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MNBURGH, the capital of Scotland, occupies a picturesque but somewhat inconvenient situation on a cluster of eminences, at the distance of a mile and a half south from the Firth of Forth— an arm of the sea, which is here about six miles in breadth. The town has extended almost to the shore of the Firth, and has thus formed a connexion with Leith, the ancient port, Newhaven, a fishing village, and Granton, a modern and rising steamboat station. The country around Edinburgh is a happy blending of hill and plain. Closely adjoining, on the south-east, rise Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags; at the distance of three miles to the south-west is the range of the Pentland Hills; and within a mile on the north-west is the richly-wooded Corstorphine Hill. The rest of the neighbourhood consists of fine fertile fields, well cultivated, and ornamented with gardens and villas.
Twelve hundred years ago, Edwin, a king of Northumbria (to which this part of Scotland was then attached), built a fort on the rocky height on which the castle now stands, and hence arose the name Edwinsburgh, or Edinburgh. In the Celtic language the name of the city is Dunedin, signifying the Hill of Edwin. From the castle, a town gradually extended on the top and sides °f the ridge, which slopes downwards towards the east. Originally, and for several centuries, the city was confined entirely to this ridge or hill; and at this early period it was nearly surrounded by the waters of a lake. To add to this means of defence, it was environed by walls, of which some few relics, of different eras, still exist. Edinburgh was, therefore, at one time a fortified town, reposing under the shelter of the castle at its western extremity. This, however, did not protect it from aggression. In May 1544, it was attacked by an English army under the Earl of Hertford, who was despatched by Henry VIII. to ravage Scotland, in revenge for the Scots having refused to allow their young queen (Mary) to be allied to his son (Edward VI.) On this occasion Leith, with part of Edinburgh, was burnt; but the attempt to take or injure the castle was unsuccessful. In point of fact, the castle was never captured by absolute assault; but it surrendered, after a siege, on several occasions. The last time it was invested by an army was on the occasion of the city falling into the hands of the Highland army under Prince Charles Stuart in 1745; but this force it successfully resisted. Since that period, now upwards of a centmy ago, its guns have happily not been fired except for military salutes.
In the twelfth century, David I., a pious and munificent Scottish monarch, founded the abbey of Holyrood, in the low ground eastward from the city; he at the same time empowered the monks or canons of this religious house to found a burgh in a westerly direction up the slope towards Edinburgh; and thus was built the Canongate, a suburb now in intimate union with the city—the whole apparently forming one town. In connexion with Holyrood there also sprung up a royal palace, which became a favourite place of residence of the Scottish sovereigns. Not, however, until the era of the murder of James I. at Perth, in 1436-7, did Edinburgh become the distinctly recognised capital of the kingdom. Neither Perth nor Scone, Stirling nor Dunfermline, being able to offer security to royalty against the designs of the nobility, Edinburgh and its castle were thence selected as the only places of safety for the royal household, for the sittings of parliament, for the mint, and the functionaries of government. Rising into importance as some other places sunk, Edinburgh became densely crowded with population; and hampered by surrounding walls, within which it was thought necessary to keep, for the sake of protection, its houses rose to a great height. Excepting the single open street extending from the castle to Holyrood, every morsel of ground was covered with houses, forming thickly-packed closes or alleys, descending on each side from the central thoroughfare. Thus originated those lofty edifices which usually surprise strangers. In front, towards the High Street, they range from five to seven storeys; but behind, towards the sloping flanks of the hill, they are considerably higher, and rising one above another, produce an exceedingly picturesque effect.
The first thing which the inhabitants seem to have done to emancipate themselves from this confinement, was to drain the morass or lake lying in the hollow on the south; and here were built extensions (now known as the Grassmarket and Cowgate), which were occupied by many of the higher classes. In times much more recent, these extensions spread over the rising ground still more to the south; and with this latter improvement, thecitizens remained contented till about the middle of the eighteenth century. The cause for this slow progress was the injury which Edinburgh sustained from the union of Scotland with England in 1707. Until that event, it was the resort of royalty, and of the nobility and commons who constituted the Scottish parliament. Although, by the treaty of union, Scotland retained its peculiar institutions, laws, and courts of judicature—all having their central organisation in Edinburgh—there was sustained a serious loss in the final withdrawal of the sovereign and officers of government. The merging of the Scottish parliament in the British Houses of Lords and Commons was felt to be a fatal blow; and this disaster, as it was thought to be, Edinburgh did not recover till the country in general took a start, consequent on the failure of the rebellion of 1745, the abolition of the heritable jurisdictions (feudal oppressions) in 1748, and the opening of trade with the American colonies. Agriculture now %an to receive attention, Glasgow rose into importance, and Edinburgh, sympathising in the movement, became the seat of various banking institutions, which imparted life and vigour to tie arts.
About the year 1760, the necessity for extending the town became pressing. Between the years 1763 and 1769 was erected a lofty bridge, connecting the old city with the fields on the north, on which the New Town was already beginning to be built. Before 1780 the New Town had covered a third of the ground designed for it; and since that period, it has been gradually extending northwards, westwards, and eastwards. Its last principal extension was the opening of a new road eastwards from Princes Street by Waterloo Place, along the face of the Calton Hill, in 1819. In the execution of the North Bridge and New Town, it was found desirable to drain the lake (North loch) lying in the hollow, which required to be crossed. Unfortunately, the improvers of that day did not stop here, but committed the irremediable and now much-lamented error of throwing the rubbish from the foundations of the new houses into the centre of the valley, so as to form what is termed the Earthen Mound—-a pile of materials answering the purpose of a bridge.
