Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


,338 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [North Bridge. less than eight feet of this loose earth between his shovels and the natural solid clay, Another error seems to ha\-e been committed in not raising the piers to a sufficient height ; and to remedy this he raised about? eight feet of earth upon the vaults and arches at the south end, causing thereby a regular, but still unsightly slope. The result of all this was that on the 3rd of August, 1769, this portion gave way, by the mass of earth having been swollen by recent rains. The abutments burst, the vaults yielded to the pressure, and five persons were buried in the ruins, out of which they were dug at different times. This event caused the greatest excitement in the city, and had it happened half an hour sooner might have proved very calamitous, as a vast ,multitude of persons of every religious denomination was assembled in Orphan Hospital Park, northward of the Trinity College church, to hear a sermon preached by Mr. Townsend, an Episcopal clergyman ; and after it was over some would have had to cross the bridge, and others pass beneath it, to their homes. Three or four scattered houses were already erected in the New Town j but after this event it was some time before people took courage to erect more. The bridge was repaired by pulling down the side walls, rebuilding them with chain bars, removing the vast masses of earth, and supplying its place with hollow arches, and by raising the walls that crossed the bridge, so that the vaults which sprang from them might bring the road to a proper elevation. Strong buttresses and counterforts were added to the south end, and on these are erected the present North Bridge Street. At the north end there is only one counterfort on the east side; but ere all this was done. there had been a plea in law between the contracting parties before the Court of Session, and an appeal to the House of Lords, in both of which Mr. Mylne was unfortunate. The expense of completion amounted to &17,354. The height?of the great arches from the top of the parapet to the base is 68 feet. The bridge was first passable in 1772 ; but the balustrades being open, a complaint was made publicly in 1783 that ?passengers continue to be blown from the pavement into the mud in the middle of the bridge.? Those at the south end were closed in 1782, thus screening the eyes ?! of passengers from the blood and slaughter,? in the markets below, according to the appendix to Amot?s ?? History;? and regarding the tempests of wind, to which Edinburgh is so subject, elsewhere he tells us that in 1778 ?? the Leith Guard, consisting- of a sergeant and twelve, men of the 70th Regiment, were all there blown of the Castle Hilland some of them sorely hurt.? In 1774 the magistrates proclaimed that all beggars found in the streets would be imprisoned in the dark vaults beneath the North Bridge, and there fed on bread and water. From the then new buildings erected on the southwest end of the bridge, a flight of steps upward gives access to Mylne?s Court; and two flights downward lead to the old market at the foot of the Fleshmarket Close. 1 In Edgais plan, 1765, the Upper and Lower Fleshmarkets are both shown as being in this. quarter, and also that the bridge had run through a, great portion of the ancient Greenmarket. Kincaid $bus describes them in his time (1794) as. consisting of three divisions forming oblong squares. ? The uppermost is allotted for the veal market, and as yet only finished on the north side; the middlemost is occupied by the incorporation of fleshers, and is neatly fitted up and arched all round, and .each division numbered; the other,. called the Low Market, is likewise arched round, but not numbered, and allotted for those that are. not of the incorporation. Few cities in Britain are. better supplied with butcher meat of all kinds than. this city, an instance of which, occurred in 1781. Admiral Parker, with a fleet of 15 sail of the line, g frigates, and 600 merchantmen, lay nearly two. months in Leith Roads, and was supplied with every kind of provisions, and the markets were not raised, one farthing, although there could not be less than zo,ooo men for nearly seven weeks. Merchants from; different parts of Britain who, either from motives of humanity, or esteeming it a profitable adventure, had sent four transports with fresh provisions to, the fleet, had them returned without breaking bulk.? The market is now much more complete and. perfect than in the days referred to, and smaller town markets than the central suite are open in other quarters. . In the block of buildings next the north market stair the General Post Office for Scotland was. established, after its removal from Lord Covington?s house; after which, in 1821, it was transferred to a new edifice on the Regent Bridge, at which, period, we are told, the despatch of the mails was Zonducted in an apartment about thirty feet square, ind purposely kept as dark as possible, in order to Jerive the full advantage of artificial light employed in the process of examining letters, to see whether they contained enclosures or not. At this time James Earl of Caithness was Deputy Postnaster- General for Scotland. The same edifice was latterly, and until their.
