History and Antiquity – Old Views of it Described – First Protestant Incumbents – The Old Manse – Old Communion Cups – Pillaged by Cromwell – Ruined by the Siege of 1689, and again in 1745 – Deaths of Messrs. McVicar and Pitcairn – Early Body-snatchers – Demolition of the Old Church – Erection of the New – Case of Heart-burial – Old Tombs and Vaults – The Nisbets of Dean – The Old Poor House – Kirkbraehead Road – Lothian Road – Dr. Candlish’s Church – Military Academy – New Caledonian Railway Station.
IN the hollow or vale at the end of which the North Loch lay there stands one of the most hideous churches in Edinburgh, known as the West Kirk, occupying the exact site of the Culdee Church of St. Cuthbert, the parish of which was the largest in Midlothian, and nearly encircled the whole of the city without the walls. Its age was greater than that of any record in Scotland. It was supposed to have been built in the eighth century, and was dedicated to St. Cuthbert, the Bishop of Durham, who died on the 20th of March, 687.
In Gordon of Rothiemay’s bird’s-eye view it appears a long, narrow building, with one transept or aisle, on the south, a high square tower of three storeys at the south-west corner, and a belfry. The burying-ground is square, with rows of trees to the westward. On the south of the burying-ground is a long row of two-storeyed houses, with a gate leading to the present road west of the Castle rock, and another on the north, leading to the pathway which yet exists up the slope to Princes Street, from which point it long was known as the Kirk Loan to Stockbridge.
A view taken in 1772 represents it as a curious assortment of four barn-like masses of building, having a square spire of five storeys in height in the centre, and the western end an open ruin – the western kirk – with a bell hung on a wooden frame. Northward lies the bare open expanse, or ridge, whereon the first street of the new town was built.
After the Reformation the first incumbent settled here would seem to have been a pious tailor, named William Harlow, who was born in the city about 1500, but fled to England, where he obtained deacon’s orders and became a preacher during the reign of Edward VI. On the death of the latter, and accession of Mary, he was compelled to seek refuge in Scotland, and in 1556 he began “publicly to exhort in Edinburgh,” for which he was excommunicated by the Catholic authorities, whose days were numbered now; and four years after, when installed at St. Cuthbert’s, Mr. Harlow attended the meeting of the first General Assembly, held in Edinburgh on the 20th of December, 1560. He died in 1578, but four years before that event Mr. Robert Pont, afterwards an eminent judge and miscellaneous writer, was ordained to the ministry of St. Cuthbert’s in his thirtieth year, at the time he was, with others, appointed by the Assembly to revise all books that were printed and published. About the same period he drew up the Calendar, and framed the rule to understand it, for Arbuthnot and Bassandyne’s famous edition of the Bible. In 1571 he had been a Lord of Session and Provost of the Trinity College.
On Mr. Pont being transferred in 1582, Mr. Nicol Dalgleish came in his place; but the former, being unable to procure a stipend, returned to his old charge, conjointly with his successor. When James VI. insidiously began his attempts to introduce Episcopacy, Mr. Pont, a zealous defender of Presbyterianism, with two other ministers, actually repaired to the Parliament House, with the design of protesting for the rights of the Church in the face of the Estates; but finding the doors shut against them, they repaired to the City Cross, and when the obnoxious “Black Acts” were proclaimed, publicly denounced them, and then fled to England, followed by most of the clergy in Edinburgh.
Meanwhile Nicol Dalgleish, for merely praying for them, was tried for his life, and acquitted, but he was indicted anew for corresponding with the rebels, because he had read a letter which one of the banished ministers had sent to his wife. For this fault sentence of death was passed upon him; but though it was not executed, by a refinement of cruelty the scaffold on which he expected to die was kept standing for several weeks before the windows of his prison.
While Mr. Pont remained a fugitive, William Aird, a stonemason, “an extraordinary witness, stirred up by God,” says Calderwood, “and married, learned first of his wife to speak English,” was appointed, in the winter of 1584, colleague to Mr. Dalgleish, who, on the return of Mr. Pont in 1585, “was nominated to the principality of Aberdeen.”
