[Old & New Edinburgh Contents]
Maitland Street and Shandwick Place – The Albert Institute – Last Residence of Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh – Lieutenant-General Dundas – Melville Street – Patrick F. Tytler – Manor Place – St. Mary’s Cathedral – The Foundation Laid – Its Size and Aspect – Opened for Service – The Copestone and Cross placed on the Spire – Haymarket Station – Winter Garden – Donaldson’s Hospital – Castle Terrace – Its Churches – Castle Barns – The U. P. Theological Hall – Union Canal – First Boat Launched – Dalry – The Chieslies – The Caledonian Distillery – Fountainbridge – Earl Grey Street – Professor G. J. Bell – The Slaughter-houses – Bain Whyt of Bainfield – North British India Rubber Works – Scottish Vulcanite Company – Their Manufactures, &c. – Adam Ritchie.
THE Western New Town comprises a grand series of crescents, streets, and squares, extending from the line of East and West Maitland Streets and Athole Crescent northward to the New Queensferry Road, displaying in its extent and architecture, while including the singularly picturesque ravine of the Water of Leith, a brilliance and beauty well entitling it to be deemed, par excellence, “The West End,” and was built respectively about 1822, 1850, and 1866.
Lynedoch Place, so named from the hero of Barossa, opposite Randolph Crescent, was erected in 1823, but prior to that a continuation of the line of Princes Street had been made westward towards the lands of Coates. This was finally effected by the erection of East and West Maitland Streets, Shandwick Place, and Coates and Athole Crescents. In the latter are some rows of stately old trees, which only vigorous and prolonged remonstrance prevented from being wantonly cut down, in accordance with the bad taste which at one time prevailed in Edinburgh, where a species of war was waged against all growing timber.
The Episcopal chapel of St. Thomas is now compacted with the remaining houses at the east end of Rutland Street, but presents an ornamental front in the Norman style immediately east of Maitland Street, and shows there a richly-carved porch, with some minutely beautiful arcade work.
Maitland Street and Shandwick Place, once a double line of front-door houses for people of good style, are almost entirely lines of shops or other new buildings. In the first years of the present century, Lockhart of Castlehill, Hepburn of Clerkington, Napier of Dunmore, Tait of Glencross, and Scott of Cauldhouse, had their residences in the former; and No. 23, now a shop, was the abode, about the year 1818, of J. Gibson Lockhart, the son-in-law and biographer of Sir Walter Scott. He died at Abbotsford in 1854.
In Shandwick Place is now the Albert Institute of the Fine Arts, erected in 1876, when property to the value of £25,000 was acquired for the purpose. The objects of this institute are the advancement of the cause of art generally, but more especially contemporary Scottish art; to promote the pleasant intercourse of those who practise art either professionally or privately; to increase facilities for the study and observation of art, and to obtain more general attention to its claims.
The association is composed of artists, professional and amateur, and has exhibitions of paintings, sculpture, and water-colour drawings, at intervals during the year, without being antagonistic in any way to the Royal Scottish Academy. Lectures are here delivered on art, and the entire institute is managed by a chairman and executive council.
In No. 6 Shandwick Place Sir Walter Scott resided from 1828 to 1830, when he relinquished his office as clerk of session in the July of the latter year. This was his last permanent residence in Edinburgh, where on two future occasions, however, he resided temporarily. On the 31st of January, 1831, he came to town from Abbotsford for the purpose of executing his last will, and on that occasion he took up his abode at the house of his bookseller, in Athole Crescent, where he resided for nine days. At that time No. 6 was the residence of Mr. Jobson.
No. 11, now a hotel, was for about twenty years the residence of Lieutenant-General Francis Dundas, son of the second President Dundas, and brother of the Lord Chief Baron Dundas. He was long a colonel in the old Scots Brigade of immortal memory, in the Dutch service, and which afterwards came into the British in 1795, when his regiment was numbered as the 94th of the line. In 1802-3 he was Governor of the Cape of Good Hope. During the brief peace of Amiens, in accordance with his instructions to evacuate the colony, he embarked his troops on board the British squadron, but on the same evening, having fortunately received counter orders, he re-landed the troops and re-captured the colony, which has ever since belonged to Britain.
In 1809 he was colonel of the 71st Highlanders, and ten years after was Governor of Dumbarton Castle. He died at Shandwick Place on the 4th of January, 1824, after a long and painful illness, “which he supported with the patience of a Christian and the fortitude of a soldier.”
At the east end of Shandwick Place is St. George’s Free Church, a handsome and massive Palladian edifice, built for the congregation of the celebrated Dr. Candlish, after a design by David Bryce, R.S.A., seated for about 1,250 persons, and erected at a cost, including £13,600 for the site, of £31,000.
