Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh is named after the canons of Holyrood Abbey and the Scots word gait meaning “road”. The Canongate was a small district outside the Edinburgh City Walls. The lands and village of Herbergare, where the Abbey of Holyrood was built was given to the monks by King David I in 1128 and a road that extended from Herbergare, to the Nether Bow Port was known as Canon gait. Houses soon were built on both sides of the road and in time the name of Herbergare was lost and the name Canongate was taken in its place. The Canongate had walls around the town which was to define the town with gates that were closed at night (Watergate). This was no protection against invaders and the Canongate area was burnt to the ground on several occasions first by Richard II circa 1380 then 1544, 1642, 1649, and finally by Cromwell and his army in 1651. There were three crosses in the Canongate, St John’s Cross which marked the boundary of the Canongate stood opposite St John’s street, The Mercat Cross which stood opposite the Canongate Tolbooth and the Girth Cross which stood at the foot of the Canongate now marked with a circle of cobbles 100 foot from Abbey Strand. The only cross that survives is the Mercat Cross which stands on the East side of the Canongate Kirk. The Canongate was a separate town until formally incorporated into Edinburgh in 1856.
The White Horse Inn Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
The White Horse Inn is the oldest Inn in the Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh with the stables at the rear with entry from Gullane’s Close the coaches left from what was known as Boyd’s Inn The other entrance for the coaches and horses was from Boyd’s Entry a short distance down St Mary’s Wynd, Boyd’s Inn now known as The White Horse Inn, was the starting point the long journey by coach to London. The White Horse Inn was also the main dropping off point for the coaches from London which was in Boyd’s Close off Boyd’s Entry at the back of the present day White Horse Inn. The White Horse Inn was also the place that runaway couples from England came to be married and many weddings were carried out here. The White Horse Inn consisted of a house for entertainment, stables for over 100 horses and sheds for over 20 carriages and rooms for the guests. This was the first 5 star lodging in Edinburgh the proprietor being James Boyd. James Boyd Sold the White Horse Inn in 1776 to retire.
Samuel Johnson was known as the most distinguished man of letters in English history. He befriended James Boswell in London and travelled to Edinburgh with him prior to them touring Scotland together. James Boswell lived in James Court and often took the important travellers of the time home with him. The inscription below can be seen on the wall at Boyd’s Entry off St Mary’s Street Edinburgh.
First coach trips between Scotland and England started in the Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh
The first stagecoach starting from the Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh and ending in London was on October of 1712. Starting at the Coach and Horses later to be Boyd’s Inn and now The White Horse Inn at the top of the Canongate. Passengers would meet prior to their journey and pay the fee of £4 and 10 shillings (£4.50p) for the whole journey, allowing each person with luggage of 20 pounds’ weight, and any additional weight would be charged at 6d (2.5p) per pound in weight (less than 1/2 kilo). The coach left at 6 in the morning and took a total of 13 days’ subject to no accidents or mishaps and no overnight stops.
Morocco Land Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
The sculpture of a Moor faces forward with arms down at his sides supporting a blank shield. The sculpture was moved from its original position on an adjoining building when the present building was being redeveloped. The story of how the land (building) was named is that a young man Andrew Grey, an Edinburgh resident, was sentenced to death for rioting. He fled to Morocco and after a number of years made his fortune and returned home and was involved in saving the life of the daughter of the Provost who was perilously ill with the plague (presumably for this his sentence was commuted). He ended up marrying her and they made their home in the building where the little statue was erected. This came to be known to the locals as “Morocco Land”.
Chessel’s Court Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh
Chessel’s Court Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh was built in 1748 as mansion apartments for the architect Archibald Chessel and in 1769 became the Excise Office and was the scene of an armed robbery in 1788 by the notorious William Deacon Brodie and his gang. The robbery failed and Deacon Brodie was eventually caught and executed on the gallows in the High Street that he designed.
Weir’s Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh
Weir’s Close Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh was the home of George Chalmers founder of Chalmers Hospital which opened to patients in 1864 on the lower floors the upper floors were opened to fee paying patients in 1872.
Old Playhouse Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh
Old Playhouse Close Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh was the entrance to the Playhouse Theatre where famous actors, actresses, singers and performers would ply their trade from 1747 – 1767. The tragedy DOUGLAS was first performed here in 1756 written by John Home minister and playwright.
Saint John’s Cross Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh
The cross of St John marks the spot on the Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh where the boundary between Edinburgh and the Burgh of the Canongate was and also marks where the original St. John’s Cross was positioned. Moved to allow carriages which were becoming more popular to pass up and down the street.
