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Recollections  -  Edinburgh Old Town

Tenements

Collapses and Demolitions

    ../0_STREET/0_street_views_-_beaumont_place_demolition_penny_tenement_1959_942d.htm ©

1.

George T Smith
Nanaimo, Vancouver Island,
British Columbia, Canada

1A. Penny Tenement

          -  Demolition

          -  Collapse

1B. Penny Tenement

          -  Collapse

1C.  Dumbiedykes

          -  Demolition

1D.  Beaumont Place

          -  Collapse

1E.  Beaumont Street

          -  Demolition

2.

Kate Brock
Edinburgh

Penny Tenement

    -  Survivor

3.

Margaret Myers
Edinburgh

Penny Tenement

    -  Survivor

4.

Emmeline Aris
Doncaster, S Yorkshire, England

reply from

Catherine Taylor (née Clark)

Dumbiedykes

          -  Protests

          -  Evacuation

5.

Graeme Kerr and Mary Kerr
Selkirk, Scottish Borders, Scotland

Beaumont Place

          -  Collapse

6.

Aileen McIntosh
Roseburn, Edinburgh

Ingliston Street /
Roxburgh Street

          -  Collapse

7.

Helen Brown (née Munro)

Carnegie Street

8.

Paddy Brock
Liverpool

Escape

9.

Bill Prior
Portobello, Edinburgh

Removing Aerials

10.

George T Smith
Nanaimo, Vancouver Island,
British Columbia, Canada

The Penny Tenement

       -  Memories

       -  My Maiden Aunts' Flat

       -  Cooking and Hot Water

       -  Bed Closet

My Grandfather's Horse

More Memories

 

Recollections

1.

George Smith

Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Canada

1A.

The 'Penny Tenement''  was a 5-storey tenement in Beaumont Place, Dumbiedykes, close to Holyrood Park.  The tenement collapsed (for the third time) on 21 November 1959, leaving eighteen families homeless.

Thank you to George Smith, British Columbia, Canada, formerly Edinburgh, for the following recollections.  Incidentally, in George's original note to me he refers to the building as the 'Tuppeny Tenement':

The Penny Tenement

Demolition

"I have a photograph of two men knocking down the Penny Tenement with picks. I got it from the Scotsman or Evening News archive but it does not show the building.

 [See 4. below.]

Family tradition had it that Number 6 and other nearby tenements were originally for the staff at Holyrood and there was evidence that the flats had been sub divided. 
 
[See 3. below.]

The building had a turnpike stair similar to the 17-18 century buildings in the Old Town so I guess it predates the 1844 map by some years.

Earlier Collapse

The street used to end in a row of shops and a pub on the corner but it was only a hole in the ground when I was a child.

Numbers 2,4 must have fallen down sometime in the early 1900's as the gable wall was propped up by heavy timber scaffolding all the time I remember it.

Another gable end fell down in an adjacent street  sometime in the forties or early fifties leaving the tenants exposed to view. I have not been able to trace a photo of that event."

George T Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Canada, 2 Dec 2005

 

1B.

George believes that the Penny Tenement was not the only collapse in Dumbiedykes.  If you know of any other collapses, please e-mail me.

Meanwhile, here are George's recollections on the subject:

Carnegie Street?

Collapse

I am sure that another end tenement, collapsed in the late fifties  -  possibly somewhere near Carnegie Street, but I have not been able to trace any record of this occurrence.

I am a bit vague about which street suffered this gable end collapse. I remember passing it by on my way to a brewery and seeing an open view into some flats.

My father assured me he saw it shortly after it happened and some poor soul was having a bath in front of the fire when it occurred.

That  sounds like an urban myth to me now but I am certain I saw the aftermath.

Relocation to The Inch

Glenallan Drive, The Inch

    View from Inch Park to Glenallan Drive ©

I know the Dumbiedykes area was demolished about 1959 and many inhabitants re-located to the Inch.

George T Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Canada:  2 Dec 2005

 

1C.

