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Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


Volume 10 Page 124
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114 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. as well as for a more detailed consideration of some of those that have already been alluded to in this introductory sketch. The appearance which Edinburgh presented at this period, as well as the character and manners of its inhabitants, cannot be readily realised by those of the present generation. Its general features had undergone little change since the departure of the Court to England in 1603. The extended wall, erected in the memorable year 1513, still formed the boundary of the city, with the exception of the enclosure of the High Riggs, as already described, on the south. The ancient gates remained kept under the care of jealous warders, and nightly closed at an early hour; even as when the dreaded inroads of the Southon, with fire and sword, summoned the burgher watch to guard their walls. At the foot of the High Street, the lofty tower and spire of the Nether Bow Port terminated the vista, surmounting the old Temple Bar of Edinburgh, interposed between the city and the ancient burgh of Canongate. This handsome structure was rebuilt in its latest form in the year 1606, diiectly in a line with St Mary's and Leith Wynds, and about fifty yards further eastward than the second erection already mentioned. It was by far the mwt conspicuous and important of the six gates which gave access to the ancient capital, and was regarded as an object in the maintenance and protection of which the honour of the city was so deeply involved, that, as we have seen, its demolition was one of the penalties by which the government sought to revenge the slight put upon the royal prerogative by the Porteous mob. In style of architecture, it bore considerable resemblance to the ancient Porte St Honore of Paris, as represented in old engravings; and it is exceedingly probable that it was constructed in imitation of Borne of the old gates of that capital, between which and Edinburgh so constant an intercourse was maintained, at a somewhat earlier period than the date of its erection. When the destruction of this, the main port of the city, was averted by the strenuous patriotic exertions of the Scottish peers and members of Parliament, it was regarded as a national triumph ; but, unhappily, towards the middle of the last century, a perfect mania seized the civic rulers throughout the 'kingdom, for sweeping away all the old ruh'sh, as the ancient fabrics that adorned the principal towns were contemptuously styled. The Common Council of London set the example by obtaining an Act of Parliament, in 1760, to remove their city gates ; and, only four years afterwards, the Town Council of Edinburgh demolished the Nether Bow, one of the chief ornaments of the city, which, had it been preserved, would have been now regarded as a peculiarly interesting relic of the olden time. The ancient clock, which was removed from the tower, was afterwards placed in that of the old Orphan's Hospital, and continued there till the demolition of the latter building in 1845. It is worthy of remark, however, that the destruction of this stately structure was not the earliest symptom of improved taste in our civio dignitaries. Their first step towards '' enlarging and Jeautfying " the city, was the removal of the ancient Cross, an ornamental' structure, possessed of the most interesting local and national associations. The lower part of it was an octagonal building of a mixed style of architecture, rebuilt in the year 1617, in the form aIready represented.' In ita reconstruction, the chief ornaments of the Ante, p. 33. . 6
Volume 10 Page 125
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