Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Leith] THE SUGAR HOUSE COMPANY. 235 In addition to the imperatively required sanitary reform which this sqheme will effect in a few years, the new thoroughfare will be of great commercial utility, and present an easy gradient from the shore to Leith Walk. The area scheduled contains about 3,500 inhabitants, but when the works are completed nearly double that number will be accommodated. The sum to be borrowed from the Public Works Loan Commissioners was fixed at ~GIOO,OOO, payable in thirty years, about 1911 ; but in 1881 the Home Secretary intimated his intention of recommending a loan of cf70,000, which, in the meantime, was deemed suiticient. The ancient street named Water Lane, with all its adjacent alleys, is not included in this scheme of removal and improvement. It runs tortuously, at an angle, from the foot of the Kirkgate to Bemard Street, and is about seven hundred yards in length. This thoroughfare was anciently called the Rotten ROW ; and in the map given by Robertson in his ?? Antiquities,?? that name is borne by an alley ne+r the foot of it, running parallel with Chapel Lane. In the inventory of ?( Pious Donations ? made to the Brethren Predicators in Edinburgh, under date 14th May, 1473, is one by ?John Sudgine, of 30s. 4d. out of his tenement of Leith on the south side of the water thereof, between Alan Nepar?s land on the east, and Rotten Row on the west.? Alan Napier?s land, ?on the east side of the common vennel called the Ratounrow,? is referred to in King James 111.?~ charter to the Black Friars, under the same date. (?Burgh Charters,? No. 43.) It was so named from being built of houses of mitim, or rough timber. On Mary of Guise and Lorraine choosing Leith as an occasional residence, she is stated by Maitland to have erected a dwelling-house in the Rotten Row, near the corner of the present Quality Street, and that the royal arms of Scotland, which were in front thereof, were, when it was taken down, rebuilt into the wall of a mansion opposite, ?? and the said Mary, for the convenience of holding councils, erected a spacious and handsome edifice for her privy council to meet in.? This is supposed to refer to a stately house on the Coal Hill (facing the river), and to be treated of when we come to that quarter of Leith. The beautifully sculptured stone which bears the arms of Scotland impaled with those of Guise, surmounted by an imperial crown and the boldlycut legend, MARIA. DE. LORRAINE. REGINA. SCOTIA. 1560, and surrounded by the richest scroll-work, still exists in Leith. It was long preserved in the north wall of the old Tolbooth; and on the demolition of the latter, after undergoing various adventures, has now ?been rebuilt,? says Dr, Robertson, ?? into the original window of St. Mary, which has been erected in Albany Street,NorthLeith.? This is the last relic of that house in which Mary, the queen-regent (prior to her death in the castle), spent the last year of her sorrowful life, embittered by the strife of hostile factions and the din of civil war-?an ominous preparation for her unfortunate daughter?s assumption of the sceptre which was then wielded in her name.? Another ancient house in the same street bore a legend similar to one already given :- ?THEY ARE WELCOME HERE QHA THE LORD DO FEIR, 1574.? It was demolished in I 83 2. In this street was the establishment of the old Leith Sugar House Company. The circumstances that Leith was acentral port for carrying on West Indian trade, where vessels could then be fitted out more easily than on the Clyde, and at a lower rate than at London-besides the savings on freight and charges-eneouraged the West Indian planter ?to make it a place for his consignments. Thus a house for baking sugars was set up in Edinburgh in 1751, and the manufacture was still carried on in 1779 by the company that instituted it. That of Leith was begun in 1757 by a company, consisting chiefly of Edinburgh bankers ; but by 1762 their capital was totally lost, and for some time the Sugar House remained unoccupied, till some speculative Englishmen took a lease of it, and revived the manufacture. As these men were altogether without capital, and had to fall back upon ruinous schemes to support their false credit, they were soon involved in complete failure, but were succeeded by the Messrs. Parkers, who kept up the manufacture for about five years. ?? The house,? says h o t , ?? was then purchased by a set of merchants in Leith, who, as they began with sufficient capital, as they have employed in the work the best refiners of sugar that could be procured in London, and as they pay attention to the business, promise to conduct it with every prospect of success.? But be that as it may, in B e Advertiser for 1783, ?the whole houses and subjects belonging to and employed by the Leith Sugar House Company, together with the coppers, coolers, and whole utensils used in the trade,? are announced
Volume 6 Page 235
  Enlarge Enlarge  
as for sale, ?together with those new subjects lying in Water Lane, adjoining Messrs. Elder and Archibald?s vaults.? Many years ago Mr. Macfie was a well-known sugar refiner in Leith. His establishment stood in Elbe Street, South Leith, when it was destroyed by fire; and about 1865 there was started the extensive and thriving Bonnington Sugar Refining Company in Breadalbane Street, I.eith, which was described in a preceding chapter. THE BANK OF LEITH, 1820. (AferStowr.) of the incidental allusions to it. It is, however, supposed to have included a royal arsenal, with warehouses and dwellings for resident officials, and according to Robertson?s map seems to have measured about a hundred feet square. ?( The remains of this building,? says Amot, writing in 1779, ?with a garden and piece of waste land that surrounded it, was erected into a free barony by James VI., and bestowed upon Bernard Lindsay of Lochill, Groom of the Chamber The Broad Wynd opens westward off Water Lane to the shore. The first number of n e Leith and Edinburgh TeZegrajh and General Adveriiser, published 26th July, 1808, by William Oliphant, and continued until September, 1811, appeared, and was published by a new proprietor, William Reid, in the Broad Wynd, where it was continued till its abandonment, 9th March, 1813, comprising in all 483 numbers. It was succeeded by me fiith Commercid List. An extensive building, of which frequent mention is made by early historians as the King?s Wark, seems to have occupied the whole ground between this and the present Bernard Street, but the exact purpose for which it was maintained is not made clear in any (or Chamber CheiZd, as he was called) to that prince. This Lindsay repaired or rebuilt the King?s Wark, and there is special mention of his having put its anci?enf imer in full repair. He also built there a new tenniscourt, which is mentioned with singular marks of approbation in the royal charter ? as being built for the recreation of His Majesty, and of foreigners of rank resorting to the kingdom, to whom it afforded great satisfaction and delight j and as advancing the politeness and contributing to the ornament of the country, to which, by its happy situation on the Shore of Leith, where there was so great a concourse of strangers and foreigners, it was peculiarly adapted.?? The reddendo in this charter was uncommon,
Volume 6 Page 236
  Enlarge Enlarge