The Edinburgh Room at Edinburgh Central Library has around 50 pages of press cuttings on the 'Penny Tenement,  from 1958 to 1960, including photos.  They also provided the following summary:

Dumbiedykes

Demolition

"The story of the collapse of the 'penny tenement' at 6 Beaumont Place, and its subsequent demolition, is a fascinating and dramatic one.

Beaumont Place was identified in the 1950s as one of Edinburgh's housing black spots and was listed as high priority for demolition within a large-scale redevelopment of  Dumbiedykes/  St Leonard's area.

The slum clearance programme originated with Section 3 of the Housing (Repairs and Rents) (Scotland) Act, 1954. However, in 1959, before the demolition work was carried out, the tenement collapsed, giving the tenants and neighbours the fright of their lives, and causing uproar in the community"

The Beaumont Place tenements 'were named in 1812-13 after the Marquessete of Beaumont and Cessford, one of the titles of the Duke of Roxburghe who had substantiated his claim to the titles in 1812 as fifth duke'.

The Streets of Edinburgh, 1984

 

1D.

After receiving the comments above from the Edinburgh Room, George Smith wrote:

Beaumont Place

Collapse

"The above clears up when the buildings were built and makes nonsense of Granny's tale that these were homes for the staff at Holyrood.

Granny's  hame was the third floor front on the gable wall remaining in the photograph of the collapsed tenement that was published  in 'The Scotsman' on 23 November 1959.

Close by was a 'steamy' with baths available: a great place for exchanging gossip,  I understand.  I don't know how many  'steamies' there were in Edinburgh but these too are interesting bits of social history which might be worth recording

I notice from the early maps that there was a Public House at the corner of Beaumont Place which collapsed before I was old enough to notice. All that was there in the mid 30's was a hole in the ground and stout timber bracing on the gable wall."

George TSmith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Canada

 Thank you also to Georg Smith for sending me extracts from Hansard including a written answer given on November 27, 1959.   From this it can be seen that the tenement at 6 Beaumont Place actually collapsed in the early hours of Saturday November 21, 1959, having been condemned as unfit for human habitation 20 years earlier.

George T Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Canada:  April 20, 2009

1E.

This photograph  was reproduced in 'The Scotsman' on 23 November 1959.  George Smith describes the location:

Beaumont Street

Demolition

"This picture shows the opposite side of Beaumont Street from the  'Penny Tenement' collapse.

Dumbiedykes Survey Photograph - 1959  -  Demolition of Beaumont Place ©

I guess the picture is that of a demolition as the whole street came down.  The brewery is in the background - possibly Mackays?"

George T Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Canada

 

 

Recollections

2.

Kate Brock

Edinbrugh

Thank you to Kate Brock, Edinburgh  -  a survivor of the Penny Tenement collapse  -  who writes:

The Penny Tenement  -  Survivor

"I was a survivor from the penny tenement collapse of the 1959 era.  I was 5 years old at this time.  I remember two firemen and my father trying to grasp me but to no avail.

I tried to crawl along a floor beam with encouragement from them.  There was no floorboards as they had vanished.  I remember my dad trying in the dark to reach me and grasping my hand, and even today I can sense the desperation in that hand. alas I slipped from the beam into the prevailing darkness in amongst all the rubble and had a safe landing on top of a bed, unscathed.

My sister Margaret was 14 months old.  She fell out of the building along with her cot and blankets, She ended up in an old cooker oven, the blankets cushioned her fall.

I also remember that my dad was the only one to have put electricity into our room and kitchen and my mother chasing the mice with a brush before entering our abode.

I went to St Patricks school.  I can honestly say I believe in angels.  I'm still a southsider but now stay in the Inch."

Kate Brock, Edinburgh,  17 March 2005

 

 

Recollections

3.

Margaret Myers

Edinbrugh

Thank you to Margaret Myers, Edinburgh  -  another survivor of the Penny Tenement collapse, for leaving the following message on the Edinphoto GuestBook -  who writes:

The Penny Tenement  -  Survivor

"Hi.  I am also a survivor of the penny tenement. I was only 14 months old when this incident took place. Too young to remember but I have enjoyed a journey through my family on my true roots and what community spirit really means.