Pont’s next colleague was Mr. Aird. Aware of the ignorance of most of their parishioners concerning the doctrines of the Protestant faith, and that many had no faith whatever, they offered to devote the forenoon of every Thursday to public teaching, and to this end a meeting was held on the 27th October, 1592, by “the haill elderes, deacones, and honest men of ye parochin… quha hes agreit, all in ane voice, that in all tymes coming, thair be ane preaching everie Thursday, and that it begin at nyne hours in ye morning, and ye officer of ye kirk to gang with ye bell at aught hours betwixt the Bow Fut and the Toun-end.” This Thursday sermon was kept up until the middle of the eighteenth century. The “toun-end” is supposed to mean Fountain Bridge, sometimes of old called the Causeway-end.
In 1589 the Kirk Session ordained that none in the parish should have “yair bairnes” baptised, admitted to marriage, repentance, or alms, but those who could repeat the Lord’s Prayer, the Belief, and the Commandments, and “gif ane compt yair of, quhen yai ar examinet, and yis to be publishit in ye polpete.” In the following year a copy of the Confession of Faith and the National Covenant was subscribed by the whole parish.
From the proximity of the church to the castle, in the frequent sieges sustained by the latter, the former suffered considerably, particularly after the invention of artillery. At the Reformation it had a roof of thatch, probably replacing a former one of stone. The thatch was renewed in 1590, and new windows and a loft were introduced; two parts of the expense were borne by the parish, the other by Adam, Bishop of Orkney, a taxation which he vehemently contested. Among other additions to the church was “a pillar for adulterers,” built by John Howieson and John Gairns in August, 1591. The thatch was removed and the roof slated.
In 1594 a manse adjoining the church was built for Mr. Robert Pont, on the site of the present one, into which is inserted an ancient fragment of the former, inscribed –
RELIGIONI ET POSTERIS
S. R. P. G. A. 1594.
The burying-ground in those days was confined to the rising slope south-west of the church, and as “nolt, horse, and scheipe” were in the habit of grazing there, the wall being in ruins, it was repaired in 1597. The beadle preceded all funerals with a hand-bell – a practice continued in the eighteenth century.
In consequence of the advanced age of Messrs. Pont and Aird, a third minister, Mr. Richard Dickson, was appointed to the parish in May, 1600, and in 1606 communion was given on three successive Sundays. On the 8th of May that year the venerable Mr. Pont passed from the scene of his labours, and is supposed to have been interred within the church. To his memory a stone was erected, which, when the present edifice was built, was removed to the Rev. Mr. Williamson’s tomb on the high ground, in which position it yet remains. His colleague, Mr. Aird, survived him but a few months, and their successors, Messrs. Dickson and Arthur, became embroiled with the Assembly in 1619 for celebrating communion to the people seated at a table, preventing them from kneeling, as superstitious and idolatrous. Mr. Dickson was ordered “to enter his person in ward within the Castle of Dumbarton,” and Mr. Arthur to give communion to the people on their knees; but he and the people declined to “comply with a practice so nearly allied to popery.” Mr. Dickson was expelled in 1620, but Mr. Arthur was permitted to remain. Among those who were sitters in the church at this time were William Napier, of the Wrytes house, and his more illustrious kinsman, John Napier, of Merchiston, the inventor of logarithms, whose “dasks,” or seats, seem to have been close together.
The old church, like that of Duddingstone, was furnished with iron jougs, in which it appears that Margaret Dalgleish was compelled to figure on the 23rd of April, 1612, for her scandalous behaviour; and in 1622, John Reid, “poltriman,” was publicly rebuked in church for plucking “geiss upon the Lord his sabbath, in tyme of sermon.”
We are told in the “History of the West Church,” that “in 1622 it was deemed proper to have a bell hung in the steeple, if the old ruinous fabric which stood between the old and new kirks might be so called,” for a new church had been added at the close of the sixteenth century. In 1618 new communion cups of silver were procured. “They were then of a very peculiar shape, being six inches in height, gilt, and beautifully chased; but the cup itself, which was plated, was only two inches deep and twenty-four in circumference, not unlike a small soup-plate affixed to the stalk of a candlestick. On the bottom was engraved the following sentence:- I wil tak the covp of salvatiovne and cal vpone the name of the Lord. 116 Pslm. 1619; and around the rim of the cup these words:- For the Vast Kirk ovtvith Edinburghe.”
