with merry and swaggering contempt. “You speak,” says he, “of the siege of Leith; and I have seen the place. A pretty kind of a hamlet it is, with a plain wall or rampart, and a pigeon-house or two of a tower at every angle. Daggers and scabbards! if a leaguer of our days had been 24 hours, not to say months, before it, without carrying the place and all its cock-lofts one after another by pure storm, they would have deserved no better grace than the provost-marshal gives when his noose is rieved.” The rampart was octagonal, with a bastion at each of the eight angles. The first bastion, called Ramsay’s fort, was situated on the east side of the river between the beach and the west end of the present Bernard-street, and was designed to protect the harbour. The wall ran from this in a south-east direction; and the second bastion stood on the site of the present Exchange buildings, and long survived in some remains which were ascended by a flight of stone steps, and used as a promenade under the name of the Ladies’-walk The site of the third bastion was opposite the point where Coatfield-lane now joins Constitution-street; that of the fourth was at the top of Kirkgate; that of the fifth is not accurately known. The wall came down on the river exactly 115 yards below the site of the new stone-bridge at the saw-mills, and was connected with its continuation on the west side of the stream by means of a wooden-bridge. The sixth bastion, though its site, like that of the fifth, is not precisely ascertained, must have stood on the west side of the river, and in its immediate vicinity; the seventh stood near the site of the citadel; and the eighth stood at the Sandport, overlooking the harbour, and corresponding with Ramsay’s fort on the opposite side of the stream. Of the various forts, one was called St. Anthony’s, from the vicinity to it of St. Anthony’s preceptory; and another, and the chief, was called the Block-house, and formed the grand outlet for sallies upon besiegers. The wall was constructed wholly of stone, and seems to have been a line of stout masonry; and the bastions were of great strength. The fortifications, after the triumph of the Protestant party in 1560, were so far destroyed as to be rendered useless; they were temporarily re-edified in 1571, by the Earl of Morton, during the regency of the Earl of Lennox; but they have long since been so entirely razed as to betray an occasional and small vestige only during the yawn of some ephemeral excavation. On the links are still some moundish, though inconsiderable, memorials of works thrown up by the besieging Protestant forces, either to cover their advance toward the rampart, or to mount their artillery for playing upon it and its defenders. – The citadel of Leith was greatly enlarged, and, in fact, chiefly constructed, by the army of Oliver Cromwell. It stood on the North Leith side of the river, and covered a considerable area. It was pentagonal in outline, or in its exterior defence, with a bastion at each of the five angles; and it had a principal gate opening to the east. In the interior it had a ledgy ascent of fortification, excellent magazines, stores, and houses for the garrison, a suitable place of worship, and a spacious court-yard. After the Restoration, these erections were in a great measure destroyed, and the site of them granted to the Duke of Lauderdale, then prime minister for Scotland to Charles II. No vestige of the defences now remains, except a Saxon archway, and a few yards of the wall, – the archway now surmounted by a modern house. – Lord Balmerino’s house, a stately old mansion, stood a little off the line of Kirkgate, between Charlotte-street and Coatfield-lane, and was entered by a low arched close from Kirkgate, and through a garden from Constitution-street. Charles II., when invited, in 1650, to Scotland by the Scottish parliament, slept in this house on the night after his arrival at the port. The house was taken down only three or four years ago. – Various fabrics compete for the notoriety of having been the residence, during the period of her military quarrel with the Protestants, of Mary of Lorraine, the Queen-regent, and the mother of Queen Mary. What seems to have been the real house, and that also which received for a season Oliver Cromwell, was a building of rather elegant exterior, situated in Queen-street, formerly called the Paunch-market. The house was taken down within the last two years. Its window-frames were all formed of oak, richly carved; and the panellings of the doors were of the same wood, and beautifully embellished. – A fine old mansion, spacious, of imposing aspect, sculptured with crowns, sceptres, and other decorations, and said to have been the residence of the Regent Lennox, stands between the end of Tolbooth-wynd. – and St. Andrew’s-street, in a filthy court pompously called Parliament-square, and entered by a small lane leading off from the north side of St. Andrew’s-street, nearly opposite the end of the Sheep’s-head-wynd. – The King’s-work, a cluster of very ancient buildings, occupying a large area, and occasionally graced with the presence of majesty, stood between Bernard-street and the Broad-wynd. – The house inhabited by the parents of John Home, the author of ‘The Tragedy of Douglas,’ and in which he was born in 1722, stood at the corner of Quality-street, and was pulled down 15 or 20 years ago, to make room for new buildings. – The locality formerly called Little London is between Bernard-street and Quality-street. – The Timber-bourse is in the vicinity, and though entirely changed in appearance, it retains its ancient name, slightly disguised in the corrupted form of Timber-bush. – The spot on which George IV. landed, on occasion of his visit to Scotland in 1822, is in front of the Ship-tavern, and is indicated by an iron plate with an inscription. – Leith-fort stands about half-a-mile west of the custom-house. Originally it was merely a battery of 9 guns, hastily constructed in an emergency for defending the harbour toward the close of the American war; but it has long been a spacious artillery barracks, and a station for a considerable park of artillery, and is kept in excellent order. 

   The ecclesiastical edifices of Leith demand a moment’s notice additional to the statistical details respecting them given in our account of the parishes. The parish-church of North Leith, situated at the western extremity of the town, and in the vicinity of Leith-fort, is a very handsome though unpretending structure, built in a plain style of architecture, with a fine portico and columns, and surmounted by a tasteful spire 140 feet high. In consequence of the commercial transfer of its original transfer by money-purchase from the commendator of Holyrood to the inhabitants of the town, it possesses the attributes – rather remarkable in a Scottish parish-church of the present day – of being free from patronage, and of bringing its minister, though by commutation into money-payment, the tithes of all the fish landed on the beach. The old church, the re-erection by the public-spirited purchasers immediately after the Reformation, still stands in a by-street near the end of the upper drawbridge, abandoned to secular purposes, and lifting its wan and withered spire as if in deprecation of the neglect and contumely heaped on its old age and venerable history. – The parish-church of South Leith, the ancient chapel of St. Mary, situated in Kirkgate, is a time-worn but sturdy Gothic structure, originally cruciform, but deprived of its nave in 1544 by the Earl of Hertford. In 1674, a stone tower, sending aloft a spire of wood and metal, was erected at the west end; and, in 1681, a clock was added. In the south-west corner of the cemetery which surrounds the church, stood King James’ hospital. David Lindsay, who baptized Charles I., and became Bishop of Ross, and Logan, the author, real or reputed, of prose and poetical works of great fame, but the inglorious and but lately detected pirate of some manuscripts of the Scottish Kirke White, Michael Bruce, were ministers of this church. – St. John’s church, situated in Constitution-street, is a plain but very spacious edifice; and attracts notice from having been so long the scene of the unctuous and odoriferous ministrations of Dr. Colquhoun, the author of several very devout and much appreciated though somewhat scholastic works. – St. Thomas’ church, situated on the Sheriff-brae, is clustered with a manse, a schoolhouse, and an asylum, and forms with them an elegant range of Gothic edifices, constructed at a cost of £10,000, from a design by John Henderson, Esq. of Edinburgh. The asylum is a refuge and an hospital for persons afflicted with incurable diseases, and accommodates 10 patients and inmates. – The Episcopalian chapel, situated in Constitution-street, is a neat edifice, and draws attention from the literary celebrity of its minister, Dr. Michael Russell, the author of a continuation of ‘Prideaux’s Connexion of Sacred and Profane History,’ and of some other elegantly composed works. – The United Secession chapel of Kirkgate is noticeable, chiefly from association with one of its ministers, Mr. Culbertson, who wrote an expository work on the Apocalypse, and died about 20 years ago. – The United Secession chapel of North Leith, situated near the Citadel, has a Gothic front, and wears an aspect of some pretension. – The United Secession chapel of the Links is a very fine edifice, more tasteful than most modern buildings of its class, quite ornamental to the district in which it stands, and forming with the Grammar-school a fine feature in the architectural fringing of the very spacious and airy promenade. – The Relief chapel, situated in Great Junction-street, vies with the two modern Secession chapels; and the Independent place of worship is a pleasing structure. The modern ecclesiastical edifices, in the aggregate, display more taste than almost any equal number erected at similar cost in other localities. 

