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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


I18 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. So difficult was it to induce people to build in a spot so sequestered and far apart from the mass of the ancient city, that a premium of Azo was publicly offered by the magistrates to him who should raise the first house; but great delays ensued. The magistrates complimented Mr. James Craig on his plan for the New Town, which was selected from several. He received a gold medal and the freedom of the city in a silver box; and by the end of July, 1767, notice was given that ? the plan was to lie open at the Council Chamber for a month from the 3rd of August, for the inspection o?f such as inclined to become feuars, where also were to be seen the terms on which feus would be granted.? At last a Mr. John Young took courage, and gained the premium by erecting a mansion in Rose Court, George Street-the j r s f edifice of New Edinburgh; and the foundation of it was laid by James Craig, the architect, in person, on the 26th of October, 1767. (Chambers?s Traditions,? p. 18.) An exemption from all burghal taxes was also granted to Mr. John Neale, a silk mercer, for an elegant mansion built by him, the first in the line 01 Princes Street (latterly occupied as the Crown Hotel), and wherein his son-in-law, Archibald Constable, afterwards resided. ? These now appea whimsical circumstances,? says Robert Chambers : ?so it does that a Mr. Shadrach Moyes, on ordering a house to be built for himself in Princes Street, in 1769, held the builder bound to run another farther along, to shield him from the west wind. Other quaint particulars are remembered, as for instance, Mr. Wight, an eminent lawyer, who planted himself in St. Andrew Square, finding that he was in danger of having his view of St. Giles?s clock shut up by the advancing line of Princes Street, built the intervening house himself, that he might have it in his power to keep the roof low, for the sake of the view in question; important to him, he said, as enabling him to regulate his movements in the morning, when it was necessary that he should be punctual in his attendance at the Parliament House.? By I 790 the New Town had extended westward to Castle Street, and by 1800 the necessity for a second plan farther to the north was felt, and soon acted upon, and great changes rapidly came over the customs, manners, and habits of the people. With the enlarged mansions of the new city, they were compelled to live more expensively, and more for show. A family that had long moved in genteel or aristocratic society in Blackfriars Wynd, or Lady Stair?s Close, maintaining a round of quiet [New Town. tea-drinkings with their neighbouis up the adjoining turnpike stair, and who might converse with lords, ladies, and landed gentry, by merely opening their respective windows, found all this homely kindness changed when they emigrated beyond the North Loch. There heavy dinners took the place of tea-parties, and routs superseded the festive suppers of the closes and wynds, and those who felt themselves great folk when dwelling therein, appeared small enough in George Street or Charlotte Square. The New Town kept pacewith the growing pros. perity of Scotland, and the Old, if unchanged in aspect, changed thoroughly as respects the character of its population. Nobles and gentlemen, men of nearly all professions, deserted one by one, and a flood of the lower, the humbler, and the plebeian classes took their places in close and wynd ; and many a gentleman in middle life, living then perhaps in Princes Street, looked back with wonder and amusement to the squalid common stair in which he and his forefathers had been born, and where he had spent the earliest years of his life. Originally the houses of Craig?s new city were all of one plain and intensely monotonous plan and elevation-three storeys in height, with a sunk area in front, enclosed by iron railings, with link extinguishers ; and they only differed by the stone being more. finely polished, as the streets crept westward. But during a number of years prior to 1840, the dull uniformity of the streets over the western half of the town had disappeared. Most of the edifices, all constructed as elegant and commodious dwelling-houses, are now enlarged, re-built, or turned into large hotels, shops, club-houses, ,insurance-offices, warehouses, and new banks, and scarcely an original house remains unchanged in Princes Street or George Street. And this brings us now to the Edinburgh of modem intellect, power, and wealth. ?At no period of her history did Edinburgh better deserve her complimentary title of the modem Athens than the last ten years of the eighteenth and the first ten years of the nineteenth century,? says an English writer. ?She was then, not only nominally, but actually, the capital of Scotland, the city in which was collected all the intellectual life and vigour of the country. London then occupied a position of much less importance in relation to the distant parts of the empire than is now the case. Many causes have contributed to bring about the change, of which the most prominent are the increased facilities for locomotion which have been introduced . . . . , . various causes which. contributed to increase the importance of pro
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