The year 1650 saw the church again imperilled by war. Its records bear, on the 28th July in that year, that “No sessione was keiped in the monthe of August, because there lay ane companie at the church,” the seats of which had been destroyed and the sessioners dispersed, partly by the army of Cromwell, which lay on the south side of the parish, and that of the Scots, which lay on the north; and on the 13th of that month, after Cromwell’s retreat to Dunbar, the commission of the General Assembly met in the church, and passed an Act, which, however necessary, perhaps, in those harassing times, concerning “the sine and guilte of the king and his house,” caused much suffering to the Covenanters after the Restoration. It was known by the name of the West Kirk Act, and was approved by Parliament the same day.
Subsequently, during his siege of the castle Cromwell made the church a barrack; hence its roof and windows were destroyed by the guns of the fortress, and soon little was left of it but the bare walls, which were repaired, and opened for service in 1655.
For some years subsequent the sole troubles of the incumbents were breaches of “the Sabbath,” such as when William Gillespie, in 1659, was “fund carrying watter, and his wyfe knoking beir,” for which they had to make public repentance, or fining people for “taking snuff in tyme of sermon,” contrary to the Act of 18th June, 1640; till 1665, when the “great mutiny” in the parish occurred, and the minister, William Gordon, for “keeping of festivals,” was railed at by the people, who closed the doors against him, for which a man and a woman, according to Wodrow, were scourged through Edinburgh.
At the Revolution, those ministers who had been ejected in 1661, and were yet alive, returned to their charges. Among them was Mr. David Williamson, who, in 1689, was settled in St. Cuthbert’s manse; but not quietly, for the castle, defended by the Duke of Gordon, was undergoing its last disastrous siege by the troops of William, and the church suffered so much damage from shot and shell, that for many months after the surrender in June, the people were unable to use it, and the repairs amounted to £1,500. If tradition has not wronged him, Mr. Williamson is the well-known “Dainty Davie” of Scottish song, who had six wives ere the seventh, Jean Straiton, survived him. He died in August, 1706, and was buried in the churchyard, where the vicinity of the grave is alone indicated by the letters D. W. cut on the front of the tomb in which he lies.
The ancient cemetery on the knoll having been found too small for the increasing population and consequent number of interments, in 1701 a piece of ground to the west was added to it (including the garden, with trees, shown in Gordon’s Map), from the old boundary to the present west gate at the Lothian Road. About the same time several heritors requested permission to inter their dead in the little or Wester-kirk, which had been a species of ruin since the invasion of Cromwell.
In 1745, after the victory of the Highlanders at Prestonpans, a message was sent to the ministers of the city, in the name of “Charles, Prince Regent,” desiring them to preach next day, Sunday, as usual; but many, alarmed by the defeat of Cope, sought refuge in the country, and no public worship was performed within the city, save by a clergyman named Hog at the Tron.
It was otherwise, however, at St. Cuthbert’s, the incumbent of which was then the Rev. Neil McVicar, who preached to a crowded congregation, many of whom were armed Highlanders, before whom he prayed for George II. and also for Charles Edward in a fashion of his own, recorded thus by Ray, in his history of the time, and others:-
“Bless the king! Thou knowest what king I mean. May the crown sit long on his head. As for that young man who has come among us to seek an earthly crown, we beseech Thee to take him to Thyself and give him a crown of glory.”
It is said that when the prince heard of McVicar’s prayer he laughed heartily, and expressed himself quite satisfied.
Mr. Pitcairn preached in the afternoon to an equally large audience; and during the brief occupation of the city by the Highlanders no cessation of public worship took place in St. Cuthbert’s, though one of the pickets by which they blocked up the castle was posted therein, yet left it always during sermon. It was partially unroofed by cannon-shot, and in this condition was permitted to remain for several years, to the danger and discomfort of the people.
Charles having commenced his march for England on the 31st of October, the parishioners, like those of other sections of the city, took courage, and sought to retrieve their past ill-conduct by noisily preparing to raise forces to defend themselves in case of a second visit from the Highlanders.