   Leith harbour consists of the gut formed by the discharge of the water of Leith, and is entirely tidal. It was formerly, with the exception of being traversed by the shallow and unimportant stream, quite dry at low water; and even yet it has then a very trifling depth. The water of Leith, having to make its way to the sea across the very broad flat shore called Leith-sands, and alternately flooded by the tide and left entirely dry, the channel was, in its natural state, subject to much fluctuation, according to the different direction of the wind and set of the tides. A bar, too – such as is thrown up at the entrance of every river-harbour – lies across its mouth, and must necessarily be formed at the point where the antagonist currents of the river and the tide become equal in force, bring each other up into equipoise or stagnation, and let down in a deposit whatever silt they contain. The river, constantly and to an important amount, variegates both the depth of the harbour and the height and position of the bar, according to the fluctuations which occur in the volume of its water, or the rapidity of its discharge; for, in a season of drought, it leaves everything open to the invasion of sediments from the tide, and in a season of rain, it scours away lodgments made on its bed, drives seaward and diminishes in bulkiness the bar, and deepens the channel toward the side streams of the frith. All attempts, therefore, to obtain a good or practicable harbour at Leith, were necessarily limited to the erection of broad piers far seaward at points not touched by the river, or the construction of long pier lines fitted to divert the current of the tides and give the river a mastery over them, and enable it to sweep away or diminish the bar, and to the cutting of docks for the reception of vessels on the bosom of high water, and the maintaining of accommodation for them beyond the ruthless mercy of the receding tide. A wooden pier was constructed, or a previously existing one renovated, by the Earl of Hertford, when he visited the port in 1544; but it was destroyed on his departure, and has left no relic to indicate its exact site. Another wooden pier was erected early in the 17th century, and, during about 240 years, buried its strong pillars in a compact bed of whinstone and clay, and withstood the rough contacts of shipping and the weather; and has at last, only a few months ago, disappeared before the progress of costly and massive improvement. Between the years 1720 and 1730 a stone-pier, in continuation of this wooden one, which very trivially assisted the poor natural facilities of the harbour, was carried 100 yards seaward, constructed partly of stones from the ruins of a curious coal-pit at Culross; and this, in some degree, remedied the difficulty and hazardousness of the navigation inward, but still left the entrance of the harbour encumbered with a bar, shifting and unsafe. Contemporaneous in origin with this improvement was the oldest dock, commenced in 1720, and situated on the west side of the river, behind a house not far from Bridge-street, and bearing the date 1622. During the remainder of the 18th century, various surveys and reports were made with a view to further improvement; but they led to nothing except the construction in l777 of a short pier, afterwards known as the custom-house quay. The accommodation for shipping was insufficient and unendurable, the common quays being the chief landing-places, and the channel of the river offering to vessels only a seat of uncovered and adhesive mud at the recess of the tides; and as the trade of the port rapidly increased toward the close of the century, the accommodation loudly demanded both enlargement and amelioration. The late John Rennie, Esq., civil engineer, was now employed, in 1799, to examine the ground, and to form designs of docks and extended piers on a scale somewhat proportioned to the amount of the emergency. The gravamen of his report was, that no permanent and uniform depth of water along the harbour or gut of the river could be obtained, and no achievement could be effected toward the extinction of a shifting bar, except by carrying a pier or weir on the east side of the channel quite across the sands into low water, but that by this means 3 or possibly 4 feet of additional depth of water might be obtained; yet, though the soundness of his principle has been vindicated by the result of subsequent operations which were undertaken by its guidance, little or nothing was done at his suggestion, nor for many years afterwards with regard to the piers or entrance. An immediate result, however, was the construction of a splendid suite of docks, at the cost of about £285,000. Two wet docks, each 250 yards long and 100 wide, were, with three graving-docks on their north side, commenced in 1800 and completed in 1817, and were protected from the sea by a strong retaining wall. A third and larger dock on the west, designed to reach nearly to Newhaven, was projected; but this and all kindred matters which accorded with the magnificence of Mr. Rennie’s designs and of the intentions of his employers, the town-council of Edinburgh, were thrown into abeyance during that eminent engineer’s life by a total failure of funds. In 1824, in response to renewed and aroused demand, the late Mr. W. Chapman of Newcastle was employed to make surveys and plans; and as the result of his report, and of subsequent voluminous correspondence with government on the subject of a naval and store-yard, the eastern pier was extended about 1,500 feet so as to have an entire length of 2,550 feet, or more than half-a-mile, a western pier and breakwater was erected to the extent of 1,500 feet, and terminating within 200 feet of the other, and a part of the western end of the western dock was set apart as a store-yard for the naval service. After many and agitating movements to find some remedy for the admitted and great existing evils, Mr. Walker and Mr. Cubbitt, two eminent engineers in London, were sent down in the winter of 1838-9, by the Lords of the Treasury, to undertake jointly the duty of providing their lordships “with such a plan as will secure to the port of Leith the additional accommodation required by its shipping and commercial interests, including the provision of a low-water pier,” the cost being limited to £125,000. These gentlemen, after inspecting the ground, and considering the previous plans of various engineers, differed from each other in opinion, and formed and recommended three different designs, – Mr. Walker two, and Mr. Cubbitt one. The details of only that to which the Lords of the Treasury gave preference, and which was one of Mr. Walker’s, need be stated. This plan, by which the present harbour is rendered subservient to the projected improvement, is to extend a breakwater, with a platform, to 2,000 feet beyond the present pier-head, but of greater strength than the existing pier. This breakwater runs, on the plan, nearly directly north from the pier-head, curving inwards at the extremity. On the opposite or west side, a breakwater is to be carried out from the north-west angle of the wet docks, and at right angles to the shore, for the space of about 2,300 feet, when it turns off directly north to the extent of 1,000 feet, curving inwards until it faces the opposite point of the eastern breakwater, the two ends converging something like a lobster’s claw, and leaving an intervening space or harbour entrance. Opposite and parallel to this western breakwater, but at a distance of 320 feet, Mr. Walker proposes to run a quay of 1,450 feet length from the dock walls, by which means an inner harbour will be formed 1,450 feet in length, and 320 feet in width, with a depth of 12 feet at low water. The existing breakwater, of course, falls to be removed. At first the estimated cost of this eastern harbour, which was £122,000, did not include an entrance from the above inner harbour into the docks; but on the suggestion of the Lords of the Treasury, Mr. Walker subsequently reported, that his plan could be so modified as to admit of a lock on the inner harbour, without interfering with the general design, or materially with the estimate. This modification involves an alteration in the mode of constructing the eastern breakwater of the outer harbour, and the 1,450 feet quay of the inner harbour, the diminished cost of the alteration affording, we presume, a sum sufficient for a new communication with the docks, which the Lords of the Treasury consider a sine qua non. The leading feature of this eastern plan is, that the breakwaters are carried out to a depth of 10 or 11 feet at low-water spring tides, which can be increased by dredging to 12 feet. 