Volume 2 Page 338
  Enlarge Enlarge  
North Bridge.] ADAM BLACK. 339 removal in 1850 to a handsome and more spacious .one, built in a kind of old Scoto-English style of .architecture, an the opposite side, and on the site of a portion of Halkerston?s Wynd, and numbered as 6 in the street, the establishment of the old and well-known firm of publishers, Adam and Charles Black. The former, long a leading citizen, magistrate, and member of the city, was born in 1784, .and died on the 24th of January, 1874. Educated at the High School and University of his native city Edinburgh, though but the son of a humble builder, Adam Black raised himself to affluuence, and is said to have more than once declined the honour of knighthood. After serving his apprenticeship, he started in business as a bookseller, and among other important works brought out the ? Encyclopzedia Britannica,? under the joint conduct of Professor Macvey Napier and James Browne, LL.D.; and to this his own pen contributed many articles. From the beginning of his career he took an active part in the politics of the city, and in the early part of the present century was among the boldest of the slender band of Liberals who stood up for burgh reform, as the preliminary to the great measure of a Parliamentary one. When the other wel!-known firm of constable and Co. failed, the publication of The Edinburgh Revim passed into the hands of Adam Black, and thus drew the Liberal party more closely by his side. He was Provost of the city from 1843 to 1848, and filled his trust so much to the satisfaction of the citizens, that they subscribed to have his portrait painted to ornament the walls of the Council Room. He was proprietor, by purchase, of the copyright of ?? The Waverley Novels,? and many other works by Sir Walter Scott. It was when he was beyond his seventieth year that he was returned to the House of Commons as member . for the city, in succession to Lord Macaulay ; and being a member of the Independent body, he was ever an advocate for unsechrian education, absolute freedom of trade, and the most complete toleration in religion; but the cradle of his fortunes was that little shop which till 1821 was, as we said, deemed ample enough for the postal establishment and requirements of all Scotland. The new buildings along the west side of the North Bridge, from Princes Street to the first open arch, were erected between 1817 and 1819, with a Tange of shops then deemed magnificent, but far outshone by hundreds erected since in their vicinity, These buildings are twice the height in rear that they are to the bridge front, and their erection intercepted a grand view from Waterloo Place south-westward to the Castle, and thus roused a spirited, but, as it eventually proved, futile resistance, on the part of Cockburn and Cranston, Professor Playfair, Henry Mackenzie, James Stuart of Dunearn, and others, who spent about &I,OOO in the work of opposition. Their erection led to the demolition of a small edificed thoroughfare named Ann Street, which once contained the house of a well-known literary citizen, John Grieve, who gave free quarters to James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, when the latter arrived in Edinburgh in 1810, and published a little volume of poems entitled ?The Forest Mintrel,? from which he derived no pecuniary benefit. Poverty was pressing sorely on Hogg, ?but,? says a biographer, ?he found kind and steady friends in Messrs. Grieve and Scott, hatters, whose welltimed benevolence supplied all his wants.? While he was still in obscurity, John Grieve obtained him introductions to Professor Wilson and other local literati, which ultimately led to his becoming a contributor to BZackwood?s Magazine. Mr. Grieve is referred to in the quarrel between the Shepherd and the Blackwoods concerning the famous Nocft-s Ambrosiana ? He ceased to contribute, whereupon Wilson wrote thus to Grieve on the subject :- ?If Mr. Hogg puts his return to ?Maga? on the ground that ? Maga? suffers from his absence from her pages, and that Mr. B. must be very desirous of his re-assistance, that will be at once a stumblingblock in the way of settlement ; for Mr. B., whether rightly or wrongly, will not make, the admission. No doubt Mr. H.?s articles were often excellent, and no doubt ?Noctes? were very popular, but the magazine, however much many readers must have missed Mr. Hogg and the ?Noctes,? has been gradually increasing in sale, and therefore Mr. B. will never give in to that view of the Subject. ? Mr. Hogg in his letter to me, and in a long conversation I had with him in my own house yesterday after dinner, sticks to his proposaf of LIOO settled on him, on condition of writing, and becoming again the hero of the ?Noctes? as before. I see many difficulties in the way of such an arrangement, and I know that Mr. Blackwood will never agree to it in any shape, for it might eventually prove degrading and disgraceful to both parties, appearing to the public to be a bribe given and taken dishonourably.? ?My father,? adds Mrs. Gordon, whose life of the Professor we quote, ?never wrote another ?Noctes ? after the Shepherd?s death, which took place in 1835.? In consequence of tie increase of populatibn and traffic by its vicinity to the railway termini,
Volume 2 Page 339
  Enlarge Enlarge