Edinburgh Bookshelf

Edinburgh Past and Present


LEITH. 1'3 on the site of the old building, erected in 1555 during the regency of Mary of Guise, and possesses several pictures of great merit-particularly an interesting view of Leith in the olden times, an admirable portrait of Admiral Lord Duncan, a very truthful and highly finished likeness of the Queen-Regent by Mytens, with Scott's grand and graphic painting of Vasco de Gama passing the Cape of Good Hope. So the Custom House is another erection of a large and interesting character, of the same description of building, with pillars and pediment in front, and having in the tympanum of its pediment a rather ostentatious sculpture of the Royal Arms. It is situated in North Leith, just at the west end of the lower drawbridge leading from Bernard Street into Commercial Place, with its back to the harbour, from which it is separated by a narrow strip of pier, where small craft are usually found moorkd. The Ecclesiastical structures, however, are perhaps still more deserving of attention, of which there are not a few rather stately fabrics. South Leith Church which stands on the east side of the Kirkgate, moved back from the thoroughfare about twenty yards, and surrounded by a graveyard, very neatly arranged and beautifully kept, in which many af the famed and influential of the district sleep their long deep sleep, is a noble edifice of the early Gothic type. It has a very handsome tower, rising from the ground in the north-west corner, and terminating in an elegant Gothic balustrade, on the right of which, in the gable of the church fronting the street, is a magnificent window of richly stained glass, which, when lit up by the rays of the setting sun or by the lights within, produces a fine effect. The old church, which this has displaced, was perhaps a still more imposing fabric. In its style it was likewise Gothic, but cruciform in its construction, with a turret or spire of wood and metal springing from its summit. It suffered in the conflagration of 1544, cadsed by the invasion of the Earl of Hertford, and was diminished to the nave. We may add that on the suppression of the church at Restalrig in 1609, this became the parochial place of worship, and was originally dedicated to St. Mary. St. John's Church, at first a chapel of ease, but now erected into a separate charge, is likewise an interesting building. It has a tower of two stages, the first quadrangular and adorned with pinnacles at the angles, the other octangular and surmounted by a balustrade and numerous pinnacles. Altogether the fabric is rather of the showy or flowery type, and when seen at a distance has a somewhat gingery or fantastic appearance. Another structure of the kind, not very far from it but in a different street, is perhaps a still better specimen of ecclesiastical architecture: we refer to Free St. John's. P
Volume 11 Page 166
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