The One-Day Creation Of Lothian Road

Copyright: Scott & Brown (Builders) Ltd.

Copyright: Scott & Brown (Builders) Ltd.

This image from our company archives shows the Caledonian Hotel just after its big clean in the 1980s. It also gives us a view up the right-hand side of Lothian Road, to where the Standard Life offices now sit. I only read recently in an old book of how Lothian Road came to be and found the story quite amusing.

"Apparently, back in 1784 a roadway had been projected to run from the west end of Princes Street towards Bruntsfield Links but many objections had been raised by the proprietors of barns, byres and sheds which stood in the way. An officer of the Royal Navy, Sir John Clerk, Bart., of Penicuik, however, laid a bet with a friend that he would, "between sunrise and sunset, make a road, extending nearly a mile in length, by twenty paces in breadth."

It happened to be the winter season, when many men were unemployed. He had no problem in collecting several hundred of these at the Kirkbraehead (could this be where St Cuthbert's Church is at the foot of Lothian Road?) upon the appointed hour before sunrise, when he gave them all a plentiful breakfast of porter, whisky and bread and cheese, after which 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 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 new Lothian 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!"

The next time I travel up Lothian Road I will think of Sir John Clerk winning his bet - and of the poor people who had to find a new abode!

 

The Dugald Stewart Memorial circa 1910.

This wonderfully atmospheric photo is taken from the private collection of Alan Judge (again!). It shows Auld Reekie when it was really, ehm, reekie! Here, the photographer is standing behind the Dugald Stewart Memorial at evening time, looking along Princes Street towards the West End. The castle is only just visible on the horizon and we are also able to make out the North British Hotel and the spire of St John's Church as well as many rooves and chimney pots. The photographer is unnknown and any suggestions would be welcome.  The monument itself was designed by William Henry Playfair and was built in 1831 as a memorial to the philosopher whose name it carries. He held the chair in Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University from 1786 until his death.  Those who see a resemblance between this and the nearby Burns Monument may be interested to know that they were actually both based on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens. Both of these monuments, together with our infamous Edinburgh's Disgrace ( or National Monument ) truly are a homage to our city being the Athens of the North!  With many thanks again to Alan for allowing us to use this image which highlights the beauty of our city's buildings and which we here at Scott & Brown have prided ourselves on maintaining, restoring and preserving since 1890. Please take a look at his Facebook page,   https://www.facebook.com/groups/1456193791357819/?ref=nf_target&fref=nf  , to enjoy more of his wonderful images from the past which he lovingly and magically restores. Photograph copyright Alan Judge, Vintage Collected Photography.

This wonderfully atmospheric photo is taken from the private collection of Alan Judge (again!). It shows Auld Reekie when it was really, ehm, reekie! Here, the photographer is standing behind the Dugald Stewart Memorial at evening time, looking along Princes Street towards the West End. The castle is only just visible on the horizon and we are also able to make out the North British Hotel and the spire of St John's Church as well as many rooves and chimney pots. The photographer is unnknown and any suggestions would be welcome.

The monument itself was designed by William Henry Playfair and was built in 1831 as a memorial to the philosopher whose name it carries. He held the chair in Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University from 1786 until his death.

Those who see a resemblance between this and the nearby Burns Monument may be interested to know that they were actually both based on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens. Both of these monuments, together with our infamous Edinburgh's Disgrace ( or National Monument ) truly are a homage to our city being the Athens of the North!

With many thanks again to Alan for allowing us to use this image which highlights the beauty of our city's buildings and which we here at Scott & Brown have prided ourselves on maintaining, restoring and preserving since 1890. Please take a look at his Facebook page,  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1456193791357819/?ref=nf_target&fref=nf , to enjoy more of his wonderful images from the past which he lovingly and magically restores. Photograph copyright Alan Judge, Vintage Collected Photography.

From the archives....the Caledonian Hotel

This super shot comes from our archives. It shows the Caledonian Hotel covered in scaffolding during the 1980s whilst it was being cleaned. Those of us over the age of 35 will remember the busy cleaning phase that the city went through, beautiful sandstone once again being revealed after decades of being hidden by the copious, oily soot produced by Auld Reekie's chimneys. Modern opinion sometimes criticises the methodology of some stone-cleaning habits back then but it cannot be denied that some of the grandes dames of our city refound the beauty of their youth (if only I could do the same!!!) and immediately brought back some much-needed glamour to our streets.

The Caledonian Hotel has been described as a "wonderfully blousy intrusion into West End Edinburgh" (McKean, "Edinburgh, An Illustrated Guide", p51). It is mostly built of red Permian Locharbriggs Sandstone from Dumfriesshire with some stone from Corncockle Quarry too. This distinctive red stone was, aptly, brought to Edinburgh on the Caledonian Railway line, of which the hotel used to be a station. Locharbriggs stone was also used for the fire station in Lauriston Place and some of the Edinburgh College of Art. 

Caledonian Hotel.

Copyright Scott & Brown (Builders) Ltd.

What Could Have Been.....

We live in a beautiful city which has been well photographed and documented over the years. However, what about the buildings that COULD have been? We never hear much about them yet it is fascinating to see what was proposed in the past. In the mid 1880s a competition was held to design new municipal buildings for the council on the High Street. This stunning design, taken from The Builder magazine of June 1886, was a serious contender......or is it just a wee bit too fancy for your liking?

Edinburgh Lawnmarket,1855

High Street

Just take a moment to look at the amazing detail in this photo. The names over the doors, the woman hanging out the window, the sold sign on the wall.  At the time Edinburgh rentals were apparently the highest in Europe - and its living conditions the worst. Most buildings needed more than some lime pointing or wall repairs!  Many families could be crammed into one apartment, living cheek by jowl. Contemporary reports state that when landlords needed a room for a tenant they sometimes simply strung a sheet across a room already inhabited, thus creating a "wall" separating new tenants from old and dividing already tiny rooms into two. Infested with vermin and no sanitation, disease was rife. Alcoholism and prostitution, those friends of poverty, were met at every turn. Living conditions were squalourous - a book of the time describes families lying naked on the floor, rags worn by one member only, the breadwinner who begged for a living. In all fairness, this building looks relatively well-kept for its time - all panes are intact at least. Perhaps this property belonged to a landlord with a conscience. The photograph was taken by Thomas Keith, a Victorian surgeon, who became a prominent gynaecologist,  and amateur photographer. It is taken from pinterest. Other images of his are held at Edinburgh Central Library.