When peace came, Messrs. McVicar and Pitcairn, his coadjutor, continued faithfully and successfully to discharge the duties of the ministry.
In 1747 Mr. McVicar, when about to deliver one of the old Thursday sermons, suddenly dropped down dead; and amid a vast concourse of sorrowing parishioners was deposited in his tomb, which has a plain marble monument. A well-painted portrait of him hangs in the vestry of the present church.
His colleague, the Rev. Thomas Pitcairn, followed him on the 13th of June, 1751, and a pyramidal stone, erected to his memory by his youngest daughter, stands in the ancient burying-ground.
So early as 1738 attempts were made to violate graves, for surgical purposes, in the churchyard, which, of course, was then a lonely and sequestered place, and though the boundary walls were raised eight feet high, they failed to be a protection, as watchers who were appointed connived at, rather than prevented, a practice which filled the parishioners with rage and horror.
Hence, notwithstanding all the efforts of the Session to prevent such violation of tombs, several bodies were abstracted in 1742. George Haldane, one of the beadles, was suspected of assisting in this repulsive practice; and on the 9th of May his house at Maryfield was surrounded by an infuriated mob, and burned to the ground.
The old church, which stood for ages, and had been in succession a Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and finally a Presbyterian place of worship again, and which had been gutted and pillaged by Reformers and Cromwellians, and cannon-shotted in civil wars, was found to be dangerous, and condemned to be taken down. Although the edifice was insufficient, and in some parts dangerous, there was no immediate cause for the growing terror that pervaded the congregation, and culminated in a general alarm on Sunday, the 27th September, 1772. Part of a seat in one of the galleries gave way with a crash, on which the entire assembled mass rushed to the doors, and in an instant the church was empty.
A jury of tradesmen met to inspect the church, which they were of opinion should be taken down without delay; but this verdict had hardly been drawn up and read, than a fear seized them that the old church would fall and bury them in its ruins, on which they fled to the adjacent charity workhouse.
The work of demolition was begun forthwith, and when removing this venerable fane, the interior of which now, “formed after no plan, presented a multitude of petty galleries stuck up one above another to the very rafters, like so many pigeons’-nests,” a curious example of what is named heart-burial came to light.
The workmen, says the Scots Magazine for September, 1773, discovered “a leaden coffin, which contained some bones and a leaden urn. Before opening the urn, a most fragrant smell issued out; on inspecting the cause of it, they found a human heart finely embalmed and in the highest state of preservation. No inscription was upon the coffin by which the date could be traced, but it must have been there for centuries. It is conjectured that the heart belonged to some person who, in the time of the Crusades, had gone to the Holy Land, and been there killed, and the heart, as was customary in those times, embalmed and sent home to be buried with some of the family.”
Prior to the erection of the new church, the congregation assembled in a Methodist Chapel in the Low Calton.
In 1775 it was completed in the hideous taste and nameless style peculiar to Scottish ecclesiastical architecture during the times of the first three Georges. It cost £4,231, irrespective of its equally hideous steeple, and is seated for about 3,000 persons, and is now the mother church, associated with ten others, for a parish which includes a great part of the parliamentary burgh of the capital, and has a population of more than 140,000. The church, says a writer, “apart from its supplemental steeple, looks so like a huge stone box, that some wags have described it as resembling a packing-case, out of which the neighbouring beautiful toy-like fabric of St. John’s Church has been lifted.”
At the base of the spire is a fine piece of monumental sculpture, from the chisel of the late Handyside Ritchie, in memory of Dr. David Dickson, a worthy and zealous pastor, who was minister of the parish for forty years.
Some accounts state that Napier of Merchiston, the inventor of logarithms, was interred in the cemetery; but from an essay on the subject read before the Antiquarian Society by Professor William Wallace in 1832, there is conclusive evidence given, from a work he quoted, “that Napier was buried without the West Port of Edinburgh, in the church of St. Cuthbert,” and in a vault, in the month of April, 1617.