In No. 3 Walker Street, the short thoroughfare between Coates Crescent and Melville Street, Sir Walter Scott resided with his daughter during the winter of 1826-7, prior to his removal to Shandwick Place.
Melville Street, which runs parallel with the latter on the north, at about two hundred yards distance, is a spacious thoroughfare symmetrically and beautifully edificed; and is adorned in its centre, at a rectangular expansion, with a pedestrian bronze statute of the second Viscount Melville, ably executed by Steel, on a stone pedestal; it was erected in 1857.
This street contains houses which were occupied by two eminent divines, the Rev. David Welsh and the Rev. Andrew Thomson, already referred to in the account of St. George’s parish church. In No. 36, Patrick Fraser Tytler, F.R.S.E., the eminent Scottish historian, resided for many years, and penned several of his works. He was the youngest son of Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee, and thus came of a race distinguished in Scottish literature. Patrick was called to the bar in 1813, and six years after published, at Edinburgh, a “Life of the Admirable Crichton,”1 and in 1826, a “Life of Wicliff.” His able and laborious “History of Scotland” first appeared in 1828, and at once won him fame, for its accuracy, brilliance, and purity of style; but his writings did not render him independent, as he died, when advanced in life, in receipt of an honorary pension from the Civil List.
In Manor Place, at the west end of Melville Street, lived Mrs. Grant of Laggan, the well-known authoress of “Letters from the Mountains,” and whose house was, in her time, the resort of select literary parties; of whom Professor Wilson was always one. She had for some time previous resided in the Old Kirk Brae House. In 1825 an application was made on her behalf to George IV. for a pension, which was signed by Scott, Jeffrey, Mackenzie – “The Man of Feeling” – and other influential persons in Edinburgh, and in consequence she received an annual pension of £100 from the Civil Establishment of Scotland.
This, with the emoluments of her literary works, and liberal bequests by deceased friends, made easy and independent her latter days, and she died in Manor Place, on the 7th of November, 1838, aged 84.
It was not until 1868 that this street was edificed on its west side partially. Westward and northward of it a splendid new extension of the city spreads, erected subsequently to that year, comprising property now worth nearly £1,000,000.
This street is named from the adjacent mansion house of the Walkers of Coates, and is on the property of the latter name. Lying immediately westward of Princes Street, this estate includes the sites of Coates Crescent, Melville, Walker, Stafford Streets, and other thoroughfares, yielding a rental of about £20,000 yearly, and representing a capital of £400,000, the whole of which, in 1870, was bequeathed by the late Misses Walker of Coates and Drumsheugh, for the erection of a cathedral for the Scottish Episcopal Church, dedicated to St. Mary, facing the west end of Melville Street.
Miss Mary Walker – the last of an old Episcopalian family – died in 1871, her sister Barbara having pre-deceased her. The foundation-stone was laid with impressive ceremony, by the Duke of Buccleuch, assisted by some 200 clergy and laymen of the Episcopal communion on the 21st of May, 1874; and when fully completed it will be the largest and most beautiful church that has been erected in Scotland, or perhaps in Great Britain since the Reformation. The total cost, when finished, will be about £132,567.
The architect, Sir Gilbert Scott, founded his design on the early Pointed style of architecture.
The axis of this cathedral coincides with the centre of Melville Street, its site being immediately to the south of Coates House, the sole example of an old Scottish mansion surviving in the New Town. The form adopted is that of a cruciform church, the general effect being enhanced by the introduction to the central tower of two minor, though still lofty, towers at the western end. The plan embraces a choir with north and south aisles; at the intersection of the transepts rises the central or rood tower, 275 feet in height; the total length of the edifice externally is 278 feet 2 inches, and the breath 98 feet 6 inches. The choir is 60 feet 9 inches long and 29 broad, with aisles 16 feet wide, divided into two great and four minor bays by beautifully clustered columns. From the floor to the key-stones of the vaulting, which is all of stone, the height is 58 feet. The transepts, which project by one bay beyond the nave and choir, are 35 feet 4 inches long, by 30 feet 9 inches broad, with aisles above 13 feet wide. This unusual proportion of breadth was given to the transepts to provide ample accommodation for congregational purposes. To the north of the north chancel aisle is the library, an apartment measuring 30 feet by 19 feet. The main entrance of the church is from Palmerston Place, opposite what are grotesquely named Grosvenor Gardens. This elevation is the most imposing modern Gothic facade in Scotland, severe in its purity, and rich in elaboration. The most important features here are the portal and great west window. The shafts and flanking arches of the former are of red granite, from Shap in Westmoreland, harmonising well with the fine Dunmore and Polmaise freestone of which the edifice is built. In the vesica of the centre pediment is a seated figure of the Saviour, supporting with the left hand a lamb, and with the outstretched right holding a key. Around is the legend:-
“EGO SUM OSTIUM; PER ME SI QUIS INTROIERIT
In the spandrils are figures of St. Peter and John the Baptist. Below this grouping are ranged along the door lintel angels bearing a scroll inscribed –
“TU ES CHRISTUS FILIUS DEI.”
