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Warriston and Inverleith in 1835 | Historical Notes

Warriston and Inverleith in 1835

The old map (click here to view) of Warriston and Inverleith is taken from the plan engraved by W. H. Lizars for the Edinburgh Post Office Directory for 1835-36. It shows the extent of development before the arrival of the cemetery and the Trinity and Leith railways in the early 1840s. The plan was first issued in the Directory for 1834-35, and should therefore be fairly well up to date (there were many further issues right up until 1859, but often with only major changes indicated). These Directory plans are particularly valuable to us as most previous town plans stop at Canonmills Bridge.

by Andrew Fraser 
(reprinted from The Inverleith News, Autumn 2004)

The old map (click here to view) of Warriston and Inverleith is taken from the plan engraved by W. H. Lizars for the Edinburgh Post Office Directory for 1835-36. It shows the extent of development before the arrival of the cemetery and the Trinity and Leith railways in the early 1840s. The plan was first issued in the Directory for 1834-35, and should therefore be fairly well up to date (there were many further issues right up until 1859, but often with only major changes indicated). These Directory plans are particularly valuable to us as most previous town plans stop at Canonmills Bridge.

Edinburgh went bankrupt in the early 1830s, and ambitious building schemes in the Second New Town and elsewhere ground to a halt. Earlier plans usually assumed that all the schemes would be finished, and show all sorts of projected layouts that were never accomplished. However Lizars’ Directory plan admits that the northern fringe of the New Town was still far from complete. In particular, there are clear gaps in Royal Crescent, and the southern half of Bellevue Crescent remains unbuilt - these gaps would not be filled till Victorian days, though still largely to the original façade designs. When the railway tunnel from Waverley arrives in the 1840s the tail end of Scotland Street will have to be realigned. The gaps in other partly built Georgian developments, e.g. at Saxe Coburg Place and Brandon Street, can still be seen today. One area where Lizars remained optimistic is in showing Fettes Row complete beside St Stephen’s Church - a gap that is only now being filled!

Beyond the Second New Town lay Canonmills Haugh, a low-lying boggy area through which the mill lade ran, from the Water of Leith (Dean) Village, past Silvermills to the huddle of buildings around the outflow from the Canonmills Loch (now King George V park). The surviving old mill building here, at the head of Canon Street, has been cheerfully restored, its pantiled roof marking it out from the later slated developments. From here the mill lade did not return directly to the Water of Leith but ran below Heriot Hill House to other mills around Beaverhall and Powderhall. (For an excellent description of milling on Edinburgh’s river, see Graham Priestly, The Water Mills of the Water of Leith, 2001.)

The first bridge over the river at Canonmills was not built till 1767, and Inverleith Row was laid out as a link to Ferry Road thereafter. The ground on the west belonged to Inverleith House (built for the Rocheids in 1774, it survives in the Royal Botanic Garden), while on the east was West Warriston House (newly built in 1772, but demolished in the 1970s for Eildon Terrace). Inverleith Row remained a rural road until the early 19th century. There was an older road along and across the Water of Leith, starting at Canonmills and running along the south bank on what became Warriston Road. A little upstream from the present St Mark’s bridge was a ford (seen on Lizars’ plan). It was called Puddocky, apparently from an old property here called Paddockhall, but the name is thought to derive ultimately from the Scots ‘puddock’ (frog). This ancient road then also ran north to Ferry Road, passing East Warriston, a much older property that was rebuilt in 1818, and converted to Warriston Crematorium in 1928. The Ferry Road itself, heading for Davidsons Mains and Queensferry from the port of Leith, originally wriggled past Bonnington and East Warriston but was rationalised and straightened out in 1765. (For more detail on the history of the two Warriston estates, with fascinating earlier maps of the area, see Zella Ashford, ‘The Lands of Warriston’, Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, New Series, volume 3, 1994, pp 1-24.)

Building on Inverleith Row started with terraced developments along the southern edges of the West Warriston estate, laid out from 1807 to designs by James Gillespie Graham. The first houses were at Howard Place, followed by Warriston Crescent from 1816 - both largely complete by 1830. Eildon Street will not follow till 1879. Warriston Crescent - really a curved street, following the line of the river, rather than a formal crescent with symmetrical end features as in the New Town proper - was originally planned to extend northwards to Newhaven, but this was aborted with the arrival of the railways. The Inverleith House side of Inverleith Row was feued from around 1823, for a series of handsome single or semidetached villas. Development at the south end was patchy and mainly later, inhibited by the industrial presence of Tanfield (by the mid 1820s housing a gasworks) and the old brewery buildings on the other side of the river.

To the west two new streets were planned - Inverleith Terrace and Inverleith Place. Lizars’ plan shows that only a few houses had been built by 1835, and also shows the gaps in development further north along Inverleith Row. However two large areas adjacent to the grounds of Inverleith House have now been laid out, that to the north for the Royal Botanic Garden, which moved here from its former site at Leith Walk after 1822, and to the south the gardens of the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society, which were formed at the same period. Later in the century the Royal Botanic Garden expanded to incorporate all three of these spaces (the Royal Caledonian Society grounds in 1864 and Inverleith House in 1877).

The open fields on either side of the northern part of Inverleith Row were increasingly used as nursery gardens during the 19th century and remained open until eventually converted to playing fields or feued for later housing developments. The name Goldenacre is a pleasant reminder of the recent agricultural past on the open lands north of the Water of Leith at Canonmills.