Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


Calton Hi1I.l THE BURYING-GROUND. I07 regulations, and is made as much as possible the scene rather of the reclamation and the comfortable industry of its unhappy inmates than of the punishment of their offences. At one time a number of French prisoners of war were confined here. At the east end of Waterloo Place, and adjoining Bridewell, is the town and county gaol. It was founded in 1815 and finished in 1817, when the old Heart of Midlothian? was taken down. In a Saxon style of architecture, it is an extensive building, and somewhat castellated-in short, the whole masses of these buildings, with their towers and turrets overhanging the steep rocks, resemble a feudal fortress of romance, and present a striking and interesting aspect. Along the street line are apartments for the turnkeys. Behind these, with an area intervening, is the gaol, 194 feet long by 40 wide, four storeys high, with small grated windows. In the centre is a chapel, with long, ungrated windows. Along the interior run corridors, opening into forty-eight cells, each 8 feet by 6, besides other apartments of larger dimensions. From the lower flat behind a number of small airing yards, separated by high walls, radiate to a point, where they are all overlooked and commanded by a lofty octagonal watch-tower, occupied by the deputy governor. Farther back, and perched on the sheer verge of the precipice which overhangs the railway, is the castellated tower, occupied by the governor. The whole gaol is classified into wards, is clean and well managed, and possesses facilities for the practice of approved prison discipline, but is seriously damaged in some of its capacities by being a gaol for both criminals and debtors, thus lacking the proper accommodation for each alike. From the Calton Hill the view is so vast, so grand, and replete with everything that in either city, sea, or landscape can thrill or delight, that it has been said he is a bold artist who attempts to depict it with either pen or pencil ; for far around the city, old and new, there stretches a panorama which combines in its magnificent expanse the richest elements of the sublime and beautiful, while the city itself is opulent, beyond all parallel, in the attractions of the picturesque. Prior to the erection of the Regent Bridge, Princes Street, says Lord Cockburn, was closed at its east end ??by a mean line of houses running north and south. All to the east of these was a burial-ground, of which the southern portion still remains ; and the way of reaching the Calton Hill was to go by Leith Street to its base (as may yet be done), and then up a narrow, steep street, which still remains, and was then the only approach, Scarcely any sacrifice could be too great that removed the houses from the end of Princes Street and made a level to the hill, or, in other words, produced the Waterloo Bridge.? On the south side of the narrow street referred to is the old entrance to the burying-ground, which Lord Balmerino gifted to his vassals, and through which the remains of David Hume must have been borne to their last resting-place, in what is now the southern portion of the cemetery, and in the round tower of Roman design at the south-eastern corner thereot Near it is the great obelisk, called the Martyrs? Monument, erected to the memory of those who were tried and banished from Scotland in 1793 for advocating parliamentary reform. It is inscribed, in large Roman letters :-?TO THE MEMORY OF THOMAS MUIR, THOMAS FYSSHE PALMER, WILLIAM SKIRVING, MAURICE MARGAROT AND JOSEPH GEKALD. ERECTED BY THE FRIENDS OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM IN SCOTLAND AND ENGLAND, 1844.? In this burying-ground lie the remains of Professor George Wilson and many other eminent citizens. On the northern slope of the hill is a species of cavern or arched vault in the rock, closed by a gate, and known as the Jews? burial-place. It is the property of the small Jewish community, but when or how acquired, the Rabbi and other officials, from their migratory nature, are quite unable to state, and only know that two individuals, a man aml his wife, lie in that solitary spot, Concerning this place, a rare work by Viscount DArlincourt, a French writer, has the following anecdote, which may be taken for what it is worth. ?A Jew, named Jacob Isaac, many years ago asked leave to lay his bones in a little corner of this rock. As it was at that time bare of monuments, he thought that in such a place his remains ran no risk of being disturbed by the neighbourhood of Christian graves. His request was granted for the sum of 700 guineas. Jxob paid the money without hesitation, and has long been at rest in a corner of the Calton. But, alas ! he is now surrounded on all sides by the tombs of the Nazarenes.? Though not correct at its close, this paragraph evidently points.to the cave in the rock where one Jew lies. On the very apex of the hill stands the monument to Lord Viscount Nelson, an edifice in such doubtful taste that its demolition has been more than once advocated. Begun shortly after the battle of Trafalgar, it was not finished till 1816. A conspicuous object from every point of view, by
Volume 3 Page 107
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print