St John’s Pend Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
The Knights of St John had their houses in this area. Go through the Archway and you will find the Masonic Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No 2 and the oldest masonic chapel in the world. The archway below the Moray House tablet in St John’s Street was also known as St John’s Pend this is where the first known masonic lodge was sited, date unknown. There are other Lodges that also claim to be the first lodge by way of minutes of meetings, but St John’s name has been synonymous with this area since the early 1500s. It is believed that the name was first used by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem who held property in this area. The entrance to the street that gave access to the Canongate was built in 1768 and the houses were occupied by famous families.
Sir Godfrey Hilton Thomson Moray House College Royal Mile Edinburgh
Sir Godfrey Hilton Thomson was an educational psychologist and the director of studies at Moray House College for 26 years and a pioneer of educational testing. Sir Godfrey Thomson’s plaque can be found in St John’s Pend in Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh. Sir Godfrey Thomson led the only IQ test to be held in Scotland testing took place in 1932 and 1947 of all 11 year old children.
Masonic Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No 2 St John’s Street Royal Mile Edinburgh
The Lodge Canongate, Kilwinning has had many famous brothers, Robert Burns the Poet and John Napier the inventor of the logarithms. At the first gate on the right entering from the Canongate, above a black door on the lintel, can be seen the words SAINT JOHN’S LODGE. The next building is Lodge Kilwinning No 2 this is named after the original lodge in Ayrshire which dates back to the building of Kilwinning Abbey in 1140, however the Abbey of Holyrood built in 1124, was also linked to the Freemasons and is older. The difference is, Lodge Mother Kilwinning in Ayrshire issued charters and warrants to Lodges wishing the privileges of freemasonry. In the High Street Hyndford’s Close (St David’s Lodge) is where Sir Walter Scott became a mason.
Lodge Canongate Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
The first Lodge to request a charter was the Lodge Canongate. This was granted in December 1677 and is the first known example in the world of a Lodge being granted a Charter by an existing Lodge. The Chapel of St John is the oldest purpose built masonic meeting room in the world. The first Grand Lodge of Scotland was Lodge Canongate Kilwinning in 1735. The Head Office of the Grand Lodge of Scotland is at 96 George Street Edinburgh. The Lodge of Edinburgh (St Mary’s Chapel) No 1 has the oldest recorded meeting minutes dating back to 1598 and is still in existence in Hill Street Edinburgh today.
Shoemakers’ Close (1725) Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
Shoemakers’ Close is an old house four stories high in which the shoemakers used to hold their meetings. Over the entrance door is the shoemakers’ coat of arms cut in stone, a crown and rounding knife. Inscribed on the tablet is; 1725 Blessed is he | that wisely do | TH the poor man’s | case consider
The Old Moray House Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh
Old Moray House was built in the early 1600s.It is now a group of three buildings and a courtyard. The Regent’s House to the east was built before the mid-1600s and the new house to the south was built in 1755. Take a walk through the gates to see the buildings. The Moray House College has been on this site since 1848 and became Moray House College of Education in 1959. After merging with other colleges it is now part of the University of Edinburgh.
Bible Land (1677) Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh
Bible Land is the name given to the land (building) on the Canongate which has the sculpture of an open book above the front door which contains part of Psalm 133 “Behold how good a thing it is and how becoming well together such as brethren are in unity to dwell”. There is also the following text “It is an honour for men to cease from strife. Bible Land was built for the Incorporation of Cordiners in 1677. The Cordiners were leather craftsman who were incorporated in 1544.
Tolbooth Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh
The Tolbooth is a late 15th century building. It served only the Burgh of Canongate. A bronze wall tablet can be seen with the Canongate coat-of-arms and date 1128. The Tolbooth was the town’s jail and administrative centre. The western part of the Royal Mile the High Street was in Edinburgh and had its own Tolbooth which is no longer there. Its place is marked by the Heart of Midlothian. You can find a Tolbooth in most towns to this day but none are used as jails. The large bronze plaque is a memorial who died in the world wars.
The People’s Story Museum Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh
The Canongate Tolbooth is home to The People’s Story Museum, telling the story all about the people who have lived in Edinburgh from its beginning.
Acheson House Bakehouse Close Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh
Acheson House was built in 1633 as a townhouse for Sir Archibald Acheson, who died a year later in 1634. Archibald Acheson was knighted by James I in 1620, made secretary of state for Scotland in 1627 during the reign of Charles I and a baronet of Nova Scotia in 1628. Acheson house was restored by the Marquess of Bute when he purchased the property from Edinburgh council in 1935 to save it from demolition.