The side elevations of the nave present the usual features of the early Pointed style, the walls of the aisle being substantially buttressed, dividing the length into five bays, in each of which is a double window. Above the clerestory runs a bold cornice, and from the wall head there springs a high pitched roof. In the gable of the south transept is another portal, the mouldings of which are exquisitely carved. The window consists of three lancets separated by massively clustered buttress shafts. Above it is a rose window 24 feet in diameter, filled in with geometrical tracery. Above it are five pointed niches, containing statues of St. Paul and St. Luke, Titus, Silas, and Timotheus.
Though treated in a somewhat similar manner, the gable of the north transept has some features peculiarly its own. The wheel window, 24 feet in diameter, is of a later period than that in the south gable. Over it is a statue of David. As usual in cathedrals, the choir has been treated with greater elaboration of design and detail than the nave, especially in the triforium and clerestory. The gable fronting Melville Street is nearly occupied by a triple lancet window, the apex of the arches being 54 feet from the ground. Above is an arcade, the arches of which are filled by statues of the mother of our Lord and the four Evangelists. In the vesica is a figure of the Saviour surrounded by angels in the act of adoration. The four shafted and clustered pillars of the rood-tower, though framed to support a superincumbent mass of no less than 6,000 tons, are finely proportioned and even light in appearance. The tower rises square from the roof in beautiful proportions, the transition to the octagonal form taking place at the height of 120 feet from the foundation.
Viewed from any point, the nave, with its long-drawn aisles and interlacing arches, has a peculiarly grand and impressive effect. Designed in the style of the twelfth century, the font stands in the baptistery under the south-west tower. It is massive, of yellowish alabaster streaked with red veins, and is placed on a pedestal of three steps; the basin, which is supported by four red marble columns, shows in carved panels round its sides the ark, dove, fishes, and a floriated cross.
The cathedral, before its completion, was opened for service on the 25th of January, 1879, by the Right Rev. Henry Cotterill, Episcopal bishop of Edinburgh, in presence of a great congregation assembled in the nave, and consecrated 30th October, 1879.
On the 9th of June, 1879, the copestone and finial cross of the great central spire were placed in position with befitting ceremony, in presence of a vast assemblage of ladies and gentlemen in the cathedral grounds, and even in the adjacent streets. In attendance upon the bishop were the Lord Provost, Lord Teignmouth, and others.
The senior and junior chaplains of the cathedral, together with the clerk of works, ascended the spire to place the stone and cross in position with certain religious rites – from its vast height a somewhat perilous and difficult task for these gentlemen to undertake. They spread the mortar, and the copestone and cross, which were fifteen feet in height and about a ton in weight, were lowered into position by tackle; the Rev. Mr. Meredith tapped them with a mallet and declared them to have been duly laid “in the name of the Blessed Trinity.” The company aloft then joined in the doxology.
A shot fired from the belfry apprised the multitude far down below of the close of the ceremony, and immediately the choir, along with other officials of the church in surplices stationed in the garden, sung the hymn “Praise ye the Lord, ye Heavens adore Him,” after which the people were addressed by the Lord Provost.
Sir Gilbert Scott did not live to see the completion of this cathedral, which is one of the many lasting monuments of his skill as an architect. Among the gifts to the cathedral are a peal of ten bells presented by Dean Montgomery; the great west window by Mrs. Gordon of Cluny, as a memorial of her deceased husband; the windows in the nave and clerestory bear the arms of many ancient Scottish families.
Away to the westward of the quarter we have described, at the delta of the old Glasgow and Dalry roads, where for several generations stood a solitary roadside inn – where regiments coming from Glasgow by wings upon the two roads, formed a junction and halted, while the officers had breakfast or dinner before pushing on to the Castle by the Lang Dykes and latterly by Princes Street and the Earthem Mound – is the Haymarket Railway Station, the first or original terminus of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, a neat two-storeyed Italian edifice facing transversely the line of Athole Place, and now chiefly used as a coal depot. Some of the merchants having coal offices here are among the oldest and most extensive firms in the city, one having been established so far back as 1784, and having now business ramifications so ample as to require a complete system of private telegraphs for the transmission of orders between their various offices and coal stores throughout Edinburgh and the suburbs.