My father Tommy Brock son of (Navvy) and my mother Betty Brock along with my sister Kate and other extended family have kept the "good old Southside spirit alight within our family unit".

Something we are all very proud of to the extent my dad has ensured we support Hibernian a by product of St Patricks in the Cowgate. We were all taught the famous song as our own national anthem  "we are the Cowgate swells we didnae wash ourselves" does anyone remember that one.

Margaret Myers now resident in Moredun (in another temporary/ permanent housing  - a prefab. Some things never change it must be in my blood)."

Margaret Myers, Edinburgh:  21 March 2005

 

 

Recollections

4.

Emmeline Aris

Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England

Thank you to Emmeline Aris for sending me the following details

Emmeline wrote:

Protests

"Before the collapse of the Penny Tenement building in November 1959, the residents had been protesting, without success, seeking to be re-housed.

Here are extracts from newspaper articles of the late 1950s."

Dalrymple Place and Carnegie Street

"The corporation has already been presented with a petition from residents in the area asking that the families should be re-housed speedily."

"The petition stated that the houses in Dalrymple Place and Carnegie Street were in a dangerous condition, vermin infested and disease ridden."

"In a letter to Mr Tom Oswald, Labour MP [the Secretary of State for Scotland said  that] it may take 20 years before the people [in Dalrymple Place and  Carnegie Street] can be re-housed. They will also be told that they cannot expect any priority on the Corporation's housing list."

Evening Dispatch:  October 24, 1958

 

Clearance Area

Carnegie Street, Dalrymple Place, Dumbiedykes Road, St Leonard's Hill, Beaumont Place

"Bulldozers [are] levelling out the rubble of the old Holyrood Square.  But let [the planners] grope their way into some of the dark, fetid and dangerously dilapidated stairways of the Carnegie Street Clearance Area and they would be revolted by the squalour and low ebb of human degradation."

"Whole tenements have been bought as cheap speculation and the individual houses then resold or let, partially furnished at sums of 20s to 35s a week."

"Nowhere in Edinburgh at one time was there a greater sense of pride than in the humble homes of the Dumbiedykes and the St Loenard's areas.  Now it is an area in the grip of frustration, hopelessness and despair."

"In Dalrymple Place was Mrs Arthur, aged 65,  ... who has a heart complaint lives with her husband, a grown up grand-daughter and two other adult relatives in an old hardware shop changed into a [two room] house."

"Mrs Arthur has a cat which caught five big rats in one week.  She said that she took one of the rats, alive, in a jar to the Sanitary Department, and that she had seen a small snail, six inches long, come out of the water tap."

 Edinburgh Evening News:  October 20, 1959

The lady quoted in the article above, Patricia  Arthur, was the grandmother of Emmeline Aris who sent the above articles to me.

 

Evacuation

"Here are extracts from 'The Scotsman' newspaper in 1959":

Beaumont Place and Dalrymple Place

"The rehousing of 250 people from the crumbling tenements in Edinburgh's south side ended yesterday after the fastest large-scale rehabitation move since the blitz."

"When the wall of the 'penny tenement'  in Beaumont Place fell in a week ago, the house-letting department were told : 'There are 21 families without homes.' "

"Within 36 hours, 60 people were in the process of moving into re-let corporation houses.  Then came the announcement: 'Twenty-two families are to be evacuated from Nos. 10, 12, 14 and 15 Beaumont Place.' "

"Corporation officials were just beginning to relax when, on Friday morning, they were told:  'The slums at Nos. 5-19 Dalrymple Place are to be evacuated.'   More than 140 people were to be involved in this, the biggest and most hectic of the flittings."

