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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


178 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Parliament Close. their money brought on horseback to the Parliament Close, where r the company?s business was thenceforward wholly restricted for a time to lending money, and all transactions to be in Edinburgh. In the fire we have mentioned as occumng in 1700 the bank perished. Assisted by the Earl of Leven, Governor of the Castle and also of the bank, with a party of soldiers, and by David Lord Futhven, a director, who stood in the turnpike stair all night, keeping the passage free, the cash, bank-notes, books, and papers, were saved. Thus, though every other kind of property perished, the struggling bank was able to open an office higher up in the city. In that fire the Scottish Treasury Room perished, with the Exchequer and Exchange, and the Parliament Square was afterwards rebuilt (in the picturesqae style, the destruction of which was so much regretted), in conformity with an Act passed in 1698, regulating the mode of building in Edinburgh with regard to height, Convenience, strength, and security from fire. The altitude of the houses was greatly reduced. Previous to the event of 1700, the tenements on the south side of the Parliament Close, as viewed from the Rirkheugh, were fifteen storeys in height, and till the erection of the new town were deemed the most splendid of which the city could boast. Occurring after ? King William?s seven years of famine,? which the Jacobites believed to be a curse sent from heaven upon Scotland, this calamity was felt with double force; and in 1702 the Town Council passed an Act for ?? suppressing immoralities,? in which, among the tokens of God?s wrath, ?the great fire of the 3d February? is specially referred to. Notwithstanding the local depression, we find in 1700 none of the heartless inertia that charac. terised the city for sixty years after the Union. Not an hour was lost in coinmencing the work of restoration, and many of the sites were bought by Robert Mylne, the king?s master-mason. The new Royal Exchange, which had its name and the date 1700 cut boldly above its doorway, rose tc the height of twelve storeys on the south-deemed a moderate altitude in those days. On its eastern side was an open arcade, with Doric pilasters and entablature, as a covered walk for pedestrians, and the effect of the whole was stately and im. posing. Many aristocratic families who had been burned out, came flocking back to the vast tene ments of the Parliament Close, among others tht Countess of Wemyss, who was resident there in 2 fashionablz flat at the time of the Porteous mob (?Hist: of Bank of Scot.,? 1728.) . and whose footman was accused of being one of the rioters, and who very nearly had a terrible tragedy acted in her own house, the outcome of the great one in the Grassmarket. It is related that the close connection into which the noble family of Wemyss were thus brought to the Porteous mob, as well as their near vicinity to the chief line of action, naturallj produced a strong impression on the younger members of the family. They had probably been aroused from bed by the shouts of the rioters assembling beneath their windows, and the din of their sledge-hammers thundering on the old Tolbooth door. Thus, not long after the Earl of Wemyss-the Hon. Francis Charteris was born in 1723, and was then a boy-proceeded, along with his sisters, to get up a game, or representation of the Porteous mob, and having duly forced his prison, and dragged forth the supposed culprit, ?the romps got so thoroughly into the spirit of their dramatic sports that they actually hung up their brother above a door, and had weli nigh finished their play in real tragedy.,? The first coffee-house opened in Edinburgh was John Row?s, in Robertson?s Land, a tall tenement near the Parliament House. This was in 1673. It was shut up in 1677, in consequence of a brawl, reported to the Privy Council by the Town Major, who had authority to see into such matters. The north-east corner of the Parliament Close was occupied by John?s coffee-house. There, as Defoe, the historian of the Union, tells us, the opponents of this measure met daily, to discuss the proceedings that were going on in the Parliament House close by, and to form schemes of opposition thereto; and there, no doubt, were sung fiercely and emphatically the doggerel rhymes known as ?? Belhaven?s Vision,? of which the only copies extant are those printed at Edinburgh in 1729, at the Glasgow Arms, opposite the Corn Market; and that other old song, which was todched by the master-hand of Burns :- ?I What force or guile could not subdue, Through many warlike ages, Is now wrought by a coward few For hireling traitor?s wages ; The Englishsteel we could disdain, Secure in valour?s station ; But England?s gold has been our bane- Such a parcel of rogues in a nation ! ? John?s coffee-house was also the resort of the judges and lawyers of the eighteenth century for consultations, and for their ?? meridian,? or twelve o?clock dram ; for in those days every citizen had
Volume 1 Page 178
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