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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


The Royal Excharge.] THE ROYAL EXCHANGE. 183 - CHAPTER XX. THE ROYAL EXCHANGE-THE TRON CHURCH-THE GREAT FIRE OF NOVEMBER, 1824. The Royal Exchange-Laying the Foundation Stonc-Ddption of the Exchange-The Mysterious Statue-The Council Cbarnber-hventiom of Royal Burghs : Constitution thereof, and Powers-Writen? Court-The ? Star and Garter? Tavern-Sir Walter Scott?s Account of the Scene at Cleriheugh?s-Lawyers? High Jinks-The Tron Church-Histor] of the Old Church-Tht Gnat Fire of rSa~-lnciden~s of the Conflagration-The Ruins Undermined-Blown up by Captain Head of the Engineers, Ira 1753 we discover the first symptoms of vitality in Edinburgh after the Union, when the pitiful sum of A1,500 was subscribed by the convention of royal burghs, for the purpose of ? beautifying the city,? and the projected Royal Exchange was fairly taken in hand. If wealth had not increased much, the population had, and by the middle of the eighteenth century the citizens had begun to find the inconvenience they laboured under by being confined within the old Flodden wall, and that the city was still destitute of such public buildings as were necessary for the accommodation of those societies which were formed, or forming, in all other capitals, to direct the business of the nation, and provide for the general welfare ; and so men of tas?te, rank, and opulence, began to bestir themselves in Edinburgh at last. Many ancient alleys and closes, whose names are well-nigh forgotten now, were demolished on the north side of the Righ Street, to procure a site for the new Royal Exchange. Some of these had already become ruinous, and must have been of vast antiquity. Many beautifully-sculptured stones belonging to houses there were built into the curious tower, erected by Mr. Walter Ross at the Dean, and are now in a similar tower at Portobello, Others were scattered about the garden grounds at the foot of the Castle rock, and still show the important character of some of the edifices demolished. Among them there was a lintel, discovered when clearing out the bed 01 the North Loch, with the initials IS. (and the date 1658), supposed to be those of Jaines tenth Lord Somerville, who, after serving long in the Venetian army, died at a great age in 1677. On the 13th of September, 1753, the first stone of the new Exchange was laid by George Drummond, then Grand Master of the Scottish Masons, whose memory as a patriotic magistrate is still remembered with respect in Edinburgh. A triumphal arch, a gallery for the magistrates, and covered stands for the spectators, enclosed the arena. ?The procession was very grand and regular,? says the Gentleman?s Magazine for that year. each lodge of maSons, of which there were thirteen, walked in procession by themselves, all uncovered, amounting to 672, most of whom were operative masons.? The military paid proper honours to the company on this occasion, and escorted the procession in a suitable manner. The Grand Master and the present substitute were preceded by the Lord Provost, magistrates, and council, in their robes, with the city sword, mace, &c., carried before them, accompanied by the directors of the scheme. All day the foundation-stone lay open, that the people might see it, with the Latin inscription on the plate, which runs thus in English :- ? GEORGE DKUMMOND, Of the Society of Freemasons in Scotland Grand Master, Thrice Provost of the City of Edinburgh, Three hundred Brother Masons attending, In presence of many persons of distinction, The Magistrates and Citizens of Edinburgh, And of every rank of people an innumerable multitude, And all Applaudipg ; For convenience of the inhabitants of Edinburgh, And the public ornament, Laid this stone, Wdliam Alexander being Provost, On the 13th September, 1753. of the Era of Masonry 5753, And of the reign of George II., King of Great Britain, the 27th yea.? In the stone were deposited two medals, one bearing the profile and name of the Grand Master, the other having the masonic arms, with the collar of St. Andrew, and the legend, ? In the Lord is all our trust.? Though the stone was thus laid in 1753, the work was not fairly begun till the following year, nor was it finished till 1761, at the expense of A31,5oo, including the price of the area on which it is built ; but it never answered the purpose for which it was intended-its paved quadrangle and handsome Palladian arcades were never used by the mercantile class, who persisted in meeting, as of old, at the Cross, or where it stood. Save that its front and western arcades have been converted into shops, it remains unchanged since it was thus described by Arnot, and the back I view of it, which faces the New Town, catches the eye at once, by its vast bulk and stupendous height, IOO feet, all of polished ashlar, now blackened with - the smoke of years :--.?The Exchange is a large and elegant building, with a court in the -centre. ,
Volume 1 Page 183
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