 The Scotsman:  November 30, 1959

 

 

Emmeline Aris:  Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England:  April 28, 2007

 

Recollections

4. REPLY

Catherine Taylor (née Clark)

Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England

Catherine Taylor (née Clark) wrote:

Dalrymple Place

"I lived in Dalrymple Place from 1944 to 1955.  I remember Emmeline's grandmother Along with Mrs Sweeney, she helped organise the back green concerts that I'm sure Emmeline will remember."

Catherine Taylor (née Clark), Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England:  February 10, 2008

 

Recollections

5.

Graeme Kerr

Thank you to Graeme Kerr for the comments below:

Beaumont Place

     Demolition of the Penny Tenement in Beaumont Place  -  1959 ©

"I thought I'd send a note to tell you while doing some genealogy research, I discovered that my Grandmother stayed in Beaumont Place at the time of her marriage in the 1920's.

 She and my grandfather John Kerr, didn't stray far from the area for almost all their lives, moving to Simon Square when that was re-developed in the thirties. I have fond memories of the cast iron range in the front room there. Changed days indeed.

After reading the e-mail on your site from George Smith, I now wonder if  the collapse of the tenement was the reason for moving.  I'll have to ask some of my older uncles.

Also how weird to find out the street was named after the Duke of Roxburgh, who just happens to be my families clan chief (Kerr)."

Graeme Kerr, Selkirk, Scottish Borders, Scotland

 

Note for Graeme Kerr

Graeme:  you may be interested to read the comments below.  I'm not able to contact you because your e-mail address appears to have changed since we were last in touch, a couple of years ago, so I hope you read this message.

 -  Peter Stubbs:  February 6, 2007.

Mary Kerr, Holland, read the comments above and wrote:

Annie Kerr

"I read with great interest about Graeme Kerr’s grandfather who lived at Simon square.

I think Graeme's  grandmother (Beaumont Place until marriage) was called Annie.  She visited us now and then.  We lived around the corner.

John Kerr was my uncle, my father Andrew being his brother.   John was a veteran of the First World War.  Some of the Kerr children (John, eldest) and parents lived in Canada for a few years during first decade of 20th century.  A few more children were born after the family returned to Scotland. 

If there was only one John Kerr at Simon Square, we are of the same blood!"

Mary Kerr, Holland:  February 5, 2007

 

 

Recollections

6.

Aileen McIntosh

Roseburn, Edinburgh

Thank you to Aileen (Alison) McIntosh (née Duff) who wrote:

Ingliston Street / Roxburgh Street

Tenement Collapse

"Although not the Dumbiedykes, I vaguely remember the collapse of a building at the corner of Ingliston Street and Roxburgh Street, just off the Pleasance, in the late fifties.

There was a little boy (I think he was called Alistair) and I think he was killed.  I think part of the building was being demolished but the boys were playing in it.  (The watchman had apparently gone to the pub and the boys sneaked in). 

I don't know if anyone else would have more info on it.  I was very young at the time."

Aileen (Alison) McIntosh (née Duff), Roseburn, Edinburgh:  January 16, 2007

 

Recollections

7.

Helen Brown née Munro

Gilmerton, Edinburgh

Thank you to Helen Brown who wrote:

Carnegie Street

"I lived in 28 Carnegie Street (which ran parallel to Beaumont Place) from 1944 until 1957.  There was a collapsed part to a tenement at the top of the street where it meets St. Leonards Street, on the opposite side to the Deaconess Hospital.  It was shored up as long as I can remember

My mum lived, as a girl, in the building opposite called 'The Gushet'. It stood on the green space opposite the Deaconess Hospital "

She remembered the building collapsing and the furniture, including a piano, landing in the street.  She got herself a telling off for laughing at the piano flying into the street."

Helen Brown (née Munro):  August 22, 2008

 

Recollections

8.

Paddy Brock

Liverpool

Thank you to Paddy Brock, now living in Liverpool, who wrote:

Escape

"I was also a survivor of the Penny TenementI woke up my parents to tell them there was water coming through the walls in our bedroom.  It was pouring through, with a roar like thunder.

