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Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


CHAPTER 111. THE LA WNMARKET. ANY citizens still ring can remember when the wide thoroughfare immediately below the Castle Hill used to be covered with the stalls and bookhs of the ‘‘ lawn merchants,” with their webs and cloths of every description, giving that central locality all the appearance of a fair. This also, however, with other old customs, has passed away, and the name only remaina to preserve the memory of former usages, although such was the importance of this locality in former times, that its occupants had a club of their own, styled “The Lawnmarket Club,” which was celebrated in its day for the earliest possession of all important news. The old market-place was bounded on the west by the Weigh-house, or 6c butter trone,” as it is styled in some of the title-deeds of the neighbouring buildings, and on the east by the ancient Tolbooth, and formed in early times . the only open space of any great extent, with the single exception of the Grassmarket, that existed within the town walls. The Weigh-house7 of which we furnish an engraving, was a clumsy and inelegant building, already alluded to,’ occupying the centre of the street at the head of the West Bow. It was rebuilt in the year 1660 on the site of a previous erection, which is shown in Cordon’s map of 1646, adorned with a steeple at the east end, and appears, from contemporaneous ~ c o ~ ttos h,a ve been otherwise of an ornamental character. The only decorations on Vide pp. 96-7. ~IaNETTB.-G~adatone’a Land. . .
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THE LA WNMARKE T. I59 the latter building, consisted of a rudely executed ogee pediment, containing the city arms, and surmounted by three tron weights. On Queen Mary’s entry to Edinburgh in 1561, this was the scene of some of the most ingenious displays of civic loyalty. Her Majesty dined in the Castle, and a triumphal arch was erected at the Weigh-house, or “ butter trone,” where the keys of the city were presented to her by “ane bony barne, that descendit doun fra a cloude, as it had bene ane angell,” and added to the wonted gift a Bible and Psalm-book-additions which some contemporary historians hint were received with no very good grace.’ Cromwell established a guard in the older building there, while the Castle was held out against him in 1650, and prudently levelled it with the ground on gaining possession of the fortress, lest it should afford the same cover to hiis assailants that it had done to himself. The latter erection proved equally serviceable to the Highlanders of Prince Charles in 1745, when they attempted to blockade the Castle, and starve out the garrison by stopping all supplies. The first floor of the large done land, in front of Milne’s Court, was occupied at the same period as the residence and guardroom for the officers commanding the neighbouring post ; and it is said that the dislodged occupant,--a zealous Whig,-took his revenge on them after their departure by advertising for the recovery of missing articles abstracted by his compulsory guests. The court immediately behind this appears to have been one of the earliest attempts to substitute an open square of some extent for the narrow closes that had so long afforded the sole town residences of the Scottish gentry. The main entrance is adorned with a Doric entablature, and bears the date 1690. The principal house, which forms the north side of the court, has a handsome entrance, with neat mouldifigs, rising into a small peak in the centre, like a very flat ogee arch. This style of ornament, which frequently occurs in buildings of the same period, seems to mark the handiwork of Robert Milne, the builder of the most recent portions of Holyrood Palace, and seventh Royal Master Mason, whose uncle’s tomb,-erected by him in the Greyfriars’ Churchyard,-records in quaint rhymes these hereditary &onours :- . Reader, John Milne, who maketh the fourth John, And, by descent from father unto son, Sixth Master-Mason, to a royal race Of seven succesaive kings, sleeps in thia place. The houses forming the west side of the court are relics of a much earlier period, that had been delivered from the durance of a particularly narrow close by the march of fashion and improvement in the seventeenth century. The most northerly of them long formed the town mansion of the lairds of Comiston, in whose possession it still remains ; while that to the south, though only partially exposed, presents a singularly irregular and picturesque Ante, p. 71. “Quhen hir grace come fordwart to the butter trone of the said burgh, the nobilitie and convoy foirsaid precedand, at the quhilk butter trone thair waa ane port made of tymber, in maiat honourable maner, cullorit with fyne cullouris, hungin with syndrie armem ; upon the quhii port w88 singand certane barneia in the maiat hevinlie via; under the quhilk port thair wea ane cloud opynnand with four levis, in the quhik waa put and bony barna And quhen the queues hienes waa cumand throw the said port, the said cloud opynnit, and the barne dscendit doun as it had beene ane angell, and deliuent to her hienes the keyis of the toun, togidder with ane Bybd and ane Paalme Buik, couerit with fyne purpourit veluot ; and efter the said b eha d spoken aome small speitches, he deliuerit alsua tu her hienea thw [email protected], the tennour thairof is vncertane. That being done, the barne ascendit in the cloua, and the said dud stekit j - and thairefter the quenia grace come doun to the to1bnith.”-Diurnal of Ocurrenta, p. 68.
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