This station is reached from the East Princes Street Gardens by a tunnel 3,000 feet in length, passing under the West Church burial ground and the foundations of several streets, and serves as a port for the North British system at the West End.
In its vicinity, on the north side of the way, is a large Winter Garden at the corner between the Glasgow Road and Coates Gardens. It was formed in 1871, and has a southern front 130 feet in length, with a main entrance 50 feet wide, 30 feet long, and surmounted by a dome 65 feet in height.
A little westward of it is West Coates Established Church, built in the later Pointed style, in 1869, with a tower and spire 130 feet in height. It cost £7,500, and is seated for 900 persons.
The United Presbyterian Churches in Palmerston Place (the old line of Bell’s Mills Loan) and Dalry Road were opened in 1875, and cost respectively £13,000 and £5,000. The former is an imposing edifice in the classic Italian style, with a hexastyle portico, carrying semicircular headed arches and flanked by towers 100 feet in height.
On the gentle swell of the ground, about 600 yards westward of the Haymarket, amid a brilliant urban landscape, stands Donaldson’s Hospital, in magnitude and design one of the grandest edifices of Edinburgh, and visible from a thousand points all round the environs to the westward, north, and south. It sprang from a bequest of about £210,000 originally by James Donaldson of Broughton Hall, a printer, at one time at the foot of the ancient West Bow, who died in the year 1830.
It was erected between the years 1842 and 1851, after designs by W. H. Playfair, at a cost of about £100,000, and forms a hollow quadrangle of 258 feet by 207 exteriorly, and 176 by 164 interiorly. It is a modified variety of a somewhat ornate Tudor style, and built of beautiful freestone. It has four octagonal five-storeyed towers, each 120 feet in height, in the centre of the main front, and four square towers of four storeys each at the corners; and most profuse, graceful, and varied ornamentations on all the four facades, and much in the interior.
It was specially visited and much admired by Queen Victoria in 1850, before it was quite completed, and now maintains and educates poor boys and girls. The building can accommodate 150 children of each sex, of whom a considerable per centage are both deaf and dumb. According to the rules of this excellent institution, those eligible for admission are declared to be – “1. Poor children of the name of Donaldson or Marshall, if appearing to the governors to be deserving. 2. Such poor children as shall appear to be in the most destitute circumstances and the most deserving of admission.” None are received whose parents are able to support them. The children are clothed and maintained in the hospital, and are taught such useful branches of a plain education as will fit the boys for trades and the girls for domestic service. The age of admission is from seven to nine, and that of leaving the hospital fourteen years. The Governors are the Lord Justice-General, the Lord Clerk Register, the Lord Advocate, the Lord Provost, the Principal of the University, the senior minister of the Established Church, the ministers of St. Cuthbert’s and others ex-officio.
The Castle Terrace, of recent erection, occupies the summit of a steep green bank westward of the fortress and overhanging a portion of the old way from the West Port to St. Cuthbert’s. A tenement at its extreme north-western corner is entirely occupied by the Staff in Scotland. Here are the offices of the Auxiliary Artillery, Adjutant-General, Royal Engineers, the medical staff, and the district Commissariat.
Southward of this stands St Mark’s Chapel, erected in 1835, the only Unitarian place of worship in Edinburgh. It cost only £2,000, and is seated for 700. It has an elegant interior, and possesses a fine organ. Previous to 1835 its congregation met in a chapel in Young Street.
Near it, in Cambridge Street, stands the new Gaelic Free Church, a somewhat village-like erection, overshadowed by the great mass of the United Presbyterian Theological Hall. The latter was built in 1875 for the new Edinburgh or West End Theatre, from designs by Mr. Pilkington, an English architect, who certainly succeeded in supplying an edifice alike elegant and comfortable. In its first condition the auditorium measured 70 feet square within the walls, and the accommodation was as follows – pit and stalls, 1,000; dress circle and private boxes, 400; second circle, 600; gallery, 1,000; total, 3,000. The stage was expansive, and provided with all the newest mechanical appliances, including hydraulic machinery for shifting the larger scenes. The proscenium was 32 feet wide by 32 feet in height, with an available width behind of 74 feet, expanding backwards to 114 feet.
The lighting was achieved by a central sunlight and lamps hung on the partition walls. The ventilation was admirable, and the temperature was regulated by steam-pipes throughout the house.
