The Corn Market and Well at the West Bow

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This image is taken from a very old book called "Edinburgh In The Olden Time 1717 -1828". It shows a very familiar view of the Grassmarket taken from the foot of the West Bow but with the added addition of the first Corn Market in the Grassmarket, standing on the site where so many of the martyrs to the "broken covenant" met their end ( and where Scott and Brown many years later built the memorial to them (see picture later).  As you can see if you click on the link to this map by Edgar, dating from 1765, the building is clearly visible: Prior to this building, the first Corn Market stood in Marlin's Wynd, where Blair Street now stands, but was removed to the foot of the West Bow in 1560.

The well at the West Bow was erected in 1681 and stands opposite the site of where Greyfriars Monastery used to be. It has stood witness to many hangings and executions, which started taking place in the Grassmarket in the 1600s (prior to this Castle Hill and the Mercat Cross where the favourite spots for this!). Traditionally, a sword was the preferred means of beheading and in 1564, because the old sword had been worn out,  a certain William Macartney was paid five pounds by the magistrates for his "tua-handit sword, to be usit for ain heiding sword". Later, the infamous Maiden was introduced as a swifter means of despatching those found guilty of crime into the hereafter. We all know of James Renwick, the celebrated field preacher who met his end here but have you heard of Isabel Alison and Marion Harvey, two women who were executed here merely for having listened to the preachings of a certain Donald Cargill? And what about the time that the city's former hangman, Alexander Cockburn, was hanged here for having murdered one of Charles II's Bluegowns?

This ancient part of Edinburgh has seen much death and poverty - indeed the area around here was one of the first slums - and it is all too easy to see it as a trendy bar and restaurant area but if the walls could speak they would keep you entranced for many hours.

Copyright of above image: Scott & Brown (Builders) Ltd.