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.

The West End of Edinburgh had quarries too!

It is hard to believe as there is  no trace of this nowadays, but Craigleith Sandstone used to be quarried at the West End for building work....and sometimes in the oddest of places!

Stone was quarried near the site of Miller Row at Dean Bridge in the late 17th century, at Drumsheugh in 1700, and at the land of Coates near the West End of Princes Street.  This quarry was still to be seen on the first Ordnance Survey map in 1853 but soon disappeared under housing development.

As far back as 1616 stone was quarried at west St Cuthbert's for the Palace Block in Edinburgh Castle and for the Chapel in Holyrood Palace. In 1691, a certain Henry Nisbet of Dean was allowed to build a vault in the churchyard and he also requested permission to quarry there to provide the stone for it Permission was granted as long as he promised to fill it in once he was done and paid a sum to help the poor ( 39 pounds and 10 shillings, not a mean sum! ). It appears that the Church had trouble extracting the money from Mr Nisbet who eventually coughed up after being taken to court - but he also got into trouble for failing to fill his quarry in and for drinking during church services!  You can still see his vault today in St Cuthbert's kirkyard. The picture below was taken from the church's website at www.st-cuthberts.net and is of Henry's stone. Perhaps he was having a dig (excuse the pun!) at the Church with his choice of words, which translated read as: " Henry Nisbet of Dean, preferring Fame to Riches, and Virtue to Fame, despising earthly things and aspiring after Heavenly enjoyments, being mindful of death and waiting for the resurrection, in his own life, and at his own sight, caused build this sepulchral monument for him, in the year of our Lord 1692".