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Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


CHAPTER VIT. THE CANONGA TE AND ABBE Y SANCTUAR Y. HE ancient Burgh of Canongate may claim as its founder the sainted David I., by whom the Abbey of Holyrood was planted in the Forest of Drumselch early in the twelfth century, as a shrine for the miraculous cross which the royal hunter so unexpectedly obtained within its sylvan glades. It sprung up wholly independent of the neighbouring capital, gathering as naturally around the conse-’ crated walls of the monastery, whose dependents and vassals were its earliest builders, as did its warlike neighbour shelter itself under the overhanging battlements of the more ancient fortress. Bornething of a native-born character seems to have possessed these rivals, and exhibited itself in very legible phazes in their after history; each of them retaining distinctive marks of their very dserent parentage.’ In the year 1450, when James 11. granted to the lieges his charter, empowering them “ to fosse, bulwark, wall, toure, turate, and otherwise to strengthen ” his Burgh of Edinburgh, because of their “dreid of the evil and skeith of oure enemies of England,” these ramparts extended no further eastward than the Nether Bow. Open fields, in all probability, then lay outside the gate, dividing from it the township of the neighbouring Abbey; and although at a later period a suburb would appear to have been built beyond the walls, so that the jurisdiction of the town was claimed within the Burgh of Canongate so far as St John’s Cross, no attempt was made to secure or to The Magistrates of the Canongate claimed a feudal lordship over the property of the burgh, aa the succeasora of its spiritual superiurs, most of the title-deeds running thus :-‘‘ To be holden of the Magistrates of the Canongate, 88 come in place of the Nonaatery of Holycross.” Vraw~~~-C!anongaTteol booth.
Volume 10 Page 300
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THE CANONGA TE AND ABBE Y SANCTUAR Y. 277 protect it in any later extension of the fortifications of the capital. Towards this suburb, the Burgh of the Canons of Holyrood gradually progressed westward, until, a8 now, one unbroken line of houses extended from the Castle to the Abbey. It seems strange that no attempt should have been made, either in the disastrous year 1513, when the Cowgate was enclosed, or at any subsequent period, to include the Canongate and the royal residence within the extended military defences. It only affords, however, additional evidence that the marked difference in the origin of each maintained an influence even after the lapse of centuries.’ The probability is, that greater confidence was reposed both by clergy and laity in the sanctity of the monks of Holyrood t.han in the martial prowess of their vassals. Nor did such reliance prove misplaced, until, in the year 1544, the hosts of Henry VIII. ravaged the distracted and defenceless kingdom, under the guidance of the Earl of Hertford, to whom the Nonk’s cowl and the Abbot’s mitre were even less sacred than the jester’s suit of motley. There is little reason to think that a single fragment of building prior to that invasion exists in the Canongate, apart from the remains of the Abbey and Palace of Holyrood. The return of Queen Mary, however, to Scotland in 1561, and the permanent residence of the Court at Holyrood, gave a new impetus to the capital and its suburban neighbour. The earliest date now to be found on any private building is that of 1565, which occurs on an ancient tenement at the head of Dunbar’s Close; and is characterised by features of antiquity no less strongly marked than those on any of the most venerable fabrics in the burgh. The rival Parliament which assembled here during the siege of the capital in 1571, under the Regent Lennox, ‘‘ in William Oikis hous in the Cannongat, within the freidom of Edinburgh, albeit the samyne wes nocht within the portis thairof,” has already been referred to.’ But an ingenious stratagem which was tried by the besiegers shortly afterwards, for the purpose of surprising the town, forms one of the most interesting incidents connected with this locality. This “ slicht of weir ” is thus narrated by the contemporary diarist already quoted:-Upon the 22d day of August 1571, my Lord Regent and the nobles professing the. Eing’s authority, seeing they could not obtain entry into the burgh of Edinburgh, caused several bands of soldiers to proceed from Leith during the night and conceal themselves in the closes and adjoining houses immediately without the Nether Bow Port, while a considerable reserve force was collected at the Abbey, ready on a concerted signal from their trumpets to hasten to their aid. On the following morning, about five o’clock, when it was believed the night watch would be withdrawn, six soldiers, diaguised as millers, approached the Port, leading a file of horses laden with sacks of meal, which were to be thrown down as they entered, so as to impede the closing of the gates; and while they assailed the warders with weapons they wore concealed under their disguise, the men in ambush were ready to rush out and storm the town. But, says the diarist, “ the eternall God, knawing the cruel1 murther that wald haue bene done and committit vpoun innocent pover personis of the said burgh, wald not thole this interpryse to tak successe, bot evin quhen the said meill ’ The Canongate appears to have been so far enclosed aa to anawer ordinary municipal purposea It had ita gates, which were @hut at night, as is shown further on, but the walla do not seem to have partaken in any degree of the character of military defences, and were never attempted to be held out against au enemy. Diurnal of Occurrenb, p. 214 ; vide ante, p. 82.
Volume 10 Page 301
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