The baronial family of Dean had also a vault in the old church, which still remains under the new, entering from the north. Above it is a monumental stone from the old church, to the memory of Henry Nisbet of that ilk, by whom we thus learn the vault was built. The arms of the Dean family are still above this black and gloomy vault; “a memorial alike of the demolished fane and the extinct race,” says Wilson in 1847. “When we last saw it the old oak door was broken in, and the stair that led down to the chamber of the dead was choked up with rank nettles and hemlock – the fittest monument that could be devised for the old barons of Dean, the last of them now gathered to his fathers.”
One of the most interesting tombs here is that of Thomas de Quincey, the eccentric “English opium-eater,” who was the friend of Professor Wilson, and died at Edinburgh on the 8th of December, 1859. It is reached by taking the first pathway upward to the right at the Lothian Road entrance.
On one of the south walls here, where for more than fifty years it hung unnoticed and forgotten, is a piece of monumental sculpture, by Flaxman, of very rare beauty – a square architectural mural monument, of a mixed Roman and Grecian style, of white and black marble, which was erected to commemorate the death of three infant children.
Two families – the Watsons of Muirhouse, and the Rocheids of Inverleith – retained the right of burial within the new church, under the steeple, which is 170 feet in height. Its bell, which is inscribed “George Watt fecit, St. Ninian’s Row, Edin: 1791,” was hung in that year.
In the west lobby of the church a handsome tablet bears the following inscription, removed, probably, from the older edifice:- “Here lyes the corpse of the Honble. Sir James Rocheid of Inverleith, who died the 1st day of May, 1737, in the 71st year of his age.”
The last incumbent of the ancient church, Mr. Stewart, having died in April, 1775, was succeeded by the famous Sir Henry Wellwood Moncrieff, D.D., who for more than half a century was one of the greatest ornaments of the Scottish Church.
At St. Cuthbert’s he soon became distinguished for his devoted zeal and fidelity in the discharge of his ministerial duties, for the mildness and benevolence of his disposition, for his genius, eloquence, and great personal worth. He soon became the leader of the Evangelical section of the church, and in 1785 was unanimously chosen Moderator of the General Assembly. He was appointed collector of the fund for the widows and children of the clergy, and filled that important situation till his death, and received annually the thanks of the Assembly for forty-three years. He was author of several sermons, and the funeral oration preached at his death by Dr. Andrew Thomson, of St. George’s, was long remembered for its power pathos, and tenderness. He died in 1827 of a lingering illness, in the 78th year of his age and 57th of his ministry.
In its greatest length, quoad civilia, in 1835, the parish measured upwards of five miles, and in its greatest breadth three and a half. But in 1834 territories were detached from it and formed into the quoad sacra parishes of Buccleuch, St. Bernard’s, Newington, and Roxburgh. It was partly landward and partly town; but, as regards population, is chiefly the latter now. Each of its two ministers has a manse.
Before quitting the church of St. Cuthbert a reference must be made to its old poor-house, a plain but lofty edifice, with two projecting wings (standing on the south side of what was latterly called Riding School Lane), and now removed.
At an early period a tax of £100 sterling had been laid on the parish to preclude begging, “and maintain those who had been accustomed to live on the charity of others.” In 1739, at a meeting of heritors and the Session, the former protested against the levy of this old impost, on the plea “that the poor’s funds were sufficient to maintain the poor in the landward part of the parish, with whom only the heritors were concerned; while the poor living in Pleasance, Potter Row, Bristo, West Port, &c., fell to be maintained by the town in whose suburbs they were.”
The assessment was thus abandoned, and an ancient practice was resorted to: the mendicant poor were furnished with metal badges, entitling them to solicit alms within the parish. The number furnished with this unenviable distinction amounted to fifty-eight in 1744, and the number of enrolled poor to 220, for whose support £200 sterling were expended. In 1754 the Kirk Session presented a memorial to the magistrates, craving a moiety of the duty levied on ale for the support of their poor, whereupon a wing was added to the city workhouse for the reception of St. Cuthbert’s mendicants.