But the career of this fine edifice as a theatre was very brief, and proved how inadequate Edinburgh is, from the peculiar tastes and wishes of its people, to supply audiences for more than two or three such places of entertainment. It speedily proved a failure, and being in the market was purchased by the members of the United Presbyterian Church, who converted it into a theological hall, suited for an audience of 2,000 in all.
The total cost of the building to the denomination, including the purchase of the theatre, amounted to £47,000. Two flats under the street floor are fitted up as fireproof stores, which will cover in all an area of 3,500 square yards.
In connection with this defunct theatre it was proposed to have a winter garden and aquarium. Near it the eye is arrested by a vast pile of new buildings, fantastic and unique in design and detail, the architect of which has certainly been fortunate, at least, in striking out something original, if almost indescribable, in domestic architecture.
Free St. Cuthbert’s Church is in Spittal Street, which is named from Provost Sir James Spittal, and is terminated by the King’s Bridge at the base of the Castle Rock.
All this area of ground and that lying a little to the westward have the general name of the Castle Barns, a designation still preserved in a little street near Port Hopetoun. A map of the suburbs, in 1798, shows Castle Barns to be an isolated hamlet or double row of houses on the Falkirk Road, distant about 250 yards from the little pavilion-roofed villa still standing at the Main Point. Maitland alleges that somewhere thereabout an edifice was erected for the accommodation of the royal retinue when the king resided in the Castle; and perhaps such may have been the case, but the name implies its having been the grange or farm attached to the fortress, and this idea is confirmed by early maps, when a considerable portion of the ground now lying on both sides of the Lothian Road is included under the general term.
On the plateau at the head of the latter, bordered on the south-east by the ancient way to Fountainbridge, stands one of the most hideous features of Edinburgh – the Canal Basin, with its surrounding stores and offices.
In 1817 an Act of Parliament was procured, giving power to a joint stock company to cut a a canal from Edinburgh to the Forth and Clyde-Canal at a point about four miles before the communication of the latter with the Forth. The canal was begun in the following year and completed in 1822. The chief objects of it were the transmission of heavy goods and the conveyance of passengers between the capital and Glasgow – a system long since abandoned; the importation to the former of large coal supplies from places to the westward, and the exportation of manure from the city into agricultural districts. The eastern termination, called Port Hopetoun, occasioned the rapid erection of a somewhat important suburb, where before there stood only a few scattered houses surrounded by fields and groves of pretty trees; but the canal, though a considerable benefit to the city in pre-railway times, has drained a great deal of money from its shareholders.
Though opened in 1822 the canal was considerably advanced in the year preceding. In the Weekly Journal for November 7, 1821, we read that “from the present state of the works, the shortening of the days, and the probability of being retarded by the weather, it seems scarcely possible that the trade of this navigation can be opened up sooner than the second month of spring, which will be exactly four years from its commencement. Much has been done within the last few months on the west end of the line, while at the east end the forming of the basin, which is now ready to receive the water, together with the numerous bridges necessary in the first quarter of a mile, have required great attention. Of the passage boats building at the west end of Lochrin distillery, two of which we mentioned some time ago as being in a forward state, one is now completed; she is in every respect an elegant and comfortable vessel, and is called the Flora Mac Ivor; the second is considerably advanced, and a third boat after the same model as the others is commenced building.”
In the same (now defunct) periodical, for 1st January, 1822, we learn that the Flora, “the first of the Union Canal Company’s passage boats, was yesterday launched from the company’s building yard, at the back of Gilmore Place.”
One of the best features of street architecture that sprung up in this quarter after the formation of the canal was Gardiner’s Crescent, with its chapel, which was purchased from the United Secession Congregation by the Kirk Session of St. Cuthbert’s, in 1831, for £2,500, and seated for 1,300.
The church was built in 1827, and is now named St. David’s, the parish being quoad sacra, and disjoined from St. Cuthbert’s.
The United Secession Congregation, which formerly sat here, have now their place of worship, seated for 1,284, on the west side of the Lothian Road. In architecture, externally, it is assimilated with the street.
Westward of this quarter lies the old historic suburban district named Dalry. The quaint old manor house of that name, which stood so long embosomed among its ancient copsewood, on the east side of the Dalry Road, with its projecting towers crowned by ogee roofs, is now incorporated with one of the somewhat humble class of streets, which hereabout have covered the whole estate, even to Wester Dalry, near the cemetery of that name.