All hell broke.  My parents told me to run.  As I looked back, I could see that the floorboards were already tilting downwards and my mother, who was pregnant with my brother, jumped into the darkness to save my baby sister Margaret,

My dad was, by this time, grappling in the dark trying to find my sister, Kate, who was 5 and was still fast asleep.  I was ducking and diving down the tenement stairs through the firemen's legs,  Im sure now, my feet had wings attached to them."

Paddy Brock, Liverpool:  November 3, 2008

Recollections

9.

Bill Prior

Portobello, Edinburgh

Thank you to Bill Prior who wrote:

Removing Aerials

"At the time of the collapse, I was a TV engineer (just qualified) working with an aerial firm when we were asked to remove 'urgently' and re-erect three aerials at new addresses.

The shock came when we arrived at the Penny Tenement address.  We found a barrier around the building and and the building guarded by police with onlookers all over the place.

When we explained why we were there, the police ushered us through.  Once we were in the attic, the route to the aerials was easy.  We just walked through a hole in the roof, removed the aerials, then went back down to the street to be greeted by cheers from the onlookers.

I cannot remember which specific address it was or what happened to the other aerials but the Health and Safety was nowhere in sight!"

Bill Prior (now aged 74), Portobello, Edinburgh:  November 3, 2012

 

Recollections

10

Lisa Davis

New Zealand

Thank you to Lisa Davis for sending me a photograph of a tenement collapse that she believes may have been in Carnegie Street.

Carnegie Street

"I read on this page the rumours of a building collapse in Carnegie Street.  I believe I may have a photo of this very incident

This photo comes from my Mother’s collection, but I don’t know what year the collapse occurred, or exactly where it was."

Tenement Collapse

    ©

Lisa Davis, New Zealand:  June 11, 2013

Please click on the thumbnail image above to enlarge it.

Reply to Lisa?

Please email me if you know when this building collapsed and/or if you know where it was, then I'll either pass on your message to Lisa or give you her email address.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  June 17, 2013

 

Recollections

10.

George Smith

Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Canada

Thank you to George Smith, who wrote 'Recollections 1, for writing again.

George wrote, 10 years and 2 days after sending his Recollections 1 to me:

The 'Penny Tenement'

Memories

"I've been drafting my memoires for some moths to satisfy my 5 grandchildren's curiosity about 'What was it like grandpa when you were wee?'  "

My Maiden Aunts' Flat

"I used to travel across Edinburgh from Gorgie to St Leonard's on Wednesdays by tram to visit my maiden aunts who still lived in what was their late parents' home in the 'Penny Tenement' (built 1820, fell down 1959)

Their flat on the third of four floor was really just two rooms - a living room with bed recess and bedroom with bed closet.  The unlit toilet on a common landing was shared with at least one other flat.  The stairway was a turnpike stair, unlit as far as i remember."

Cooking and Hot Water

"There was no electricity in the building.  Domestic lighting was by gas and cooking was done on the living room fire, augmented by a gas ring.

The hot water supply was either from boiling a kettle or from a water tank situated to the right of the living room fireplace.  On the other side of the fireplace there was an oven, though I doubt if the heat was suitable for baking or roasting.

The gas poker was a useful domestic tool, and as far as i can recollect the living room fire was the sole source of heat for the flat.

I believe that, at a later date, the two aunts had a gas cooker installed. This was an 'Edinburgh Black', a cast iron cooker which was regularly polished with Zebo - a polish supplied in a yellow and white striped can.  We had a similar cooker in our home until it was supplanted by a white electric cooker"

Bed Closet

"I did not understand the function of the 'bed closet' which was a small windowless room in the larger bedroom. Perhaps someone with personal experience could comment?

Bed Closet

The function of a bed closet seems to be similar to the bed recess mentioned above by George.

Chambers' Twentieth Century Dictionary gives the definition:

(n)  bed closet:  a small recess for a bed.

Peter Stubbs:  5 December 2015

George T Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Canada, 4 Dec 2015

George Smith added:

My Grandfather's Horse

"One of our  family stories tells of an event occurring in the life of my grandfather' (not the grandfather who lived to the age of 109).