In June 1759 a subscription was opened for building a workhouse in the West Kirk parish; the money obtained amounted to £553 sterling for the house, and £196 8s. of annual subscriptions for the support of its inmates – a small proof that the incubus or inertia which had so long affected Edinburgh was now passing away; and the building was commenced on the south side of a tortuous lane, St. Cuthbert’s, that then ran between hedgerows from opposite the churchyard gate towards the place named the Grove. It was completed by the year 1761, at a cost of about £1,565 sterling. The expenses of the house were defrayed partly by collections at the church doors and by an assessment on the real property within the parish; the expense for each inmate in those days was only £4 1s. 6d. On the demolition of the old church, its pulpit, which was of oak, of a very ancient form, and covered with carving, was placed in the hall of the workhouse. The number of the inmates in the first year was eighty-four. The edifice, large and unsightly, was removed, with the Diorama and several other houses, to make space for the Caledonian railway, and the poor of St. Cuthbert’s were conveyed to a more airy and commodious mansion, on the site of the old farmhouse of Werter.
When the Act of Parliament in 1767 was obtained for extending the royalty of the city of Edinburgh, clauses were inserted in it disjoining a great portion of the ground on which the future new city was to be built, and annexing it to the parish of St. Giles, under the condition that the heritors of the lands should continue liable, as formerly, for tithes, ministers’ stipends, and £300 annually of poor’s money. Thus the modern parishes of St. Andrew, St. George, St. Mary, and St. Stephen – all formed since that period – have been taken from the great area of the ancient parish of St. Cuthbert.
No very material alteration was made in the burying-ground till April, 1787, when the north side of it, which was bordered by a marsh 2,000 feet in length (to the foot of the mound) by 350 broad – as shown in the maps of that year – was; drained and partially filled with earth. Then the walls and gates were repaired. The ground at the east end was raised a few years after, and enclosed by a wall, on which a line of tombs is now erected.
In the eighteenth century the building of note nearest to the church of St. Cuthbert, on the opposite side of the way, now named Lothian Road, was a tall, narrow, three-storeyed country villa, called, from its situation at the head of the slope, Kirkbraehead House. There the way parted from the straight line of the modern road at the kirk-gate, forming a delta (the upper base of which was the line of Princes Street), in which were several cottages and gardens, long since swept away. A row of cottages lay along the whole line of what is now Queensferry Street, under the name of Kirkbraehead. The villa referred to was, towards the close of the century, occupied by Lieutenant-General John Lord Elphinstone, who was Lieutenant-Governor of the Castle, with the moderate stipend of £182 10s. yearly, and who died in 1794.
At a subsequent period its occupant was a Mr. John Butler, who figures among “Kay’s Portraits,” an eccentric character but skilful workman, who was king’s carpenter for Scotland; he built Gayfield House and the house of Sir Lawrence Dundas, now the Royal Bank in St. Andrew Square. He was proprietor of several tenements in Carrubber’s Close, then one of the most fashionable portions of the old town.
The villa of Kirkbraehead had been built by his father ere the Lothian Road was formed, and concerning the latter, the following account is given by Kay’s editor and others.
This road, which leaves the western extremity of Princes Street at a right ancle, and runs southward towards Bruntsfield Links, had long been projected, but owing to the objections raised by the proprietors of many barns, byres, and sheds which stood in the way, the plan could not be matured, till after several years of trouble and speculation; and when at last the proposal was about to be agreed to by the opposing parties, the broad and stately road was – to the surprise of the public and mortification of the opposition – made in one day!