The Museum Of Edinburgh Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh
You will find the Museum of Edinburgh in the Canongate. Inside the museum tells the story of Edinburgh from prehistoric times to the present day. Displays illustrate life in the Old and New Towns from the 1760s. Home to important collections of Edinburgh history, exhibits include Grayfriar’s Bobby’s collar, the National Covenant signed in 1638, and Scottish pottery. In 1825 in the ‘Traditions of Edinburgh’ Robert Chambers calls Huntly House the ‘SPEAKING HOUSE’ because of the Latin inscriptions on the building’s exterior walls. There are five inscriptions, the original four inscriptions are from the 16th century and one added on renovation in the late 1920s early 1930s. The museum was housed in Huntly House (left) before an extension was built where the entrance is now. The Building was originally the Marquis of Huntly’s House. Take a walk round and see the Scottish silver, pictures of old Edinburgh and maps of the building of the New Town. Free entry.
Five Inscriptions on the walls of Huntly House Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh
THERE IS ANOTHER HOPE OF LIFE. I AM OLD BUT RENEW MY YOUTH 1932.
AS THOU ART MASTER OF MY TONGUE TO A STEADFAST HEART.
TODAY FOR ME TOMORROW FOR YOU 1570
MORTAL AFFAIRS ARE A SHADOW SO I AM MASTER OF MY EARS
Canongate Kirk Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
The present Canongate Kirk building opened in 1691. The first building now in ruins beside Holyrood House opened in 1128. This 17th century Canongate Kirk was designed by James Smith, The Canongate Kirk is unique among Scottish churches of this period. Buried in the churchyard are several famous Scots including the economist Adam Smith. The Queen, when in residence at the Palace of Holyrood House, will use this as her local place to worship. Princess Anne’s Daughter (Zara Philips) married England rugby union captain Mike Tindal here in June 2011.
The inscriptions on the plaque below reads: SIC ITUR AD ASTRA “This is the path to heaven.” and inscribed on the tablet on the front of Canongate Kirk reads: In 1688 King James VII | Ordained that the mortification | of Thos. Moodie granted in 1649 to | build a church should be applied | to the erection of this structure. with above the inscription Thomas Moodie’s Coat of Arms.
Canongate Mercat Cross Canongate Royal Mile Edinburgh
The Mercat Cross originally stood in the middle of the road outside the Tolbooth and was moved next to the Tolbooth in the 1730s to make way for the increasing traffic. The Mercat Cross was moved to its present location in the early 1950s. Every town (Burgh) in Scotland had a Mercat cross, which would stand in the middle of a market square and on occasion be the place people would be chain for a crime and have rotten fruit and vegetables thrown at them by passers-by. The Cross was used as a pillory and had Jougs (neck and leg irons attached).
My Famous Five. Canongate Kirk Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
Among the people who are interned in the Canongate graveyard are Robert Adam Economist and author of The Wealth of Nations, Sir William Fettes Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Tea and Wine Merchant and founder of Fettes College, Agnes MacAlees (CLARINDA) Robert Burns one true love – the love affair was to last until their death, David Rizzio Mary Queen of Scots private secretary, Robert Fergusson Royal Poet and inspiration to Robert Burns.
Robert Fergusson (Poet)
Robert Fergusson was the inspiration to Robert Burns to make him the poet he turned out to be. Robert Fergusson died at the age of 24 in 1774. Robert Burns, to show how much respect he had for his fellow artist, paid for his headstone and wrote his inscription.
No sculptur’d marble here, nor pompus lay,
No story’d urn nor animated bust;
This simple stone directs pale Scotia’s way
To pour her sorrows o’er her poet’s dust.
David Rizzio born 1533 – died 1566. Mary Queen of Scots’ private secretary and confidante, David Rizzio, was assassinated in the Palace of Holyrood House by Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley and a group of his allies on the 9th March 1566. This was his first steps to take over and rule as King. It was a short power struggle as Lord Darnley was murdered on the 10th February 1567, less than one year later. David Rizzio was of Italian descent from near Turin and was known as David Rizzio, David Riccio or David Rizzo.