   By far the worst circumstance which, in modern times, has damaged the port, and one which has even very seriously menaced its trade with ruin, is its predicament in reference to steam-vessels. Some steamers built to ply from it have been so constructed as, with a sacrifice of their speed or sailing powers, not to suffer much injury from entering the harbour; but others – and these just the sort of vessels which are intrinsically most serviceable to a great port, such as the Watt, the Soho, and the Monarch – cannot approach. 

   To attempt even a summary of the financial history and relations of the harbour, in a way to be intelligible, would, without devoting a space to topic which our limits forbid, and no reader’s patience could endure, be utterly vain. The town-council of Edinburgh, in a rugged and perplexing superiority over Leith, the origin and general nature of which we have afterwards to relate, involved almost every detail in the affairs and vicissitudes of the harbour in the labyrinth of a financial history, which no can traverse without a guide; and when the city became bankrupt in 1833m the confusion and rubbish which choked up every pathway of this labyrinth became such, that even a guide himself was nonplussed how to proceed. In lieu of a useless effort at history, we shall give four tabular views of the affairs during several years preceding the date of the city’s insolvency:- 



Year to 15th May, 1827. 

Year to 15th May, 1830. 

Year to 15th May, 1833. 

Sums of gross revenue, 

£6,942   8   6 

£9,738   19   0 

£9,664   0   4 

Sum of expenses of management, improvements, repairs, &c., 

7,070   18   1 

3,171   13   0 

2,611   1   9 

Nett revenue,   

6,567   6   0 

7,052   18   7 

With a shortcoming for the first year of 

128   9

Which applied to the payments to exchequer on account of debt to government, 

659   11   9 

10,350   0   0 

With £10,350 due, but unpaid for the year 1833,     

10,350   0   0 

Makes deficiency, 

788   1   3 

3,782   13   11 

3,297   1   4 


1. – Abstract Account in relation to the Shore Dues levied at the Port of Leith, from Whitsunday 1826, to Whitsunday 1833.


Gross produce. 

From Whitsunday 1826, to Whitsunday 1827, 

£6,800   7   0 

From      Do.         1827,          Do.       1828, 

6,327   15   0 

From      Do.         1828,          Do.       1829, 

6,395   18   11 

From      Do.         1829,          Do.       1830, 

6,306   19   4 

From      Do.         1830,          Do.       1831, 

6,524   4   11 

From      Do.         1831,          Do.       1832 

6,263   16   9 

From      Do.         1832,          Do.       1833, 

6,399   0   0 


45,018   2   5 

2. – Abstract Account of Berthage and Flag or Light-dues, levied at the Port of Leith, from Whitsunday 1826, to Whitsunday 1833.


Gross produce. 

From Whitsunday 1826, to Whitsunday 1827, 

£1,027   7   7 

From      Do.         1827,          Do.       1828, 

936   5   4 

From      Do.         1828,          Do.       1829, 

944   0   9 

From      Do.         1829,          Do.       1830, 

910   19   1 

From      Do.         1830,          Do.       1831, 

931   16   1 

From      Do.         1831,          Do.       1832 

887   17   2 

From      Do.         1832,          Do.       1833, 

902   22   7 


6,540   18   8 


Docks and Harbour. 



From Whitsunday 







Paid to Government by City of Edinburgh, on Account of Interest and Sinking Fund. 

1826, to 1827, 

£14,770   3   2 

£3,775   13   7 

£659   11   9 

1827, to 1828, 

15,267   13   8 

7,573   16   10 

21,397   7   0 

1828, to 1829, 

15,718   13   10 

10,344   12   10 

10,350   0   0 

1829, to 1830, 

16,956   17   6 

11,126   6   4 

10,350   0   0 

1830, to 1831, 

17,501   15   9 

11,747   14   4 

10,350   0   0 

1831, to 1832, 

16,642   19   2 

11,817   11   6 

10,350   0   0 

1832, to 1833, 

16,965   13   0 

12,217   14   7 

10,350   0   0 


113,823   16   3 

68,603   10   3 

73,806   18   9 


From Whitsunday 

Gross Produce. 

Nett Produce. 

1826, to 1827, 

£4,001   16   11 

£1,927   18   10 

1827, to 1828, 

3,871   16   0 

2,327   10   9 

1828, to 1829, 

3,550   19   10 

2,589   2   7 

1829, to 1830, 

3,754   16   9 

2,472   3   6 

1830, to 1831, 

3,875   10   2 

2,677   17   1 

1831, to 1832, 

3,524   11   3 

2,479   6   4 

1832, to 1833, 

3,491   14   6 

2,505   5   3 


26,071   5   7 

16,979   4   5 

The harbour and docks are now under the management of commissioners specially appointed according to the acts 1st and 2d Victoria, cap. 55, 27th July, 1838; and they appear, after a long period of fluctuation, and latterly of serious declension in prosperity, to have attained at last a thriving condition. Their present state may be judged of by the following summary of custom-dues received during the years ending 5th July, 1839, and 5th July, 1840, and during the quarters ending at the same dates:- 

Receipt ended July 5th, 1840, 

£597,772   3   2 

                           July 5th, 1839, 

546,888   16   5 


£50,883   6   9 

Receipt for quarter ended July 5th, 1840, 

£160,877   5   5 

                                                July 5th, 1839, 

136,451   18   6 


£24,425   6   11 

A view of the tonnage of shipping belonging to the port, shows a steady and rapid increase from the middle of last century till its close, a slow increase thence till 1826, and a decrease of 3,601 tons between that year and 1835. 

   Steam-vessels, either from Leith or from Newhaven, ply to Hamburgh and Rotterdam once a-fortnight; to London every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday; to Hull every Wednesday and Saturday; to Newcastle every Wednesday and Friday; to Berwick-upon-Tweed every Wednesday and Friday; to Shetland, Orkney, Caithness, and places intermediate between the last and the Forth, once a-week; to lnverness, Fort-George, Invergordon, Cromarty, Findhorn, Burghead, Banff, and places farther south, twice a-week; to Aberdeen, Stonehaven, Johnshaven, Montrose, and places farther south, four days a-week; to Montrose, Arbroath and places intermediate between the latter and the Forth, once a-week; to Dundee, Elie, Anstruther, and Crail, daily; to Dysart, Leven, and Largo, twice a-day; to Kirkcaldy, Kinghorn, Pettycur, and Burntisland, several times a-day; and to Stirling, calling at Queensferry, Charleston, Bo’ness, Kincardine, and Alloa, once a day. The London and Leith Old Shipping company have five smacks and a schooner which sail from Leith on Tuesdays and Fridays. The London and Edinburgh Shipping company have seven smacks which sail from Leith on Tuesdays and Fridays, an hour before high-water. The London, Leith, Edinburgh, and Glasgow Shipping company have six sailing-packets which leave Leith for London on Tuesdays and Fridays, and a steam-conveyance for goods between Leith, Glasgow, and Greenock on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The Carron company have four smacks which sail from Leith for Liverpool on or about the 7th, 17th, and 27th of every month. The Hull and Leith Shipping company have vessels regularly plying between Leith and Hull. The Leith and Newcastle Old Shipping company have three vessels. The Leith, Hamburgh, and Rotterdam Shipping company have seven vessels which sail from Leith every alternate Tuesday and Friday. The Inverness and Leith Shipping company two vessels. Another company have two smacks between lnverness and Leith, one of which sails from Leith every eight days. The Ross and Morayshire, the Thurso, the Wick and Leith, and the Leith and Helmsdale Shipping companies, have each two smacks plying regularly between Leith and the ports indicated in their titles. The Elie and Leith Shipping company have two packets, one of which leaves Leith every Thursday and Friday about two hours before high-water. One of two – Anstruther and Leith packets – sails from Leith every Tuesday and Friday. The Kirkcaldy and Leith Shipping company have two packets, one of which leaves Leith every Wednesday and Saturday. The Leith and Greenock Shipping company have four vessels plying between Leith and Greenock. The Dundee, Perth, and London Shipping company have four smacks which sail on Wednesdays and Saturdays from Leith to Dundee and Perth. The Stirling and Leith Shipping company have five smacks. Several ships belonging to the port are employed in the Greenland whale-fishery; and a considerable number trade with distant foreign ports, especially with those of the Baltic and the West Indies. The larger vessels occupy the docks, and the coasting vessels lie, for the most part, in the harbour of the river. 