It so happened that a gentleman, said to be Sir John Clerk, Bart., of Pennicuik (an officer of the royal navy, who succeeded his father, Sir George, in 1784), laid a bet with a friend to the effect “that he would, between sunrise and sunset, execute the line of road, extending nearly a mile in length by twenty paces in breadth.” This scheme he concerted with address, and executed with nautical promptitude. It happened to be the winter season, when many men were unemployed. He had no difficulty in collecting several hundreds of these at the Kirkbraehead upon the appointed morning before sunrise, when he gave them all a plentiful breakfast of porter, whisky, and bread and cheese, after which, just as the sun rose, he ordered them to set to work; “some to tear down enclosures, others to unroof and demolish cottages, and a considerable portion to bring earth wherewith to fill up the natural hollow (near the churchyard gate) to the required height. The inhabitants, dismayed at so vast a force and so summary a mode of procedure, made no resistance; and so active were the workmen that before sunset the road was sufficiently formed to allow the bettor to drive his carriage triumphantly over it, which he did amidst the acclamations of a great multitude of persons, who flocked from the town to witness the issue of this extraordinary undertaking. Among the instances of temporary distress occasioned to the inhabitants, the most laughable was that of a poor simple woman who had a cottage and small cow-feeding establishment upon the spot. It appears that this good creature had risen early, as usual, milked her cows, smoked her pipe, taken her ordinary matutinal tea, and lastly, recollecting that she had some friends invited to dine with her upon sheep-head and kail about noon, placed the pot upon the fire, in order that it might simmer peaceably till she should return from town, where she had to supply a numerous set of customers with the produce of her dairy. Our readers may judge the consternation of this poor woman when, upon her return from the duties of the morning, she found neither house, nor byre, nor cows, nor fire, nor pipe, nor pot, nor anything that was here upon the spot where she had left them but a few hours before. All had vanished, like the palace of Aladdin, leaving not a wrack behind.”
Such was the origin of that broad and handsome street which now leads to where the Castle Barns stood of old.
The Kirkbraehead House was demolished in 1869, when the new Caledonian Railway Station was formed, and with it passed away the southern portion of the handsome modern thoroughfare named Rutland Street, and several other structures in the vicinity of the West Church.
Of these the most important was St. George’s Free Church, built in 1845, at the north-east corner of Cuthbert’s Lane, the line of which has since been turned into Rutland Street, in obedience to the inexorable requirements of the railway.
During its brief existence this edifice was alone famous for the ministrations of the celebrated Rev. Robert Candlish, D.D., one of the most popular of Scottish preachers, and one of the great leaders of the “Non Intrusion” party during those troubles which eventually led to the separation of the Scottish Church into two distinct sections, and the establishment of that Free Kirk to which we shall have often to refer. He was born about the commencement of the century, in 1807, and highly regarded as a debater. He was author of an “Exposition of the Book of Genesis,” works on “The Atonement,” “The Resurrection,” “Life of a Risen Saviour,” and other important theological books. In 1861 he was Moderator of the Free Church Assembly.
The church near St. Cuthbert’s was designed by the late David Cousin in the Norman style of architecture, and the whole edifice, which was highly ornate, after being carefully taken down, was re-constructed in its own mass in Deanhaugh Street, Stockbridge, as a free church for that locality.
While the present Free St. George’s in Maitland Street was in course of erection, Dr. Candlish officiated to his congregation in the Music Hall, George Street. He died, deeply regretted by them and by all classes, on the 19th of October, 1873.
The next edifice of any importance demolished at the time was the Riding School, with the old Scottish Naval and Military Academy, so long superintended by an old officer of the Black Watch, and well-known citizen, Captain John Orr, who carried one of the colours of his regiment at Waterloo. It was a plain but rather elegant Grecian edifice, under patronage of the Crown, for training young men chiefly for the service of the royal and East India Company’s services, and to all the ordinary branches of education were added fortification, military drawing, gun-drill, and military exercises; but just about the time its site was required by the railway the introduction of a certain amount of competitive examination at military colleges elsewhere rendered the institution unnecessary, though Scotland is certainly worthy of a military school of her own. Prior to its extinction the academy sufficed to send more than a thousand young men as officers into the army, many of whom have risen to distinction in every quarter of the globe.
The new station of the Caledonian Railway, which covered the sites of the buildings mentioned, and with its adjuncts has a frontage to the Lothian Road of 1,100 feet (to where it abuts upon the United Presbyterian Church) by about 800 feet at its greatest breadth, forms a spacious and handsome terminus, erected at the cost of more than £10,000, succeeding the more temporary station at first projected on the west side of the Lothian Road, about half a furlong to the south, and which was cleared and purchased at an enormous cost. It is a most commodious structure, with a main front 103 feet long and 22 feet high, yet designed only for temporary use, and is intended to give place to a permanent edifice of colossal proportions and more than usual magnificence, with a great palatial hotel to adjoin it, according to the custom now so common as regards great railway termini.