He was a carter, I believe, and was very fond of his horse.  One pay day he decided, after some celebratory libations, to bring the horse home.

That was no problem for an experienced driver and the horse climbed the tight spiral stair easily.  But after wifely protests at the doorstep, the downward trip was a major event.

Horses don't like their rump being higher than their heads, as demanded by the steep stair, and I gather the descent was a major source of gossip for some weeks thereafter.

More Memories

"I could go on and on about:

 street vendors

 playing in the streets

other juvenile preoccupations like frog catching in the Union Canal

 queuing for rations in the Co-op

the 'Store Book',the St Cuthbert's precursor of the credit card.

 etc."

More Memories

Yes, George.  Please do send me more of your memories.  I would be happy to add them to the EdinPhoto web site, as I'm sure that others would be interested to read them there.

Peter Stubbs:  5 December 2015

George T Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Canada, 4 Dec 2015

 

 

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EdinPhoto - Home Page  Please send me an e-mail ...  with your questions, comments, suggestions or news.   At any time, you can search for a word  -  perhaps a photographer's name or a photographic topic.  The search will produce a list of pages on the EdinPhoto web site where this word appears.     At any time, you can search for a word  -  perhaps a photographer's name or a photographic topic.  The search will produce a list of pages on the EdinPhoto web site where this word appears.  

Photographs and Other Images  -  These include portraits of photographers  -  photographic outings -  Princes Street views  -  Newhaven Fishwives  -  etc.  Early Photography in Edinburgh  -  Talbot, Brewster, Hill & Adamson, Early Professional Photographers in Princes Street, etc.  Professional Photographers in Edinburgh  -  1840 to 1940  -  Their names, dates of business and studio addresses.  The Photographic Society of Scotland  -  1856 to 1873  -  Lectures, Exhibitions, Outings, etc.  The History of Edinburgh Photographic Society  -  1861 to date  -  Lectures, Exhibitions, Outings, Poems, etc.  EPS Publications - EPS Handwritten Records  -  Photographic Journals  -  Trade Directories  -  Books  -  etc.  Thanks to all who have encouraged and supported me in creating the EdinPhoto web site  -  including descendants of photographers  -  researchers  -  providers of photographs and other material  Background notes on the research thal led up to the creation of this site  -   together with lists of new material added to the site since its launch.  Brief comments on how this site might be used  -  Just browsing?  -  Seeking specific information?  Please add your questions, suggestions or other comments to the Guest Book.  Links to other web sites  -  Photographic Societies  -  Photographic History  -  Family History  -  etc.  Click here to find the link to the Edinburgh Photogrpahic Society web site.

 

A selection of my photographs, many from Edinburgh throughout the year.   Also photos from Scotland, London, Iceland, Italy, Hong Kong and elsewhere    Many old maps of Edinburgh (Old Town, New Town, while City), Leith and Newhaven.  Includes several old transport maps and a comparison of old maps with recent aerial photos.   Old engravings, mailly of Edinburgh scenes.  Some from the 1820s, some from the 1890s,  some others - includes many hand-coloured examples from the 1820s.   News from Edinburgh today  -  Events, Collections, Buildings and Gardens, Transport   This site includes     1. Post card portraits taken in studios in Edinburgh:    2. Post card views either takeen/published by Ediburgh photographers or views of Edinburgh, or both.y Edinburgh    Views of Edinburgh, grouped into three sections:     1. Street views:    2. Buildings:    3. Around Edinburgh   Views of transport around Edinburgh  -  Horse drawn trams and buses, cable cars, electric trams, buses and a few railway photos.  Also several maps of Edinburgh's bus and tram routes.   Links to pages with Photos of Groups   Frequently Asked Questions

  Summary of the updates added to this site each month since the site was launched   Links to Dumbiedykes pages  Link to Granton pages  Link to Leith pages   Link to Newhaven pages   Links to Portobello pages   Link to My Recent Talks