   Along the south side of the docks stands a line of lofty and spacious warehouses, almost all of origin contemporaneous with the docks, and employed for bonding corn, wines, and other importations, and for kindred purposes subservient to the business of a harbour. In consequence of the want of a powder-magazine, gunpowder sent from the mills of Mid-Lothian for embarkation, and too dangerous a commodity to be admitted to any ordinary storing-place, or to lie on board of vessels in the harbour, has frequently, when vessels do not sail at the time expected, to be carted back to await the postponed date of sailing, and in some instances, has been driven six times between the mills and the port, a distance each time, in going and returning, of 20 or 24 miles, before it could be embarked. Opposite the entrance of the harbour is a round Martello tower. On the end of the old pier stands a lighthouse for the guidance of vessels entering the harbour: it has a stationary light, and exhibits it during the period of there being not less than 9 feet of water on the bar. Some distance landward of it on the pier, stands a signal-tower, whence a series of signals are displayed during the day to proclaim the progress or retrogression of the tide. The general anchoring-ground of vessels is 2 miles from land; and, in the case of large steamers, is westward of Leith, or nearly opposite Newhaven. The roadstead during the war was the station of an admiral’s guard-ship and several cruizers. The quarantine-station of the port is Inverkeithing bay on the Fife coast, 8¾ miles in a direct line north-west by west of the entrance of Leith harbour. 

   The principal articles of importation from foreign countries are wines, tobacco, timber, hemp, tallow, and West Indian produce. The whole Baltic trade with the east of Scotland was at one time concentrated in Leith; but it has been so spiritedly and successfully competed for by Kirkcaldy, Arbroath, Montrose, and Aberdeen, but especially by Dundee, as to have left to its old haunt but a scanty memorial of their former intimacy. In connexion with the naval station in the roads, the port enjoyed much prosperity during the war from a place for the condemnation and sale of prize-vessels; and, in consequence of Buonaparte’s notable continental scheme of prevention, it was the seat of an extensive traffic for smuggling British goods into the continent by way of Heligoland, which employed many vessels, crowded its harbour, and greatly enriched not a few of its inhabitants. Foreign speculations, however, came, in numerous instances, to be severely unsuccessful; and their failure, combined with the disadvantageousness of the harbour, and the oppressiveness of dues, to produce that efflux of prosperity the ebb of which seems now to have been reached to give place, it is hoped, to a steady and wealth-bearing flood. 

   Leith, though not in a strict sense a manufacturing town, or the seat of any staple produce, possesses a great variety of productive establishments, – some of them of considerable or even great magnitude. Ship building is carried on in several yards, and has produced many large steamers and bulky sailing-vessels. The Fury, the first line-of-battle ship constructed in Scotland after the Union, was built on the site of the present custom-house. A Government steamer, larger than any steam-ship ever previously built in Leith, and a merchant-ship larger than any sailing-vessel ever previously constructed in the place, were both commenced in 1840. – Two sailcloth-factories, belonging respectively to Messrs. Hay & Co. and to Mr. Hutton, had, in 1838, 100 looms, and employed workmen on wages varying, according to the individual’s age or strength, from 10 to 16 shillings. – Along the shore of South Leith are seven huge conical chimneys, manufactories of glass, chiefly in the department of common ale and wine bottles. This manufacture – which, more than any other, gives a characteristic trait to both the employments and the burghal landscape of Leith – is usually supposed to have been introduced by English settlers in the time of Cromwell. – ln the centre of the town a corn-mill, propelled by steam, and of stupendous dimensions as compared with the usual buildings of its class, towers aloft in its huge bulk above the surface of the little undulating sea of roofs, and forms a bold variety in the sky-line of the town. This establishment was commenced in 1829-30, and, very heterogeneously, is united in the same premises to a suite of baths of all sorts, to which access is afforded on low rates of charge. – Warehouses of great extent are the seats of an extensive traffic with large districts of Scotland, for the transmission to them of wines, foreign and British spirits, and similar or kindled articles of luxury. Other manufacturing establishments than those already named, are some manufactories of cordage, several breweries, a distillery, places for the rectifying of spirits, an extensive sugar-refining establishment, a large meat-preserving work, some soap and candle manufactories, and several cooperages and saw-mills. 

   The banking-offices in Leith are those of the Leith Banking company, the Edinburgh and Leith bank, the Commercial bank of Scotland, the National bank of Scotland, the British Linen company, the Bank of Scotland, and the Royal bank of Scotland. The institutions of the town, additional to some which have been incidentally mentioned, are the Savings’-bank society, the Branch Railway company, the Gas-light company, the Public library, the Mechanics’ institution, the Mechanics’ friendly society, the Philharmonic society, the Society of Carpenters, the Society of Shipowners in the frith of Forth, the Auxiliary Missionary society, the Juvenile Auxiliary Bible and Missionary society, the Auxiliary society for promoting Christianity among the Jews, and for aiding the British and Foreign Bible society, the Religious Tract society, the Seaman’s Friend society, the Local Sabbath School society, the Boys’ Charity school, the Society for relief of the destitute sick, the Female society for relieving aged and indigent women, and the Leith Dispensary and Edinburgh and Leith Humane society. A newspaper was commenced in the town in 1809, but did not succeed; nor can publishing enterprise in any department be expected, so far to compete with the lofty literary movements of the metropolis, as to find a fair arena in such close vicinity as Leith. The only periodical publication of the town is the ‘Commercial List.’ 

