Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


230 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Grassmarket: houses which were inhabited by this gang were well chosen for the purpose to which they were put. Burke?s dwelling, in which he has only resided since June last, is at the end of a long passage, and separated from every other house except one. After going through the close from the street there is a descent by a stair to the passage, at the end of which is to be found this habitation of wickedness. I t consists of one apartment, an oblong square, at the end of which is a miserable bed, under which may still be seen some straw in which his murdered victims were concealed. The house of Hare is in a more retired situation. The passage to it is by a dark and dirty close, in which there? are no inhabitants, except in the tlat above. Both houses are on the ground floor.? Tanner?s Clme still exists, but the abodes of those two wretches-the most cold-blooded criminals in history-are now numbered, as we have stated, among the things that were. At the head of Liberton?s Wynd three reversed stones indicate where, on this? and on other occasions, the last sentence of the law was carried out. CHAPTER XXX. THE GRASSMARKET. The Grassmarket-The Mart of 1477-Margaret Tudor-Noted Executions-?Half Hangit Maggie Dickson?4talian hlountebanks-Grey Friary Founded by Jam- I.-Henry VI. of England a Fugitive-The Grev Friars Port-New Corn Exchanee-The White Hone Inn -Camels-The Castle Wvnd-First Gaelic ChatKl therdurrie Close-The Cockpit-Story of Watt and Downie, ?The Friends of the People ?-Their Trial aniSentencc-Executbn bf Watt. THE Grassmarket occupies that part of the southern valley which lies between the eastern portion of the Highnggs and the ridge of the Castle Hill and Street. It is a spacious and stately rectangle, 230 yards in length, communicating at its south-east corner with the ancient Candlemaker Row and southern portion of the old town, and at its north-east angle with the acclivitous, winding, narrow, and more ancient alley, the West Bow, or that fragment of it which now NOS into Victoria Street, and the steps near the (now demolished) Land of Weir the wizard. The Grassmarket is darkly overhung on the north by the precipitous side of the Castle Esplanade, the new west approach, and the towering masses of Johnstone Terrace and the General Assembly Hall, but on the south is the gentler slope, crowned by the turrets of Heriot?s Hospital and the heavy mass of the Greyfriars churches. The western end of this rectangle was long closed up and encroached upon by the Corn Market, an unsightly arcaded edifice, 80 feet long by 45 broad, with a central belfry and clock, now swept away, and its eastern end, where the old Corn Market is shown in Edgar?s map, is deeply associated with much that is sad, terrible, and deplorable in Scottish history, as the scene of the fervid testimony and dying supplications of many a martyr to U the broken covenant,? in defence of that Church, every stone of which may be said to have been cemented by the blood of the people. Now the Grassmarket is the chief rendezvous of carriers and farmers, and persons of various classes connected with the county horse and cattle markets, and presents a remarkably airy, busy, and imposing appearance, with its infinite variety of architecture, crow-stepped gables, great chimneys, turnpike stairs, old signboards, and projections of many kinds. The assignment of this locality as the site ot a weekly market dates from the year 1477, when King James 111. by his charter for the holding of markets, ordained- that wood and timber be sold ?fra Dalrimpill yarde to the Grey Friars and westerwart; alswa all old graith and geir to be vsit and soldin the Friday market before the Greyfriars lyke as is usit in uthir cuntries.? In 1503, on the mamage of Margaret of England to James IV., the royal party were met at the western entrance to the city by the whole of the Greyfriars-whose monastery was on the south side of the Grassmarket-bearing in procession their most valued relics, which were presented to the royal pair to kiss ; and thereafter they were stayed at an embattled barrier, erected for the occasion, at the windows of which appeared angels singing songs of welcome to the English bride, while one presented her with the keys of Edinburgh. In 1543 we first hear of this part of the city having been causewayed, or paved, when the Provost and Bailies employed Moreis Crawfurd to mend ?the calsay,? at 26s. 8d. per rood from the Upper Bow to the West Port In 1560 the magistrates removed the Corn
Volume 4 Page 230
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print