Early descriptions of Edinburgh


Early Descriptions of Edinburgh

From:  Modern Athens - Published 1829

The Bridewell

or House of Correction


The Bridewell was situated on Regent Road to the west of Edinburgh Jail.

This description of below refers to the engravings above.  Please click one of the images above to enlarge it.


The Name  'Bridewell'

The Bridewell is named after a House of Correction in the vicinity of the Holy Well of St Bride, Fleet Street, London.  Similar Houses of Correction were set up in other cities and came to be known as Bridewells:

[Modern Athens]

Comments on the Occupants

The book, Modern Athens, in which the engravings above appear, gives an account of the Edinburgh Bridewell:

"The want of such a house seems to have been felt at a pretty early period in the Scottish Metropolis.  "Edinburgh", says Maitland "being become, as it were, the common receptacle for the strolling poor, lazy beggars, idle vagrants, and common prostitutes, who crowded hither from all parts of the kingdom, wherefore it was, in the year 1632, judged necessary to erect a House of Correction, for employing and publishing these disorderly persons, and pests of mankind"    [Modern Athens]

The Building and its Occupants

The Edinburgh Bridewell was erected in 1791, and is described below:

"It is of what may be denominated the Bastile order of architecture, and was designed by the late celebrated Robert Adam.

The body of the building is in a semicircular form, and the walls are perforated with a kind of loop-hole windows.

It consists of five floors.  Part of the highest is used as a hospital, and the remainder are storerooms.

The exterior of the curves of the under floors contain the sleeping-closets, 134 in number, with a bed and bible in each.

The interior portions of the curves are divided into 52 working parlours, or cages, furnished with implements suited to the capabilities of the occupants for the time being.

These apartments are separated from the sleeping ones, by the semicircular lobbies which give access to both.

By a kind of Victorian screen-work the tenants of each cage are prevented from seeing what is passing in the others - while all of them are overlooked, from the window of a dark apartment from the centre of the curve, from which the governor, or his deputy.

When an entrant has passed through the required extent of ablution, and thereby been raised to the requisite degree of purity, an account is, in favourable cases, opened with him.

Labour, to a modified extent is required of him, the value of any surplus exertion being entered to his credit, and given to him on his departure.

[Modern Athens]


Early descriptions of Edinburgh



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