   Leith races, which have furnished a subject of drollery and satire to several writers, and figure in the conversation of thousands of persons still living, as scenes of surpassing grotesqueness and folly, owed their origin, like the theatre of Edinburgh and other matters of popular dissipation, to the influence of the corrupt times which immediately succeeded the Restoration, and of the demoralizing sojourn of the Duke of York, the future James VIl., in the Scottish metropolis. During fifty years after their introduction they shared the attention of the loose youths, of the period with cock-fighting and various other forms of brutal pastime. The course or racing-ground was Leith-sands, an expanse, as we have already had occasion to notice, regularly covered by the flowing tide, and peculiarly heavy, from the softness and yieldingness of its surface, for the fleet tread of a mettled racing-horse. Yet, in spite of the unfavourableness of the ground, and of its being available only during the recess of the tide, the races seem to have been annually maintained, with hardly an intermission, till the year 1816; and they were conducted and enjoyed with a degree of spirit and of enthusiastic abandonment to fun and dissipation unknown in most other racing-grounds. They usually occurred in the last week of July or the first week of August; and, being formally under the patronage of the magistrates of Edinburgh, were regarded as the signal of a carnival-week to all the children, fools, and fashionable idlers of the metropolis and its vicinity. The city-officers usually walked in procession, in full costume, every morning of the week, from the council-chambers to the racing-ground, one of their number bearing aloft on the top of a long pole what was called ‘the City purse,’ flauntingly decorated with ribbons, and the town-drummer beating a tattoo at his heels. Crowds of youths on the outlook from every street and alley on the line of march, and preferring ‘gaun doon wi’ the purse’ to a less pompous mode of travelling to the races, made constant and grotesque additions to the ridiculous procession, and, long before it reached Leith, swelled it out to a sea of heads, hatted, bonnetted, and bare, in the midst of which bobbed hither and thither the ribbony ‘city purse,’ unrelieved by any other object on which the eye could rest, and appearing like a painted buoy on the distant waves. This motley processior, and the masses who preferred securing good vantage-ground to the eclat of escorting the purse, covered every spot whence a view could be obtained of the race, or where an outbreak of any sort could be obtained to the fermenting spirit of frolic in their breasts. The pier was crowdedly occupied as ‘a stand;’ the outskirts of the sands were flanked by a long array of canvassed and blanketed booths for the sale of intoxicating liquors; and large parts of the area were occupied by showmen, mountebanks, hobby-horsemen, thimble-riggers, wheel-of-fortune-men, and other adepts in the crafts of corruption and legalized cozenage. Each day’s racing was but a prefatory flourish to a career of criminal folly; the foolish wealthy moving off the grounds to scatter their remaining wits on the floors of ball-rooms and places of assembly, and the foolish vulgar continuing on the ground to dispute its possession with the town-guard, and to raise skirmishes and battles which sometimes ended in a general melée, rolled up Leith-walk, and threatened to destroy the public peace of the metropolis. On Saturday, the last day of the races, a ‘subscription’ for the horses beaten during the week, gave the quadrupeds of the carnival an opportunity of contesting the negative honour of not being the worst runner of the year, and afforded to the bipeds an occasion of bringing the follies of the week to a grand finale of boisterousness, outrage, unreason, and even bloodshed. In 1816 the races – not so much to put an end to the disgracefulness of their accompaniments, as for the sake of having ground which should be literally ‘the turf’ – were removed to the Links of Musselburgh. Yet, so strong was the dissatisfaction occasioned by the removal, and so intense the longings of many persons, even after a lapse of 13 or 14 years, to witness again such follies as the credit of the town should seek to be forgotten, that attempts were made, in 1839 and 1840, to have the Leith races restored. – A favourite amusement, manly and healthful in its character, but liable to be adventitiously associated with some repulsive abuses, is the ancient game of golf, played upon the Links. A house, for the special use of the golfers, stands near the end of the eastern road, overlooking the play-ground. Previous to the erection of this building, a tavern on the west side of the Kirkgate, was the favourite resort of many players after a bout of their amusement, and the scene of many an unbecoming revel. A number of lively, addle-headed, aged gentlemen, about the middle of the 18th century, made golfing almost their sole employment; and, though all upwards of 70 years of age, are declared by Smollett never to have gone to bed without swilling the larger part of a gallon of claret. Charles I., James VII., and many persons of distinction, have golfed on Leith links; but the golfers – though doubtless with crowds of honourable exception – have so far associated their pastime with follies which are intrinsically quite foreign to it, as to have made its resources for healthful exercise not quite compatible with nicety of moral or at least religious reputation. 

   Leith is now governed by a provost, 4 bailies, a treasurer, and 10 councillors. But its government was anciently very anomalous, inefficient, and changeful, and altogether enthralled to Edinburgh; and even as reported on by the commissioners on municipal corporations, it exhibits a strange and absurd medley. 1. There is the burgh-of-barony of South Leith, of which the council of Edinburgh are the superiors. 2. North Leith forms a part of the regality of the Canongate, of which regality likewise the council of Edinburgh are the superiors. 3. There is the regality of the citadel of Leith, which is locally situated within North Leith, but which is legally a separate and independent territory. That regality was, in 1663, conveyed by the Earl of Lauderdale to the council of Edinburgh, who thus acquired the right of nominating bailies of regality. 4. There is a separate territory adjoining South Leith, called ‘St. Anthony’s,’ the bailie and clerk of which are appointed by the kirk-session of South Leith, by virtue of a charter of James VI., dated 2d March, 1614. The magistrates of South Leith have not been in the use of exercising jurisdiction over that territory, as bailies or justices of the peace. 5. The magistrates and council of Edinburgh have an admiralty jurisdiction, which extends over South and North Leith, the Citadel, Newhaven, the whole of the parliamentary burgh, and likewise Edinburgh and its suburbs. This jurisdiction is believed to have been originally still more extensive, comprehending a district of several miles round Edinburgh. It is exercised by the council of Edinburgh, by appointing admirals. At the last election the powers were conferred on the provost of Leith as admiral, and on the bailies as admirals-depute. 6. By the 3o and 4o Will. IV. c. 77, there are conferred upon the magistrates and council, elected in terms of that statute, the jurisdiction and powers competent to magistrates of royal burghs. These extend over the whole parliamentary boundaries. 7. By the 7o and 8o Geo. IV. c. 112, s. 4, powers are given to the sheriff-depute of the county of Edinburgh to appoint “a sheriff-substitute in and for the said town of Leith, and such district adjoining thereto as to the said sheriff-depute shall seem proper for the due administration of the same.” And by section 5 the judge-admiral of Scotland was empowered to grant “to the said sheriff-substitute of the said district of the town of Leith, a deputation of his the said judge-admiral’s powers and jurisdiction over the bounds and territories of the said district of the town of Leith, and upon such part of the waters of the frith of Forth as the said judge-admiral shall judge necessary and expedient.” And if such deputation shall be granted, “the commissioners of police of the said town of Leith shall be obliged, and they are hereby obliged and required, to make payment to the said sheriff-substitute, in addition to any salary to be received by him from any other source as sheriff-substitute, of the sum of £200 per annum, to be paid half-yearly, and to be raised and levied by assessment upon the property within the district aforesaid.” The ordinary powers of a sheriff-substitute and admiral-depute are conferred by the 6th section. These rights of jurisdiction extend over “the town of Leith,” according to the boundaries described under the 2d and 3d sections, the tenor of which was formerly stated. In terms of these sections a sheriff-substitute and admiral-depute was appointed, who receives a salary of £300 a-year from the Crown, and is bound to reside within the town of Leith. 8. By the 129th section of the same statute it is enacted, “That the said magistrates and the said sheriff-substitute, or any one of them within their respective jurisdictions, shall have jurisdiction in all offences, matters, and things relating to the police of the said district of the town of Leith, arising under this act;” but under the proviso (130th section), “that nothing in this act contained shall be construed to confer upon the magistrates, or any of them, any power or authority beyond the limits of their respective existing jurisdictions.” The jurisdiction of the magistrates was exercised by holding courts in South Leith, both as bailies of that barony, and as bailies of the separate and independent territory of the regality of Citadel. The court of admiralty was likewise held in South Leith. The magistrates sat by virtue of their appointment from the council of Edinburgh, and acted with the assistance of an assessor, who likewise was appointed by that council. The present magistrates hold their bailie-court by virtue of their statutory powers, and their admiralty-court by virtue of their appointment, in the same place, and according to the same forms. In terms of the statute, the sheriff-substitute and the magistrates, as judges of police, must hold their courts within the ‘Town of Leith.’ The town-council have the appointment of the town-clerk, with a salary of £30 and fees; an assessor; with a salary of £50, but no fees; and two town-officers, with a salary each of £15 and fees. The property, revenue, expenditure, and debts of the town, as exhibited in the Report of the Commissioners on Municipal corporations, are too complicated in themselves, and too much affected by connexion with the insolvency of Edinburgh, to be intelligibly stated within reasonably small limits. Even a tabular view of the general state of the funds, which we shall quote, is subject to the modifications that the debt it mentions of £2,564 1s. 4½d. from the market-trustees was of very doubtful recovery, and might be worth only £960, and that the sum of £150 15s. which it mentions as due by the commissioners of police, was attached by arrestment on the dependence of an action at the instance of the town-council of Edinburgh, for an alleged preferable claim. The tabular view is as follows:- 