In proportion as the New Town arose, so did the Old Town suffer a desertion of its more respectable inhabitants. In the present day, it is occupied almost exclusively by the humbler orders, and by tradesmen. About the year 1825-6, a series of improvements were planned, and begun to be carried into execution, with a view to rescue the Old Town from what appeared Impending ruin. These so-called improvements have cost the inhabitants, by general taxation, about £340,000, a large portion of which has been squandered on buying and pulling down houses; while, except the erection of a bridge across the Cowgate george the Fourth's Bridge), and the forming of an approach m the west, nothing useful or ornamental has been accomplished.
The state of society in old Edinburgh prior to its desertion for the New Town, was somewhat peculiar. Each edifice was inhabited by perhaps ten or twelve families, each family occupying a floor, and the whole ascending to their respective dwellings by a common stone stair. It was customary for certain floors to be appropriated to particular ranks. In the cellar, entered by a flight of steps descending from the street or close, would live a chimneysweep or cobbler; on the street floor was the shop of a tradesman; the first floor up would be occupied by a nobleman or judge; above whom would be the family of an advocate or a landed gentleman; next, there would be the family of a shopkeeper; and so on to the attics, in which, probably, might have been found an actor, a street-porter, or a sempstress. Thus there was a complete mingling of all ranks under one roof; a plan which, however inconvenient to some of the parties, was wot without its social advantages.* In the present day, the whole
* Referring to one of the huge tenements so miscellaneously occupied, the following anecdote is told of Lord Coalstoun by the author of the Traditions of Edinburgh. "It was at that time the custom for advocates, and no less for judges, to dress themselves in gown, wig, and cravat, at their own houses, and to walk in a sort of state, thus rigged out, with their cocked hats in their hands, to the Parliament House. They usually breakfasted early, and, when dressed, were in the habit of leaning over their parlour windows for a few minutes before St Giles's bell sounded the starting peal of a quarter to nine, enjoying the agreeable morning air, and perhaps discussing the news of the day with a neighbouring advocate on the opposite side of the alley. In this manner a close in the High Street would sometimes resemble a modern coffee-room more than anything else. It so happened that one morning, while Lord Coalstoun was preparing to enjoy his matutinal treat, two girls, who lived in the second flat above, were amusing themselves with a kitten, which, in thoughtless sport, they had swung over the window by a cord tied round its middle, and hoisted for some time up and down, till the creature was getting rather desperate with its exertions. In this crisis his lordship popped his head out of the wiudow directly below that from which the kitten swung, little suspecting, good easy man, what a danger impended, like the sword of Dionysiu8, over his head, hung, too, by a single—not hair, it is true, but scarcely more responsible material—garter, when down came the exasperated animal, at full career, directly upon his senatorial wig. No sooner did the girls perceive what sort of a landing-place their kitten had found, than, in terror and surprise, they began to draw it upi but this measure was now too late, for along with the animal, up also came the judge's wig, fixed full in its determined talons. His lordship's surprise on finding his wig lifted off his head, was redoubled when, on looking up, he perceived it dangling its way upwards, without any means, visible to him, by which its motions might be accounted for. The astonishment, the dread, the almost awe of the senator below—the half mirth half terror of the girls above—together with the fierce and relentless energy of retention on the part of puss between, altogether formed a scene to which language cannot do justice, but which George Cruikshank might perhaps embody with of the ancient tenements are appropriated to the lower, and some few of the middle classes. A number of the floors or Jiats are transformed into taverns; and by the subdivision of dwellings, houses which once were thought to be crowded with ten or twelve families, now contain four times the number. Under a single roof it has been found that as many as three hundred souls are lodged—how incommodiously, and with what deterioration of morals, may easily be conjectured.
What was begun from necessity has been continued from choice. The fashion of building houses in floors for distinct families has spread to the New Town; and hence the houses of Edinburgh are generally very much larger than those of London, and as respects size and appearance, nearly resemble those of Paris and other continental cities. Although the practice of dividing houses into floors for a number of families is open to serious objections, it is at the same time not without its advantages. When the common stair has been ascended, and the dwelling reached, no more stairs are to be mounted. The floor possesses every convenience of dining and drawing-room, bedchambers, kitchen, and closets, suitable to large or small families; and the door of entrance from the landing-place as effectually cuts off the communication with neighbours as would a door to the street. For the sake of keeping the common stair as private as possible, it is now usually provided with a street door, which, by means of an apparatus, can be opened from any floor above when the appropriate bell is rung. This explanation is needed, to account for the rows of bell-handles and names which are here and there observable at door-posts. The rent of a floor in respectable parts of the town varies from £15 to £35 per annum; while that payable for entire, or, as they are here called, self-contained houses, is from £40 to £150, according to size and elegance. The local rates add about fifteen per cent, to these charges.
Altogether built of a white and durable sandstone, which retains a clean and fresh appearance for a considerable length of time, the general aspect of the houses is that of great solidity, if not architectural elegance, the design being usually chaste, and the masonry of the first order. It may almost be said that, for the most part, the private excel the public edifices in beauty. The public buildings, however, are, on the whole, above mediocrity. With one or two exceptions, they are from the best classic models, and at least do not violate good taste. The Scott Monument alone, the work of a native self-taught artist, is without a
considerable effect in one of those inimitable sketches which he is pleased to call Points of Humour. It was a joke soon explained and pardoned; but assuredly the perpetrators of it did afterwards get many lengthened Injunctions from their parents never again to fish over the window, with such a bait, for honest men's wigs."