James Ross

at Calton Hill

National Monument

Calton Hill

By 1846, James Ross was working as calotypist at Calton Hill.

His address was National Monument, Calton Hill -  The National Monument is Edinburgh’s unfinished imitation of the Parthenon. What premises did he have there?

Hill & Adamson

Calton Hill

To reach the National Monument from Princes Street, he would have climbed the steps to the top of Calton Hill.  Part way up these steps, he would pass the doorway into Rock House, Hill & Adamson’s studio from 1843 to 1847.

It seems likely that he would have been acquainted with Hill and Adamson at that time, and may have done some work in their darkroom.  He may then have been the only other calotypist in Edinburgh.



James Ross at Calton Hill

a)  Where were James Ross' home and studio addresses in 1846?

b)  How did James Ross come to have this address, listed in the Edinburgh & Leith Post Office Directory, 1846-47:

"National Monument, Calton Hill"

So far as I am aware, there was nothing there other than a part-finished monument at that spot?

If you can help to answer these questions, please e-mail me.

Thank you.    - Peter Stubbs


Question b)



James Ross at Calton Hill

Thank you to Bryan Gourlay for checking some old maps of Calton Hill and finding a house on Calton Hill, close to the National Monument, possibly the house where James Ross lived in 1846.

Brian wrote:

"I'll try to discover more about this house.  It was to the south of the SW corner of the National Monument, and to the E of the Nelson Monument on the Ordnance Survey map below.

This house appears on these maps:

-  Ordnance Survey map, 1849-53.  This map shows a large house with  outbuildings including a 'summer house' and gardens.

-  Kay map, 1836.  This map shows a fairly substantial house, but a little further to the east.  Is this the same house?

Neither the house nor any of its outbuildings appear on the  Ordnance Survey map, 1876."

Bryan Gourlay, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland:  August 22, 2006


Question b)



James Ross at Calton Hill

Thank you to Bryan Gourlay for writing again, about three years later and letting me see an  old engraving that was featured on the BBC News web site in early July 2009.  This engraving showed, behind the trees, the roof of a house situated on the SE corner of the Nelson Monument.

Brian wondered if this might have been James Ross' house at Calton Hill.

Bryan added:

"This engraving clearly shows a house behind the Nelson monument with its lum reeking. It must have been knocked down some time before 1876 as it doesn’t appear on that Ordnance Survey map.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there is absolutely no trace of the house there now. From the engraving, it seems the path has been realigned and I think the contours of the ground, where the house was, have also been altered."

Bryan Gourlay, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland:  July 2, 2009.

Old Engraving

I emailed BBC News today, seeking their permission to include the old engraving featured above on the EdinPhoto web site.

- Peter Stubbs:  July 13, 2009


Question b)



Thank you to Joe Rock, photographer and art historian, East Lothian, Scotland, for sending the comments below, in which he concludes that the house or cottage mentioned above (in Answer 2.) would not have been James Ross' house.

Joe wrote:

Cottage on Calton Hill

"I have seen this cottage before on other engravings  -  one of the panoramas comes to mind.

Robert  Forrest applied to the Governors of the National Monument to build a house for himself, but they turned him down.  It may be that he persisted and got permission, but I have seen no evidence for that."

I'm very grateful to Joe for going on to provide more information about Calton Hill in the mid-1840s.  The details below extracts from Joe's unpublished account:

"James Ross, calotypist and his early hand coloured prints":


"On Calton Hill in the summer months, visitors could visit Mrs Short's Observatory, a popular attraction in an assemblage of wooden huts that contrasted with the rather grand City Observatory nearby."

National Monument

"Mrs Short kept out of the wind, to some extent, by sheltering behind the National Monument, begun 1821 in an attempt to recreate the Parthenon on top of the hill , as a memorial to the Scottish soldiers who had died at Waterloo.  Subscriptions ran out in 1829." 

When subscriptions ran out, the National Monument comprised 12 columns on a massive base.  That is still all that has been built of the monument.

Sculptor - Robert Forrest

"The sculptor, Robert Forrest (1729-1852) also made use of this screen of columns to  protect his exhibition of statuary, in a huddle of wooden huts within a little wooden paling he erected in 1842."

Photographer - James Ross


"Into this lively mix,  a photographer, Mr James Ross of 12 East Register Street, applied to the Directors of the National Monument, by letter on 19 September 1845, to rent an area of ground inside the palisade of the Monument, to enable him to take Calotype portraits.

On 3 January 1846, the Secretary of the Directors reported that agreement had been reached with Mr Ross to occupy an area of ground within the palisades at the monument from Martinmas 1845 to Martinmas 1846 at a rent of £5."

Photographer - James Ross


"On 24 April 1847, a special meeting of the Directors was called to consider a letter from Mr Ross to the Secretary dated 19 April 1847:

'Will you have the goodness to convey my sincere thanks to the Hon, the Board of Directors of the National Monument for their kindness in granting me during the last twelve months, the area of ground within the palisade of the building.

I should feel equally grateful if their Hon Board would grant me it again, on the same terms provided they could give me both the small buildings in front of the National Monument, one being for my chemical operations, the other I would fit up inside, in such a manner as a Lady or Gentleman could sit in it while I was colouring their likeness. ...

I would only require the largest of the buildings for five months of the year viz. from 1 May till 30 Sept.'."

James Ross' request, above, was granted.

Joe added:

"The huts rented by James Ross are almost certainly those visible in the print of the National Monument, published in Sir J H A Macdonald in 'Life jottings of an old Edinburgh Citizen' (London & Boston, 1915) ...'

Both huts appear on the 1854 Ordnance Survey (map)."

Acknowledgement:  Joe Rock PhD, West Barnes, East Lothian, Scotland

Source of info used by Joe in connection with James Ross' renting the area and huts on Calton Hill:

-  Minute book of the Directors of the National Monument:  pp.522, 525, 534-5.

   These are held by Edinburgh City Archives, SL103/1.



Ross Photographers

James Ross  cartes de visite

James Ross  professional photographer

James Ross  property owner

James Ross  censuses

James Ross  Royal Warrant photographer

James Ross  obituary

James Ross  at Calton Hill

James Ross  EPS Lectures

James Ross  retiral

James Ross  printing methods

James Ross  Isle of Wight question

Ross & Bishop

Ross & Pringle

Ross & Thomson

Ross & Thomson  adverts

Ross & Thomson  cartes de visite

Ross & Thomson  Daguerreotypes

John Ross

John Ross  cartes de visite

John Ross  addresses

John Ross  family

Charles Ross,  Charles E Ross,   James Ross,   John Ross Ross & Thomson studio addresses and dates