£      s.    d

Court-house, value of 

3,260  10  8½ 

Trustees of Leith new markets, debt due from 

2,564    1   4½ 

Commissioners of Police of Leith, sum due by them for rent of court-house, £119 15s., and feu-duty of dung-depot, £31, for half-year ending Whitsunday 1832 

 150   15   0 

Ditto, Ditto, half expense of feu-contract of dung-depot

6   11   7 

Ditto, Ditto, half-year’s rent of dung-depot, due at Martinmas 1833 

 31   0   0 

Leith Bank, balance due on general cash account, No. 3 

34   5   10 

Ditto, Ditto, on market ditto, No. 4 

 2   4   6 

Balance in clerk’s hand, on account current 

40   9   7½ 


£6,089   18   7½ 


Mr. Inch, sum due to him                                                  £3,200    0    0 

Leith Bank, debt due to                                                          618    4    6 

Rev. Dr. Bell’s trust, balance due to on account current   18    7   10 

Sundry claims                                                                            25    0    0 

3,861   12    4  

£2,228    6    3½

There are in the town four principal corporations, – the ship-masters, the traffickers, the malt-men, and the trades. – The ship-masters, ordinarily called the Trinity-house, have been already noticed in connexion with their public building. – The traffickers or merchant company have lost their charter, and are merely a benefit society, without the power of compelling entries. Applicants for membership are admitted by ballot, and may be excluded without reason assigned. The number of members, in 1833, was 100; the value of property, £7,000; the annual income, £707 10s. 7d.; the annual expenditure, £577 12s. 9d.; the annual allowance to a widow, £20. – The malt-men are noticed in the statute 1503 cap. 92; were deprived of their deacon in the reign of James VI.; and had their privileges restored in 1665. They claim no exclusive privileges; and practise the same mode of admission as the traffickers. Terms of membership are £20 entry-money, and £1 annual payment. In 1833-4 their property amounted to £2,798 3s. 1d.; their annual income, £187 11s. 6d.; their annual expenditure, £157 16s. 11d.; their annual allowance to a widow, £7 10s.; the number of their members 25. – The Trades’ corporation is multiform. Independently of any of particular trades, there is a body called ‘the Convenery,’ consisting of nineteen members delegated from each trade, all deacons and treasurers, and constituting, or deemed to be, a separate corporation. But the body, though as ancient as at least 1594, is of doubtful origin, was voted by several of the trades’ corporations, in 1832, to be useless, has, since then, a very questionable existence, and needs not be farther noticed. The incorporated trades are nine, – wrights, coopers, hammermen, bakers, tailors, cordiners, fleshers, barbers, and weavers. In 1834, the wrights were 50 in number; their entrance-fee, to a stranger, from £53 11s. to £143 6s. 6d., according to the person’s age; their property about £6,000; – the coopers were 32; entry-money from £60 to £100; property about £2,000; – the hammermen were 11; entry-money £25; property £440, besides church-seats; – the bakers were 24; entry-money £100; property about £5,400; – the tailors were 19; entry-money £40; property about £3,000, subject to a debt of £1,300; – the cordiners were 19; entry-money £35; property £1,800, subject to a debt of about £1,200; – the fleshers were 5; entry-money £60; property and debt each about £128; but the former, aided by a rental of £8 from church-seats, and a small revenue called ‘Box pennies,’ exacted as a duty on cattle and sheep from fleshers who do not enter with the corporation; – the barbers were pretty numerous, and their property yielded about £12 a-year; – the weavers were 25; entry-money £1; property £125, and some church-seats. All the corporations, except the weavers, possess the usual exclusive privileges within the burgh-of-barony of South Leith, and have enforced them with more or less rigour; and all received their powers by seals of cause, of ancient dates, granted by Logan of Restalrig. Numerous tradesmen beyond the limits of the privileged district exercise the same callings as those within that district. – The commissioners of police consist of the magistrates of Edinburgh and Leith, the masters of the corporations and certain other functionaries ex-officio; and of representatives chosen by the occupants of houses whose rents amount to £15. The electors vote in ten wards. A police assessment, not exceeding 1s. 6d. per pound, is imposed on the occupants of all houses and other subjects of upwards of £3 yearly rent. In the year 1832-3 the amount of assessment was £3,362 15s. 3d.; of monies received, £5,254 12s. 5d.; of expenditure, £5,654 3s. 3d. The inhabitants, about the year 1750, raised a voluntary contribution to bring water to the town in a leaden pipe of 1½ inch bore from Lochend; and they afterwards contributed to the expense of the great improvements in Edinburgh by means of the bridges, on condition that they should receive a share of the new supply of water about to be brought to the metropolis. Till very lately they had to content themselves with the puddled produce of the lake; but they are now supplied from the same pure sources as the inhabitants of Edinburgh. The gas-light company, who furnished coal gas for lighting the streets at night, have part of the metropolis within the range of their supply. Besides the ordinary police-force of the town there is a dock-police, consisting merely of watchmen around the docks, paid and superintended by the dock-commissioners. The superintendent of the town-police has no authority over them; but as the dock-commissioners have no police-office, they bring their prisoners to that of the town. – Leith unites with Musselburgh, Portobello, and Newhaven in sending a member to parliament. Parliamentary and municipal constituency, in 1839, 1,272. 