Of Celtic origin, it takes its name from Dal, a vale, and righ, “a king,” like a place of the same name in Cunningham, near which there is also a spot named, like that at Holyrood, Croft an Righ, “the croft of the king.” In the roll of missing charters granted by the Scottish kings between 1309 and 1413 the lands of Dalry, near Edinburgh, are mentioned in several instances. Under Robert I. “the lands of Merchinstoun and Dalry” were granted to William Bisset. Under David II., Roger Hog, burgess of Edinburgh, had “one annual forth of Dalry;” and there was a charter given by William More, of Abercorn, to William Touris and Helenor Bruce, Countess of Carrick, of the lands of Dalry, in the county of Edinburgh. This Helenor was the only daughter of Alexander, fifth Earl of Carrick (who fell at the battle of Halidon Hill, in 1333), and was the wife of Sir William Cunningham, of Kilmaurs.
In the sixteenth century this fertile and valuable barony became the property of the Chieslies, wealthy burgesses of Edinburgh.
In 1672 there was a “ratification” by Parliament in favour of the notorious John Chieslie (son of Walter Chieslie of Dalry) of the lands of Gorgie; and the inscription on the tomb of his mother in the Greyfriars is thus given in Monteith’s “Theatre of Mortality,” 1704 –
Memoriæ charissimæ suæ conjugis, Catharinæ Tod, quæ decessit 27th January, 1679 Monumentum hoc extrui curavit marius superstes Walterus Chieslie de Dalry, mercator et civis Edinburgensis.
Burnet describes his father as “a noted fanatic at the time of the civil war.” In 1675-9 there was a manufactory of paper at his mills of Dalry, on the Water of Leith.
In April, 1682, John Chieslie complained to the Privy Council that Davis, Clark, and some other gentlemen of the Royal Life Guards (the regiment of Claverhouse) had committed “hame-sucken,” by invading him in his own house at Dalry, where they beat and wounded him and his servants, and took possession of his stables, out of which they turned his horses. “They had also,” records Fountainhall, “a recrimination against him, viz., that they being come to fetch his proportion of straw for their horses, conform to the late Acts of Parliament and Council, he with sundry of his servants and tenants fell on them with (pitch) forks, grapes, &c., and had broken their swords and wounded some of them.”
The dispute was referred to the Criminal Court, by sentence of which Davis was banished Scotland, never to return, and Clark was expelled from the Guards. “The punishment of hame-sucken, which they were certainly guilty of, is death,” says Fountainhall (Vol. I.).
We have related in its place how this man, the father of the famous Rachel Chieslie, Lady Grange, assassinated the Lord President, Sir George Lockhart of Carnwath, in 1689, for which his right hand was struck off, after he had been put to the torture and before his execution, and also how his body was carried away and secretly buried.
About 1704 his heir, Major Chieslie, sold the lands of Dalry to Sir Alexander Brand, whose memory yet lingers in the names of Brandfield Street and Place on the property. Afterwards the estate belonged to the Kirkpatricks of Allisland, and latterly to the Walkers, one of whom, James, was a Principal Clerk of Session, whose son Francis, on his marriage with the heiress of Hawthornden, assumed the name of Drummond.
This once secluded property is now nearly all covered with populous streets. One portion of it, at the south end of the Dalry Road, is now a public cemetery, belonging to the Edinburgh Cemetery Company, and contains several handsome monuments.
The same company have established an additional cemetery, a little to the south, beyond Ardmillan Terrace, near the new Magdalene Asylum, a lofty, spacious, and imposing edifice, recently erected in lieu of the old one, established in 1797. Adjoining it is the Girls’ House of Refuge, or Western Reformatory, another noble and humane institution, the directors of which are the Lord Provost and magistrates of the city.
These edifices stand near the ancient toll of Tynecastle, and may be considered the termination of the city as yet, in this direction.
On removing an old cottage close by this toll, in April, 1843, the remains of a human skeleton were found buried close to the wall. The skull had been perforated by a bullet, and in the plastered wall of the edifice a bullet was found flattened against the stone.
On the western side of the Dalry Road, about 500 yards from the ancient mansion house, is the Caledonian Distillery, one of the most extensive in Scotland, and one of those which produce “grain whisky,” as some make malt whisky only. It was built in 1855, covers five acres of ground, and occupies a situation most convenient for carrying on a great trade. In every part it has been constructed with all the most recent improvements by its proprietors, the Messrs. Menzies, Bernard, and Co. All the principal buildings are five storeys in height, and so designed that the labour of carrying the materials through the various stages of manufacture is reduced to the smallest amount, while branch lines from the Caledonian and North British Railways converge in the centre of the works, thus affording the ready means of bringing in raw material and sending out products.
