Edinburgh Bookshelf

Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


LEZTH, AND THE NEW TOWN. 373 stairs and loop-hole windows, contrasted most strangely with the ailjoining fashionable streets and squares. This ancient barony and the surrounding lands comprehended within its jurisdiction were granted by James VI. in 1568 to Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney, in whose time the Tolbooth of the burgh appears to have been erected. The bishop surrendered the lands to the Crown in 1587, in favour of Sir Lewis Bellenden of Auchnoul, Lord Justice-clerk ; who obtained a charter from the king uniting them into a free barony and regality. Broughton is reputed to have been notorious in old times as the haunt of witches, who were frequently incarcerated in its Tolbooth. An execution of these victims of superstition, which occurred there under peculiarly horrible circumstances, during the period of its possession by the Bellendens, is thus noticed in the minutes of the Scottish Privy Council :-'' 1608, December 1.-The Earl of Mar declared to the Council that some women were taken in Broughton as witches, and being put to an assize, and convicted, albeit they persevered constant in their denial to the end, yet they were burned quick, after such a cruel manner that some of them died in despair, renouncing and blaspheming [God] ; and others, halfburned, brak out of the fire, and were cast quick in it again, till they were burned to the death." Sir William Bellenden, the grandson of Sir Lewis, disposed of the whole lands to Robert, Earl of Roxburgh, in 1627, and by an agreement between him and Charles I., this ancient barony passed by purchase to the Governors of Heriot's Hospital in 1636, to whom the superiority of Broughton was yielded by the Crown, partly in payment of debts due by Charles I. to the Hospital. Thenceforward the barony was governed by a bailiff nominated by the Governors of the Hospital, who possessed even the power of life and death, the privilege of pit and gallom, which every feudal baron claimed within his own bounds. In 1721, the Treasurer of the Hospital complains of the expense incurred in prosecuting offenders in the case of some murders committed witkin the regality ; but these onerous and costly privileges were at length abrogated in 1746, by the act abolishing heritable jurisdictions, and the Governors a few years afterwards granted the use of the Tolbooth to one of their tenants as a store-house, " reserving to the Hospital a room for holding their baron courts when they shall think fit"2 The last occasion on which Old Broughton was directly associated with any event of public importance, was during the memorable campaign of 1650, which preceded the Battle of Dunbar, when General Leslie made it his head-quarters, while he threw up the line of defence from the base of the Calton Hill to Leith, which we have already described as the origin of the great roadway that now forms the chief thoroughfare between Edinburgh and Leith. Beyond the village of Broughton lies that of Canonmills, on the Water of Leith, which owes its origin to the same eource as the Burgh of Canongate, having been founded by the Augustine Canons of Holyrood, doubtless for the use of their own vassals on the lands of Brough'tbn; and their neighbouring possessions. Above this, on the Water of Leith, are the villages of Stockbridge, Bell's Mills, and the Dean, all of considerable antiquity, and now joined to the extended capital, or disappearing before the encroachments of its modern streets. King David L grants to the Abbey of Holyrood, in its foundation 1 Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, Sir Walter Scott, p. 315. ' Dr Steven's History of Heriot's Hospital, pp. 118, 119.
Volume 10 Page 410
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print