   On the 28th of May, 1329, the city of Edinburgh obtained from Robert I. a grant by charter of “the harbour and mills of Leith with their appurtenances, for the payment of fifty-two merks yearly.” The town-council of the city, not content with this privilege, took possession of the ground adjacent to the harbour, along the banks of the river. Toward the close of the century, Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig, the baronial superior of the grounds, and a man of heartless, greedy, and rapacious character, contested their assumed claims, and obliged them to take a concession of them from him by purchase and charter. On the 31st May, 1398, he granted them by charter a right to waste lands in the vicinity of the harbour for the erection of quays and wharfs, and for the loading of goods, and a liberty to have shops and granaries on these lands, and to break the grounds of his barony with roads for the service of navigation. Sir Robert afterwards teased and perplexed the town-council with points of litigation; and he eventually roused them to adopt a strong measure for satiating at once his avarice and their own ambition. Bought over by them with a large sum of money drawn from their treasury, the unprincipled baron, in February 1413, granted them an extraordinary charter, “an exclusive, ruinous, and enslaving bond,” restraining the inhabitants of Leith from carrying on any sort of trade, from possessing warehouses or shops, and from keeping inns or houses of entertainment for strangers, and thus flinging the place, in the guise of a manacled slave, at the feet of the metropolitan purchasers. But the town-council of Edinburgh, not even yet content with the power accorded them over Leith, ordained, in the year 1485, that no merchant of Edinburgh should become partner in business with an inhabitant of Leith, under penalty of 40 shillings, and of a year’s deprivation of the freedom of the city; and on future occasions, they enacted that no revenue of the city should be farmed by an inhabitant of Leith, or by any person in partnership with a Leithian, – and that no staple goods should, except under a severe penalty, be either sold in Leith, or deposited in any of its warehouses. Edinburgh’s extraordinary rights were duly confirmed, and afterwards carried to an acme, by royal charters. James I., by a charter dated 4th November, 1454, granted to Edinburgh “the haven-silver, customs, and duty of ships, vessels, and merchandize coming to the road and harbour of Leith.” And James III., on 16th November, 1482, granted to them a charter, containing a detail of the customs profits, exactions, commodities, and revenues of the port and road of Leith. By a grant of James IV., dated 9th March, 1510, a right was given to the city of Edinburgh to the new port, denominated Newhaven, lately made by the said king on the sea-coast, with the lands thereunto belonging, lying between the chapel of St. Nicholas and the lands of Wairdie brae, with certain faculties and privileges. By a charter bearing the same date, James IV. confirmed the charter by Logan of Restalrig, formerly mentioned. On 8th October, 1550, Mary ratified an act and decreet of the Lords-of-session against the inhabitants of North Leith, “adjudging the provost and bailiffs of our said town of Edinburgh to be proper judges for the said inhabitants in the petty customs of Leith, belonging to our foresaid town of Edinburgh.” The Queen-regent, Mary of Lorraine, in 1555, granted the inhabitants of Leith a contract to erect the town into a burgh-of-barony, to continue valid till she should erect it into a royal burgh; and as a preparatory measure, she purchased, overtly for their use and with money which they themselves furnished, the superiority of the town from Logan of Restalrig. But she did not fulfil her engagements, and is generally alleged to have been bribed with 20,000 merks from the city of Edinburgh to break them. Mary, her daughter, among other shifts to raise money in her difficulties, mortgaged, in 1565, to Edinburgh the superiority of Leith, redeemable for 1,000 merks; she requested the town-council by letter, in 1566, to delay the assumption of the superiority; but she obtained short indulgence, and could not prevent the consequences of her hasty act from falling on the devoted town. On the 2d of July, 1567, the citizens of Edinburgh marched in military order to Leith, went through some evolutions designed to represent or constitute a capture or conquest, and formally trampled the independence the town in the dust. Many severe laws, in years succeeding this epoch, were enacted relative to the public and the private trade of Leith. James VI. was plied by the inhabitants with appeals and efforts designed to draw from him some deliverance from their thraldom; but he accepted some private arrangement with the town-council of Edinburgh, and placed the powers and supremacy of that body on higher-vantage ground than before. On the 25th March, 1596, he empowered, by a letter of gift under the privy-seal, the corporation of Edinburgh to levy a certain tax during a certain period, towards supporting, erecting, and repairing the bulwark, pier, and port of Leith; and on the 15th March, 1603, he, by a charter of confirmation and novo damus, confirmed all the grants which had been made to them from the commencement of their ascendency. This confirming charter demands a moment’s detail as exhibiting, in their matured form, the oppressive powers which Edinburgh, till so recent a date, wielded over all the interests of Leith. After a special enumeration, there were confirmed all other charters, statutes, and rights in favour of the town of Edinburgh, “together with the aforesaid ports and roads of Leith and Newhaven, anchorage and customs, great and small, belonging to the said town, both within and without the said burgh, ports, and districts aforesaid;” and all jurisdictions, fairs, and markets, and all other liberties used and wont. Among a number of rights granted of new to Edinburgh there are the following, which relate to Leith and Newhaven. First, For all sorts of merchandise coming in and going out at the ports of Leith and Newhaven, which ought to be weighed in Edinburgh, freemen of other burghs breaking bulk to pay for each stone-weight one penny; and unfreemen, whether they break bulk or not, two pennies. Secondly, The port of Leith and adjoining houses, “with all the privileges, customs, and conveniences thereunto belonging, and, in particular, all the privileges, customs, harbour, dock, and shore silver, anchorage, golden pennies, exactions, rents, duties, and casualties of the said port, haven, road, and towns of Leith and Newhaven,” according to a table inserted, which is “to be observed and kept by all our subjects and strangers using the said ports of Leith and Newhaven, to be published in the said town of Leith, that none may pretend ignorance.” A table is then engrossed, enumerating certain duties on articles both of necessity and luxury, the amounts which are lower to freemen than to unfreemen. Thirdly, Certain places are annexed to Leith. Fourthly, There is a clause strictly forbidding and discharging the housing and keeping foreign merchandise and timber within any other part of Leith “except the common closets,” since called ‘The Burse,’ under pain of escheat to the town of Edinburgh, and empowering duties to be levied for warehouse-room. Fifthly, Power is granted to enlarge and extend the said port, shore, and haven of Leith towards the sea, with the bulwarks on both sides of the river, and to build, strengthen, and fortify the same in a substantial manner, both for duration and the safety of ships. Sixthly, Confirmation is given of the grants by Logan of Restalrig, and there are conferred of new the port of Newhaven and its appurtenances, together with the duties already named, including haven and shore silver, anchorage, dock, silver, and golden penny. And, seventhly, By different clauses the jurisdiction is confirmed. This charter was followed by one of confirmation and novo damus by Charles I., dated 23d October, 1636, which it would be superfluous to recite, as the clauses are substantially the same as those which have been detailed. 