ADAM SMITH 1723 – 1790
Adam Smith lived in Panmure House in Lochend Close in the Canongate and is buried in the Canongate Kirk Graveyard, behind the Canongate Kirk. Adam Smith was a Scottish moral philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. He was one of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment. In 1776 The Wealth of Nations, is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work of economics. Smith is cited as the father of modern economics. In 2009 Adam Smith was named among the “Greatest Scots” of all time, in a vote run by Scottish television. The inscription on the paving stone outside Canongate Kirk reads: HERE WITHIN THE CHURCHYARD | OF | CANONGATE KIRK | IS THE GRAVE | OF | ADAM SMITH | 1723 – 1790 | BORN IN KIRKCALDY FIFE | INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED | ECONOMIST | AUTHOR OF | “THE WEALTH OF NATIONS”
Sir William Fettes
Sir William Fettes was born in 1750 and died in his home in Charlotte Square Edinburgh. A wealthy land owner with several estates, his main estate at Comleybank where Fettes school was built with money left in his estate to give free education to the poor fatherless children of Edinburgh. It was a boy’s only school until it went fully co-educational in 1981. William Fettes was knighted in 1804 and was Lord Provost of Edinburgh on 2 occasions.
Agnes MacAlees (Clarinda)
AGNES MACALEES (CRAIG) Agnes MacAlees (1759-1841) was known as Nancy. Nancy first came to Edinburgh to live in Potterrow near the corner with Marshall Street after her husband left her to make his fortune in Jamaica. Robert Burns first meet with Nancy on the 4th December 1787 at afternoon tea and the assignation started. Mishap and misfortune stopped them from meeting for some time but they wrote to each other regularly. The love affair was to last until their death but their last meeting was in December of 1791 when Nancy left for Jamaica to be with her now wealthy husband. Read the famous letters written with codenames Nancy being (Clarinda), Rabbie being (Sylvander) and not to forget the love song to Nancy `Ae Fond Kiss’.
Dunbar’s Close and Gardens Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
Dunbar’s Close was named after the owner of the tenement at that time, an Edinburgh lawyer David Dunbar. Take a walk through Dunbar’s Close for a look at a 17th century style garden with views of Calton hill, the Nelson Monument and Burns memorial in the background. On your right of the gates as you enter are Caddell House and Panmure House, the latter is where Adam Smith lived and died (1772-1790).
The Scottish Poetry Library Crichton’s Close Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
The Scottish Poetry Library can be found in Crichton’s Close in the Canongate. One of only three Poetry Libraries in the United Kingdom. The Library has the largest collection of Poems in Scotland and if you are looking for the poem for a loved one or special occasion, you will find it here. There is a shop. Entry and use of the Poetry Library is Free. Do not go past go in and find the poem that reflects who you are.
Panmure Close / Panmure House Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
Panmure House, is where the Jacobite Earl of Panmure had his town house and later Adam Smith lived and died (1772-1790). Adam Smith is buried in the Canongate Kirk Graveyard and his statue is in the High Street near to St Giles Cathedral. The poppies on the gates were to show that this was the access to the Lady Haig Poppy factory between 1931 – 1965. Access to Panmure house is at 115 Canongate Little Lochend Close.
Reid’s Court Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
Reid’s Court takes its name from Edinburgh brewer and magistrate Andrew Reid who lived here in the 1770s. The house was first the home to Lord Advocate Sir John Nisbet and was built in 1624. It is now the Manse where the minister of the Canongate Kirk lives.
Milton House Primary School Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
Milton House Primary School was built circa 1885 to educate the children of the Canongate area. The School was built on the site of Milton House, named after Lord Milton a famous judge of his time circa 1756 for who the house was built by the designer John Adam elder brother of the more famous architect Robert Adam.
Nisbet of Dirleton’s House 82-84 Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
82 – 84 Canongate was Nisbet of Dirleton’s House. The house with shop was originally built in 1624 by Lord Dirleton, Sir John Nisbet the Lord Advocate. A typical entrance stone to a 17th Century building.