The extent of the traffic here may be judged from the facts that 2,000 quarters of grain and 200 tons of coal are used every week, while the quantity of spirits sent out in the same time is 40,000 gallons, the duty on which is £20,000, or at the rate of £1,040,000 a year. The machinery is propelled by five steam-engines, varying from 5 to 150 horse-power, for the service of which, and supplying the steam used in distillation, there are nine large steam boilers.
The Caledonian distillery contains the greatest still in Scotland. In order to meet a growing demand for the variety of whisky known as “Irish,” the proprietors of the Caledonian distillery, about 1867 fitted up two large stills of an old pattern, with which they manufacture whisky precisely similar to that which is made in Dublin. In connection with this branch of their business, stores capable of containing as many as 5,000 puncheons were added to their works at Dalry, and in these various kinds of whisky have been permitted to lie for some time before being sent out.
Fountainbridge, a long and straggling suburb, once among fields and gardens, at the close of the last century and the beginning of the present contained several old-fashioned villas with pleasure-grounds, and was bordered on its northern side by a wooded residence, the Grove, which still gives a name to the streets in the locality.
Some of the houses at its southern end, near the present Brandfield Place, were old as the time of William III. In the garden of one of them an antique iron helmet, now in the Antiquarian Museum, was dug up in 1781. In one of them lived and died, in 1767, Lady Margaret Leslie, third daughter of John Earl of Rothes, Lord High Admiral of Scotland on the accession of George I. in 1714.
A narrow alley near its northern end still bears the name of the Thorneybank, i.e., a ridge covered with thorns, long unploughed and untouched. In its vicinity is Earl Grey Street, a name substituted for its old one of Wellington after the passing of the great Reform Bill, by order of the Town Council.
This quarter abuts on Lochrin, “the place where the water from the meadows (i.e. the burgh loch) discharges itself,” says Kincaid, but “rhinn” means a flat place in Celtic in some instances; and near it is another place with the Celtic name of Drumdryan.
George Joseph Bell, Professor of Scottish Law in the University of Edinburgh, was born in Fountainbridge on the 26th March, 1770. A distinguished legal writer, he was author of “Commentaries on the Law of Scotland,” “Principles of the Law,” for the use of his students, and other works, and held the chair of law from 1822 to 1843, when he was succeeded by Mr. John Shankmore.
Among the leading features in this locality are the extensive city slaughter-houses, which extend from the street eastward to Lochrin, having a plain yet handsome and massive entrance, in the Egyptian style, adorned with great bulls’ heads carved in freestone in the coving of the entablature. These were designed by Mr. David Cousin, who brought to bear upon them the result of his observations made in the most famous abattoirs of Paris, such as du Roule, de Montmartre, and de Popincourt.
In 1791 there died in Edinburgh John Strachan, a flesh-caddie, in his 105th year. “He recollected,”” says the Scots Magazine, “the time when no flesher would venture to kill any beast till all the different parts were bespoke, butcher meat being then a very unsaleable article.”
At the southern extremity of Fountainbridge stood, till within the last few years, an antique villa, a little way back from the road, named Bainfield, for years the residence of an old and well-known citizen, Bain Whyt, a W.S. of 1789, who was senior lieutenant and afterwards adjutant of the First Edinburgh Volunteers formed in 1794, and who is still remembered in Edinburgh as the founder of the Wagering Club in 1775. Yearly, on the night of the 30th January, the members of this club meet and solemnly drink to the memory of “Old Bain Whyt,” in whose honour songs are occasionally sung, the character of which may be gathered from the following two verses of one sung at the ninetieth anniversary:-
“Come all ye jolly wagerers, and listen unto me,
And I will sing a little song, composed in memorie
Of the fine old Scottish gentleman, who in 1775,
Did plant the tree that still we see, right hearty and alive.
Chorus – Right hearty and alive,
In this its ninetieth year!
Then drink to-night, to old Bain Whyt,
With mirth and hearty cheer!
“When haughty Gaul did fiercely crow and threaten sword in hand,
Bain Whyt among the foremost rose to guard our native land;
A soldier good, full armed he stood, for home and country dear.
The pattern of a loyal man, a British volunteer!
Chorus – A British volunteer,
And an adjutant was he!
Then fill the cup, and quaff it up,
To him with three times three!”
The wagers, for small sums, a bottle of wine, a dinner, perhaps, are made on the probable course of current public events. They are then noted and sealed up, to be opened and read from the chair that night twelvemonth – the club holding no meetings in the interim; and the actual results are often so far wide of all human speculation as to excite both amusement and interest.
North of Bainfield, in what is still called Gilmore Park, are two of the largest and finest manufactories of India-rubber in the world, and the operations conducted therein illustrate most ably the nature and capabilities of caoutchouc. They stand near each other on the western bank of the Union Canal, and belong respectively to the North British Rubber Company, and the Scottish Vulcanite Company.
