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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


diere is no proof that the shallow waters of the Leith, as they debouched upon the sands of what must have been on both sides an uncultured waste of links or moorland, ever formed a shelter for the galleys of Rome ; and it is strange to think that there must have been a time when its banks were covered by furze and the bells of the golden broom, and when the elk, the red deer, and the white bull of Drumsheugh, drank of its current amid a voiceless solitude. GAYFIELD HOUSE. the gorge of the Low Calton, and descends Leith Walk till nearly opposite the old manor house of Pilrig; it then runs westward to the Water of Leith, and follows the latter downward to the Firth. The parish thus includes, besides its landward district, the Calton Hill, parts of Calton and the Canongate, Abbey Hill, Norton Place, Jock?s Lodge, Restalrig, and the whole of South Leith. ? Except on the Calton Hill,? says a statistical writer, ?the soil not occupied by buildings is all The actual limits of Leith as a town, prior to their definition in 1827, are uncertain. South Leith is bounded on the north-east by the Firth of Forth, on the south by Duddingston and the Canongate, on the west by the parishes of the Royalty of Edinburgh, by St. Cuthbert?s and North Leith. It is nearly triangular in form, and has an area of 2,265 acres, The boundary is traced for some way with Duddingston, by the Fishwives? Causeway, or old Roman Road; then it passes nearly along the highway between the city and Portobello till past Jock?s Lodge, making a projecting sweep so as to include Parson?s Green ; and after skirting the royal parks, it runs along the north back of the Canongate, debouches through susceptible of high cultivation, and has had imposed on it dresses of utility and ornament in keep ing with its close vicinity to the metropolis. Imgated and very fertile meadows, green and beautiful esplanades laid out as promenading grounds, neat, tidy, and extensive nurseries, elegant fruit, flower, and vegetable gardens, and the little sheet of Lochend, with a profusion of odoriferous encb sures, and a rich sprinkling of villas with their attendant flower-plots, render the open or unedificed area eminently attractive. The beach, all the way from South Leith to the eastern boundary is not a little attractive to sea-bathers ; a fine, clean sandy bottom, an inclination or slope quite gentle enough to assure the most timid, and a limpid roll
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166 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. Leith. or ripple or burnished face of water, the very aspect of which is luxury in a summer day.? North Leith is bounded on the north ?by the Firth of Forth, on the south and east by the stream which gives its name to the whole locality, dividing it from South Leith, and on the south and west by St. Cuthbert?s. It is oblong in form, and has an area of only 517 acres, Its surface is nearly a uniform level, and with the exception of some garden grounds is covered by streets and villas. Between North Leith and Xewhaven the coast has been to a considerable extent washed away by the encroaching waves of the Firth, but has now received the aid of strong stone bulwarks to protect it from further loss. The Links of North Leith, which lay along the coast, were let in 1595 at the annual rent of six merks, while those of South Leith were let at a rent of thirty, so the former must have been one-fifth of the extent of the latter, or a quarter of a mile long by three hundred yards in breadth. For many years the last vestiges of these have disappeared and what must formerly have been a beautiful and grassy plain is now an irreclaimable waste, where not partially occupied by the railway and goods station, regularly flooded by the tide, and displaying at low water a thick expansion of stones and pebbles, washed free from mould or soil. The earliest reference td Leith in history is in King David?s famous charter to Holyrood, aim 1143-7, whereir. he gives the water, fishings, and meadows to the canons serving God therein, ?? and Broctan, with its right marches ; and that Tnverlet which is nearest the harbour, and with the half of the fishing, and with a whole tithe of all the fishing that belongs to the church of St. Cuthbert.? This charter of King David is either repeated or quoted in all subsequent grants by charter, or purchases of superiority, referring to Leith ; and by it there would seem to have been in that early age some species of harbour where the Leith joins the Firth of Forth ; but there is again a reference to it in 1313, when all the vessels there were burned by the English during the war waged by Edward II., which ended in the following year at Bannockburn. On the 28th of May, 1329, King Robert I. began all the future troubles of Leith by a grant of it to the city of Edinburgh, in the following terms :- U Robert, by the grace of God King of Scots, to all good men of his land, greeting: Know ye that we have given, granted, and to perform let, and by this our present charter confirmed, to the burgesses of our burgh of Edinburgh, our foresaid burgh of Edinburgh, together with the port of Leith, mills, and their pertinents, to have and to hold, to the said burgesses and their successors, of us and our heirs, freely, quietly, fully, and honourably, by all. their right meithes and marches, with all the commodities, liberties, and easements which justiy pertained to the said burgh in the time of King: Alexander, our predecessor last deceased, of good memory ; paying, therefore, the said burgesses and their successors, to us and our heirs, yearly, fiftytwo merks sterling, at the terms of Whitsunday, and Martinmas in winter, by equal proportions. In witness whereof we have commanded our seal to be affixed to our present charter. Tesfihs, Walter of Twynham, our Chancellor ; Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, Lord of Annandale and Man, our nephew ; Janies, Lord of Douglas ; Gilbert of Hay, our Constable ; Robert of Keith, our Marischal1 of Scotland, and Adam Moore, knights. At Cardross, the 28th of May, in the twenty-fourth year of our reign.? (Burgh Charters, No. iv.) From the date of this document a contest for the right of superiority commenced, and till the present century Leith was never free from the trammels imposed upon it by the city of Edinburgh ; and the town council, not content with the privileges given by Robert Bruce, eventually got possession of the ground adjacent to the harbour, on the banks of the river. In those days the population of the infant port must have been very small. In the index of missing royal charters in the time of King Robert II., there is one to John Gray, Clerk Register, ? of ane tenement in Leith,? and another to the monastery of Melrose of a tenement in the same place; and in 1357, among those?who entered into an obligation to pay the ransom of King David II., then a prisoner of war in England, we find ? William of Leith,? no doubt a merchant of substance in his day. Thomas of Leith, or another bearing the same name, witnessed a charter of David, Earl of Orkney, in 1391. Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig, a man of heartless, greedy, and rapacious character, began to contest the-citizens? claim or right of superiority over Leith, and obliged them to take a concession of it from him by purchase or charter, dated the 31st of May, 1398 ; and to this document we have referred in a preceding chapter. Prior to this, says Maitland, the course of traffic was restricted by him ?to the use of a narrow and inconvenient lane, a little beneath the Tolbooth Wynd, now called the Burgess Close.? As we have related in the account of Restalrig, Sir Robert Logan granted to the community of Edinburgh a right to the waste lands in the vicinity (Burgh Charters, Xo. vi.)
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