Edinburgh Bookshelf

Edinburgh Past and Present


MODERN DWELLINGS OF THE PEOPLE. 81 The necessity of doing something to provide better house-accommodation was fully realised ; the difficulties in carrying out any comprehensive and complete scheme were perceived ; the prospects of success, and the chances of failure were put into the scales with deliberate impartiality. The origin and outcome of this movement mark an epoch in the modem annals of Edinburgh. Quietly and steadily the workers plodded on, against ignorance, prejudice, and interested opposition, With undivided zeal they set their minds to the task of organisation, and there was no example then to guide them. Public meetings were held at which men of influence, who intelligently sympathised with the scheme, gave addresses ; appeals were made and information was diffused through the press. Gradually a capital of &IO,OOO, and then of ~ Z O , O O O , was accumulated ; land was purchased, and building commenced. In fifteen years accommodation has been provided for wellnigh 10,000 individuals, and houses have been erected to the value of not less than A304000-the dividends, which have ranged from seven to fifteen per cent, contributing towards the comfort of many thousands. Had nothing more been done, this would have been a great industrial triumph, and although we claim nothing for it but a successful and welldirected combination for a specific end, the influence does not terminate with the financial results ; it is many-sided, and bears the impress of a high moral and social purpose. As a commercial undertaking-as a means of social amelioration and industrial advancement-as a practical illustration of what unity, economy, and perseverance can do, the Edinburgh Co-operative Building Company must be accepted as a signal success. It may not have solved any great problem, but it has certainly established the fact that good and pleasantly situated houses for workmen can be erected so as to meet all sanitary requirements, and yield a fair return on the capital invested. The houses may not realise our highest ideal, but they will compare favourably in every respect with the best of the class ewcted elsewhere; they vary in size and internal arrangements ; for the most part they are two stories high, and contain from three to six moderately sized apartments, with every convenience, the best -ita+ arrangements, and (as at Stockbridge) a plot of ground twenty feet square in front, and the use of an ample bleaching green. The first row of houses or street erected was named Reid Terrace. Hugh Miller Place followed j elsewhere Colville Place-named in recognition of one of the chief workers. Many other places, terraces, and streets gradually rose up, making here a goodly town, surrounded (as shown in our illustration) by picturesque scenery, and containing within itself every healthful and elevating influence. I.
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82 EDINBURGH PAST AND PRESENT. One feature in these modern dwellings for the people is specially notable and rare, so far as Edinburgh is concerned. They are selfcontained-each family having a separate entrance. The localities of the buikiings are Stockbridge, Norton Place, Dalry Road, Hawthorne Bank, Edinburgh ; Henderson Road, and Restalrig, Leith. The houses are chiefly the property of the occupants, and have been acquired by the simple and easy process of paying a moderate rental. Since this movement was commenced, the earnest attention of social reformers has been largely directed to the truth that thousands of workmen and their families are dragging out a miserable existence in abodes where comfort and refinement are unattainable. Small, without pre perly separated apartments, badly lighted, and indifferently ventilated, their internal arrangements obstruct and discourage the pursuit of knowledge, and mar all domestic and intellectual enjoyment. No notice of the beneficial change which has taken place in Edinburgh would be complete without some recognition of the scheme initiated during the Lord-Provostship of Mr. William Chambers for the removal of decayed buildings and the erection on their sites of houses containing all the modem requirements attainable under existing conditions. Notwithstanding all that has been done, there is still a wide field for exteaded effort. All honour is due to the Peabodys, the model mill-owners, and the civic corporations who have from their own resources, or aided by the Skte, done so much ta wipe out the blacked stain on modem civilisation, and whose splendid efforts are a monument of enlightened philanthropy. But such generous and Wisely directed action is and must ever be of rare occurrence and partial application. Beautiful and beneficial in itself, it can only affect a small portim of the vast wage-receiving class, and cannot be reduced to a self-acting system dependent upon the will and ability of a limited class ; it must always be fitful and uncertain. What we want is some simple agency, easily understbd, tvithin the reach of all, and of universal application ; and this we have in the principle of combined action as illustrated by the Edinburgh movement. It has been put to the test of practical experience; and in Glasgow and many English towns the example is being followed with the most beneficent results.
Volume 11 Page 131
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