In 1855 an enterprising American brought to Edinburgh the necessary capital and machinery for an India-rubber manufactory, and acquired possession of a great quadrangular block of fine buildings, known as the Castle Silk Mills, which had long been vacant, the projectors having failed in their expectations. This edifice consists of two large blocks of five floors each, with a number of adjacent buildings.
Here the India-rubber arrives in different forms, according to the fashion of the countries that produce it, some shaped like quaint bottles, and some in balls, of five inches diameter, and it is carefully examined with a view to the detection of foreign substances before it is subjected to the processes of manufacture. After being softened in hot water, the balls are crushed into thin pieces between cylinders, the rubber being sent through and through again and again, until it is thoroughly crushed and assumes the form of a web. If further reduction is necessary, it is sent through a third set of rollers, and to rid it completely of foreign matter, leaves or bark, &c, washing and cleansing machines are employed. So adhesive is its nature, that cleansing would prove abortive in a dry state, and consequently jets of water flow constantly on the rubber and cylinders when the machines referred to are in operation. After being thus cleansed, the webs are hung in the warm atmosphere of the drying-room for several weeks.
From thence they are taken to “the mill,” which occupies two entire floors of the main building. The grinding machines, to the operation of which the rubber is subjected, consist of two cylinders, one of which is moderately heated by steam, and the webs formed by the washing-machines are kept revolving round and round the cylinders, until the material becomes quite plastic. At this stage, sulphur, or other chemical substances, are incorporated with it, to determinate its ultimate character, and it is then made up into seven or eight pound rolls, while all further treatment depends upon the purpose to which it is to be applied.
Great is the variety of goods produced here. One of the upper floors is occupied by shoemakers alone. There boots and shoes of all sizes are made, but more especially the goloshes for wearing over them; another floor is occupied by the makers of coats, leggings, cushions, bags, and so forth. The light-coloured coats for India are the finest articles made here.
The North British Rubber Company have paid much attention to that department which includes the manufacture of tubes, springs, washers, driving-belts, tires for wheels, &c. They made the latter for the wheels of the road steamer invented by Mr. R. W. Thomson, of Edinburgh – huge rings of vulcanised rubber – the largest pieces of the material ever manufactured, as each tire weighed 750 lbs.
The company employ at an average 600 work-people in their establishment; but in the preparation of the cloth, thread, &c., used in the manufacture, as many more are employed in an indirect way. The health and comfort of all are carefully provided for; and in no department can it be said that the labour is heavy, while that assigned to the women is peculiarly well suited to them.
The adjacent Scottish Vulcanite Company was formed in 1861 by several shareholders of the preceding establishment; but the two are every way distinct. At the commencement many difficulties had to be overcome. The chief of these was the training of the people to a work so novel, and the waste thereby of material; but now the original factory has had a fourfold increase, and employs about 500 souls.
The factory consists of a large central block, 230 feet long, and seven detached buildings. The former is four storeys in height. A remarkably beautiful engine, of 120 horse-power, erected in one of the most elegant of engine-rooms, supplies the motive power. The machinery used in breaking, washing, kneading, and cleansing the rubber is precisely similar to that used by the North British Company. There are other departments which produce respectively combs, jewellery, and miscellaneous articles. In the comb department the steam cutters are so expert – rising and falling with rapidity, and fed by skilled workmen – that each produces some hundred dozens of combs per day. Besides dressing and fine combs, a variety of others are made, and much taste and ingenuity are expended on ladies’ back combs, which are often mounted with metal, glass, porcelain, or carving in vulcanite. The company was created chiefly for the manufacture of combs.
In Kay’s work we have an interesting and quaint portrait of an aged denizen of Fountainbridge in the Scottish Lowland costume of his day, “Adam Ritchie, born 1683; died 1789; drawn from the life.” This old man, who died at the age of 106 years and two months, had followed the humble occupation of a cow-feeder; but his life was not an uneventful one; he had been under arms in 1715, “on the side of the House of Hanover, not from choice (as he said) but necessity, he having been forced into the ranks to supply the place of his master’s son.” This centenarian died with “all his teeth fresh and complete, and made it his boast that he could crack a nut with the youngest and stoutest person in the parish.”
The Edinburgh Magazine for 1792 records the death of his brother William, in his 106th year, adding, that “he was twice married and had twenty-two children, alternately sons and daughters.”
1 The ‘Last Days of the Admirable Crichton’ was published in a series of articles within ‘Scots Lore’ (1895); Part 1, and Part 2.