   The earliest mention of Leith which has been traced occurs in the charter of the abbey of Holyrood, founded by David I., in which it is called Inverleith. In 1313, and again in 1410, all the vessels in the harbour were burnt by the English. In 1488, it was seized by the insurgent nobles who rose against James III., and was the scene of an interview between James IV. and the celebrated Sir Andrew Wood, who kept the mastery of the frith of Forth. In 1511, either in Leith or at Newhaven, “ane varie monstrous great schip called the Michael,” was built, and, according to Pitscottie, required such a mass of timber for her construction, “that she waisted all the woodis in Fyfe, except Falkland wood, besides the timber that came out of Norway.” In 1544, the Earl of Hertford, at the head of 10,000 men, took possession of Leith, seized all the vessels in the harbour, left the place in keeping of 1,500 soldiers till he burned Edinburgh and wasted the circumjacent country, and then, on taking leave with his army and booty, committed the whole port to the flames. Three years afterwards, the same general, who had now become Duke of Somerset, and was fresh from the fatal battle of Pinkie, again set it on fire, though not with such an amount of injurious effect as before; and, on this occasion, carried off 35 vessels from the harbour. From 1548 to 1560, Leith, by becoming the fortified seat of the court and headquarters of the Queen-regent’s army and of her French auxiliaries, figured prominently in the greater part of the stirring events which occurred during the civil war between Mary of Lorraine and the Lords of the congregation. Its port received the shipping and the supplies which were designed for the Queen-regent’s service; its fortifications enclosed alternately a garrison and an army, whose accoutrements had no opportunity of becoming rusted; and its gates poured forth detachments and sallying parties, who fought many a skirmish with portions of the Protestant forces on the plain between Leith and Edinburgh. In October 1559, the Lords of the congregation regularly invested the town with an army, and attempted to enter it by means of scaling-ladders; but they could make no impression, and were eventually, and with great slaughter, driven back by a desperate sally of the besieged. In April of the next year, the forces of the congregation, now aided by an army of 6,000 men under Lord Grey of Wilton, despatched to their assistance by Elizabeth, again invested the town, and, on this occasion, inflicted upon it a protracted, disastrous, and sanguinary contest. Leith, though suffering dreadfully from famine, kept the besiegers, during two months, fully at bay, yet without acquiring any advantage. Both parties being at length heartily tired of the contest, and willingly entering into a treaty which stipulated that the French forces in the town should leave the kingdom, and be allowed to retire unmolested, Leith was immediately dismantled and restored to tranquillity. The discovery, in late years, of several cart-loads of horses’ heads in a closed up well at the head of the Links, was a singular but very expressive monument of the slaughter which the siege occasioned. On the 20th August, 1561, Queen Mary landed at the town, to take possession of the throne of her ancestors, and attracted such demonstrations of joy as gave it a widely contrasted appearance to that which it had worn for a series of years. No vestige now remains of the pier which received her, and which must have been constructed subsequently to the destruction of the original one by the Earl of Hertford. During the minority of James Vl., Leith figured in various transactions which belong strictly to the general history of the kingdom. From November 1571 till August of next year, and again in 1596-7, the town was the seat of the High Court of Justiciary; and in 1572, it was the meeting-place of a General Assembly which made some important enactments. In 1578, an act of parliament was passed to prevent “the taking away great quantities of victual, flesh, from Leith, under the pretence of victualling ships.” A reconciliation having, in the same year, been effected between the Earl of Morton and the Scottish nobles opposed to him, the Earls of Morton, Argyle, Montrose, Athole, and Buchan, Lord Boyd, and several other persons of distinction, dined or caroused together in an hostelry of Leith kept by a William Cant. In 1584, the town was appointed the chief fish-market for herrings and the other produce of the Forth. On the 6th May, 1590, James VI., after lying six days in the roads, landed at the pier with his queen, Anne of Denmark, and excited shouts of jubilation from the inhabitants. In 1610 thirty-eight English sailors were hanged within high-water mark on the sands for piracies in the Western Islands, – thirty of them in July, and eight in December. In October 1643, the Solemn League and Covenant was sworn and subscribed with great solemnity, and many grave demonstrations of thorough zeal by the inhabitants. Four years afterwards 2,430 persons, constituting about one-half of the entire population, were, in the course of six or eight months, swept away by the plague. The churchyard’s being utterly deficient in accommodation for their bodies, many of them were buried in the Links, near Wellington-street, and on the north side of the road leading to Hermitage-hill. Till very recent times, masses of half-decayed bones wrapped in the blankets in which the victims died, have in many instances been dug up in the trenching of the adjoining fields and gardens. So fearful were the combined ravages of the plague and an accompanying famine, that parliament, believing the number of the dead to exceed that of the living, empowered the magistrates to seize, for the use of survivors, whatever grain they could find in warehouses and cellars, and allowed them to make payment at their leisure, and to find means of making it by appeals to the humanity of their landward countrymen. In 1650, after Cromwell’s defeat of the Scottish forces at Dunbar, Lambert, his major-general, while he himself proceeded to Edinburgh, took possession Leith. A monthly assessment of about £22 sterling was now imposed on the town, and after so very recent and terrible devastations from pestilence and famine, was felt to be a grievous exaction. On General Monk’s appointment to be commander-in-chief, he adopted Leith as his head-quarters and his home; and, while residing in the town, he induced many English families of considerable wealth and of great mercantile enterprise to become settlers. The incomers gave a grand impulse to the mercantile spirit of the port, and established some manufactures which continue to flourish till the present day; yet, though they felt painfully the restrictions imposed by the dominant town-council of Edinburgh, and had a republican government to appeal to for redress, they did not succeed in extricating the inhabitants from any part of their ancient thraldom. Though, so early as 1610, a Henry Anderson had obtained the privilege of running a huge and cumbrous four-wheeled vehicle between Edinburgh and Leith, at the fare of two shillings Scottish, or twopence sterling, the town-council, in 1660, granted “Iibertie and tolerance to William Woodcock, late officer in Leith, to fitt and set up ane haickney coatch, betwixt Leith and the fute of Leith-wynd in Edinburgh.” In 1691, Viscount Tarbet, afterwards 2d Earl of Cromarty, and two persons of the names of Mowat and Sinclair, raised a tavern brawl of great notoriety in a greatly frequented hostelry in the Kirkgate, and were concerned, while the brawl lasted, in the murder of a French Protestant refugee and military officer named Elias Parret Sieur de la Roche. In 1705, Captain Green of the Worcester, and three of his crew, were hanged within flood-mark on the sands, for a very curiously discovered piracy and murder, committed in 1703 on the crew of a Scottish vessel off the coast of Malabar. During the rebellion of 1715, Brigadier Macintosh of Borlam, and a party of Highlanders who followed his banner, briefly occupied the citadel, and, being menaced by the Duke of Argyle who was at the time in Edinburgh, hastily plundered the custom-house, flung open the doors of the prison, and made a night retreat over the sands at low water. “The approach of 50,000 cannibals,” says Alexander Campbell, the historian of Leith, “could not have discomposed the heroic Edinburghers more than did the proceedings of old Macintosh and his little band. The volunteers were called to arms: the whole pugnacious strength of the town, consisting of cohorts from the Canongate, and hogs from St. Mary’s-wynd, were summoned forth to battle.” In 1778, the revolted Seaforth regiment of Highlanders [see EDINBURGH], made Leith the scene of some of their movements. Next year, 50 Highlanders, who been recruited for the 42d and 71st regiments, mutinied at Leith, whither they were brought for embarkation, and firmly refused to go on board the transports. A serjeant of a party of the South Fencibles, who were sent from Edinburgh castle to apprehend the mutineers, having been twice and fatally poniarded in an attempt to do his duty, a melée occurred in front of the street line between the Old Ship tavern and the Britannia inn, in the course of which a captain of the Fencibles was killed, and 12 of the Highlanders were killed, and 20 severely wounded. In 1779, the noted Paul Jones appeared in the frith, and struck such a panic into the inhabitants that a battery, the embryo of the present fort, was hastily constructed to dispute his entering the harbour; but he was driven away by a storm, and providentially hindered from inflicting damage on the town. In 1822, Leith had all the eclat of being the scene of George IV,’s arrival to visit his Scottish metropolis. See EDINBURGH. 

   While this page is passing through the press, we have received the following details of the census of Leith as taken in 1841: 



Inhabited Houses. 


Parish of South Leith, 



Population in 1831,   


Apparent increase,   


But deduct Piershill-barracks, and seamen at home, neither included in census of 1831,   


Real increase in last ten years,   



Parish of North Leith, 



Population in 1831,   


Apparent increase,   


But deduct Leith fort, and seamen at home, neither included in census of 1831,   


Real increase in last ten years,   



Total of the parishes of South and North Leith, as given above, added,   




But deduct part of South Leith parish within the parliamentary burgh of Edinburgh, 



Also part of South Leith within the parliamentary burgh of Portobello, 



Also part of South Leith not in any burgh; Jock’s Lodge and Restalrig, including Piershill-barracks, 



All without the parliamentary burgh of Leith, 



Parishes of South and North Leith within burgh of Leith, 



Add part of St. Cuthbert’s parish within the parliamentary burgh of Leith, 



Seamen and others in the vessels in the docks,   



Total population at home in burgh of Leith, 



Seamen at sea or in foreign parts,   


Excess of other persons temporarily absent over those temporarily present in Leith on the night of 6th June, 1841,   






Deduct persons in docks not belonging to Leith,   





Parish of South Leith within burgh of Leith, excluding St. John’s, 



St. John’s quoad sacra parish, 



Parish pf North Leith within burgh of Leith, excluding Newhaven, 



Newhaven quoad sacra parish, 



Parish pf St. Cuthbert’s within burgh of Leith, 






Add excess of seamen abroad, persons in docks, and others temporarily absent above those temporarily present,   




   The oldest person in Leith ls a man who is 100 years of age; his wife is 80. There is one woman above 95, and three men above 90. 

   The apparent Increase In the parishes of South and North Leith is 2,087; but the true increase is only 1,336.