Nisbet of Dirleton’s House Stone Lintel above door with translation in brackets
PAX (PEACE) INTRATIBUS (ENTERED) NISI DOMINS FRUSTRA (EXCEPT THE LORD IN VAIN)
SALUS (SALVATION) EXEUNTIBUS (DEPARTING)
Golfer’s Land Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
Golfer’s Land in Brown’s Close is a tenement building purchased with winnings from a 4 ball golf match between Baillie John Paterson and The Duke of York (King James VII) and two English noblemen. During the 1600s two English noblemen attached to the court of the Duke of York (to be King James VII) were challenged by the Duke to a golf match on Leith Links. The Duke’s partner was shoemaker John Paterson a descendent from a long line of golfers. The English noblemen were beaten and the Duke rewarded Paterson with the stakes that had been played for, which enabled Paterson to build a tenement building which he called Golfer’s Land. The building is no longer on the site as it was demolished in 1960. In 1664 Charles I (The Duke’s father) bestowed on the Duke of York the American provinces previously controlled by the Dutch now renamed in his honour, New York. The Duke succeeded to the crown in 1685, and died in 1701. In 1688, his wife Queen Mary gave birth to a son who was later to be father to Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Whitefoord House Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
Earl of Winton’s’ town mansion, better known as Lord Seytoun’s lodging in the Canongate. In front of the mansion, in which Sir Walter Scott lays some of the scenes of the “Abbot”. There was a tavern built chiefly of lath and plaster, known as “Jenny Ha’s”. The landlady was famous for her claret. Gay, the poet, is said to have frequented the tavern during his short stay in Edinburgh. It was a custom for the merchants and distinguished gentlemen of Edinburgh to adjourn after dinner parties, to enjoy claret and merrymaking at Jenny Ha’s.
Jenny Ha’s Change House (Tavern) Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
On this site stood a well-known tavern of the 1700s, ran by the popular landlady Jenny Hall. Jenny Ha’s Tavern was the rendezvous of poets John Gay and Allan Ramsay and other renowned gentlemen of the time, who would meet after dinning. The plaque can be found on the side of the building outside Whitefoord House.
On the walls in the close look for the plaques of William Dick founder of the Edinburgh veterinary college (The Royal Dick Vet) and the Whitehorse Inn said to be the starting point of the long coach ride to London. The plaque can be found on the wall of the house at the back of the courtyard where the Inn was. This area was also used in 1745 by the officers of the Jacobite army prior to the battle of Prestonpans lead by Bonnie Prince Charlie.
White Horse Inn Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
The White Horse Inn at the back of White Horse Close in the Canongate is where a plaque denotes that this was the first point when leaving by coach to London. But this may not be the correct White Horse Inn as there is a White Horse Inn at the top of the Canongate which is connected to Boyd’s Close in St Mary Street or White Horse Close as it was often Called, which opens into Boyd’s Entry as there had to be stables for the horses and a place for the coaches Boyd’s Entry looks most likely to be the original starting point for the coach and horses. There are a number of plaques which contradict each other but the starting point was most certainly at the head (top) of the Canongate.See wall tablet Boyd’s Entry.
William Dick White Horse Close Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
William Dick was born in White Horse Close on the 6th May 1793. William Dick founded the Veterinary College. He became the Royal Veterinary surgeon for Queen Victoria. The Veterinary College was officially named the Royal Veterinary College by Act of Parliament in 1906 The College moved from Clyde Street where it began to Summerhall where a building had been built for the sole purpose of a veterinary College and was known by locals as The Royal Dick Vet.
The Girth Cross Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
The Girth Cross just like the Mercat Cross in the High Street, was a place for public proclamations, and executions. One of the most famous to take place here was that of the beautiful Jean Livingston (Lady Warriston), daughter to the Laird of Dunipace and wife of John Kincaid of Warriston. On the 2nd July 1600 she had Robert Weir, a servant of her father, batter her husband to death, an idea given to her by her nurse. Both the nurse and Lady Warriston were arrested and convicted of the murder of her husband, John Kincaid of Warriston. The nurse was burned on the Castlehill at 4 o’clock in the morning and at the same time Lady Warriston was beheaded by the “Maiden” (early type of guillotine) at the Girth Cross at the foot of the Canongate. This device, which can still be seen at the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street, Edinburgh, claimed over 150 victims during its period of use, including, Regent James Douglas 4th Earl of Morton, who originally introduced the “Maiden” from France. The servant Robert Weir was broken on the Breaking Wheel in 1603 for his crime (a brutal and agonising death).
Russell House Royal Mile Canongate Edinburgh
Russell House was named after Sir Robert Russell for all the effort he took to have the building saved for posterity. This is an example of a 17th Century tenement that the local Edinburgh people of the time would have live in. The Canongate was founded in 1140. King David I gave permission to the Canons of Holyrood Abbey to create the Burgh and it became part of Edinburgh in 1856. Above the doorway on the lintel is inscribed WL MA 1697 (this could be from another building as it was common for reuse of stone work. The initials would represent the name of the owner of the property and his intended wife and the date of their marriage). Russell House was built on what was the site of St Thomas’s Hospital built in 1541 by George Crichton.