Early descriptions of Edinburgh


Early Descriptions of Edinburgh

The Old Town

of Edinburgh

From:  Modern Athens - Published 1829

Edinburgh Old Town from Princes Street

Engraving in 'Modern Athens'  -  Edinburgh Old Town and North Bridge from Princes Street

 Engraving in 'Modern Athens'  -  Edinburgh Old Town and Bank of Scotland from Princes Street

This description of The Old Town refers to the engravings above. Click 1 or 2 to enlarge.

The Mound runs from upper left to centre, through point 3 on the enlarged picture.

The Old Town of Edinburgh

These engravings ... serve to delineate the peculiar loftiness and arrangement of the houses in the Old Town.  Some of these consist of several floors or 'flats' as they have here been termed.  From the inequality of surface on which these dwellings are raised, the great variety and diversity are produced.

Unlike the tame uniformity and monotonous insipidity of many London streets, here the houses exhibit an endless change in their perpendicular and horizontal lines

The base of one mass is often on a level with the chimneys of another;  and thus, whilst some families are living apparently in the clouds, others are destined to dwell beneath the surface of the earth.

In one of these "stacks of houses" here represented, there are no less than ten stories, or 'flats'; and it is a fact that many of these flats are inhabited by distinct families, whilst one flight of stairs communicates to the whole.

Although its precise contents and measurements cannot be accurately ascertained, it may be calculated at 720 feet in length, 160 in breadth, and 78 feet in height.  Its solid contents are estimated at two millions of cart loads, or seven thousand entire yards of earth.

[Modern Athens]



From:  Modern Athens - Published 1829

Further comments on the high buildings of Edinburgh's Old Town

Previous to the commencement of the seventeenth century, owing to the high price of building ground, and the habit which the inhabitants of Edinburgh had acquired of living above each other in separate floors of the same house, it had been customary to raise the buildings to a very dangerous height;

it was therefore enacted by the Scottish parliament in 1698, that no new house facing a public street should exceed five stories in altitude;  but as this law applies only to the front of a building, it not infrequently happens that from the inequality of ground, the back part consists of eight, ten, or even more floors: but it is, generally understood that if a house falls, it cannot be rebuilt to the same height.

[Modern Athens]




Early descriptions of Edinburgh




Why Edinburgh?     Events     Trades    History     Years     Transport    Tours     Maps