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Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


3 30 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. the usual substitute with our simple forefathers for the comfortable glazed sash that now admits the morning beams to the meanest dwelling. Gawin Douglas, in his prologue to the seventh book of the 4‘Bneid,’’ which contains a description of winter, warned that the “ day is dawing ” by the whistling of a sorry gled, and glancing through A schot wyndo onschet, a litill on char, Pemavyt the mornyng bla, wan, and har. Douglas, at the time he undertook his vigorous translation of Virgil, was Provost of the Collegiate Church of St Giles, and we could hardly wish for more conclusive evidence of the general prevalence of this rude device throughout the Scottish capital during the prosperous era of the reign of James IT., than the very natural and graphic manner in which the keen wintry prospect he espies through his half-open shutter is described, and the comfortable picture of his own blazing hearth, where he solaces himself by the resumption of his pleasing task :- The dew-droppis congelit on stibbill and r p d , And scharp hailstanys mortfundeit of kynd, Hoppand on the thak and on the causay by : The scbot I closit, and drew inwart in hy, Chyvirrand for cdd, the ae8~onw as so snell, Schupe with hayt flambe to fleym the freezyng fell. And as I bownyt me to the fyre me by, Baith up and down the hows I dyd aspy : And seeand Virgill on ane lettron stand, To write onone I hynt a pen in hand. Another of these picturesque tenements is Palfrep’s or the King’s Head Inn, a fine antique stone land built about the reign of Charles I. An inner court is enclosed by the buildings behind, and it long remained one of the best frequented inns of old Edinburgh, being situated nearly at the. junction of two of the principal approaches to the town from the south and west. From the style and apparent age of the building, however, there can be little question that its original occupants ranked among the old Scottish aria tocracy. In making the excavations necessary for the erection of a handsome suit of additional court-rooms for the accommodation of the Lords Ordinary, built to the south of the old Parliament Hall towards the close of 1844, some curious discoveries were made, tending to illustrate the changes that have been effected on the Cowgate during the last four centuries. In the space cleared by the workmen, on the site of the Old Parliament Stairs, a considerable fragment of the fist city wall was laid bare ; a solid and substantial mass of masonry, very different from the hasty superstructure of 1513. On the sloping ground to the south of this, at about fourteen feet below the surface, a range of strong oaken m 5 a were found lying close together, and containing human remains, In one skull the brain remained 80 fresh as to show the vermicular form of surface, although the ancient Churchyard of St Giles, of which these were doubtless some of the latest occupants, had ceased to be used as a place of sepulture since the grant of the Greyfriars’ gardens for that purpose in 1566. The form of these coffins was curious, being quite straight at the sides, but with their lids rising into a ridge in the centre, and altogether closely resembling in form the stone coffins of a still earlier era. During the same
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ST LEONARD'S, ST MARY'S WYND, AND COWGATE. 331 operations, the workmen found beyond the old city wall, and at a depth of eighteen feet below the level of the present Cowgate, a common shaped barrel, about six feet high, standing upright, imbedded eighteen inches deep in a stratum of blue clay, and with a massive stone beside it. The appearance of the whole suggested the idea that the barrel had been so placed to collect the rain water from the eaves of a neighbouring house, and with a stepping-stone to enable any one to reach its contents. At a little distance from this, to the westward, and about the same depth, a large copper vessel was found, measuring fully eighteen inches in diameter by six inches deep. This interesting relic is now deposited in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries, along with some portions of the barrel staves, and there can be no question that both had formed at a very remote period part of the eurta supelkx of a citizen of note. The size of the copper vessel is of itself a proof of its owner.% wealth, and could only have belonged to some person of distinction. But the most curious inference derived from these discoveries is the evidence they afford of the gradual rising of the street in the course of ages. Some years before a pavement was discovered, about twelve feet below the surface, in digging towards the east end of the Cowgate for a large drain, and here domestic utensils, at a still lower level, proved how gradual, yet unceasing, must have been the progress of this phenomenon common to all ancient cities. From the want of police regulations in the Middle Ages, refuse and rubbish accumulated on the street, and became trodden down into a firm soil, until even pavements were lost sight of, and the bases of the buildings were adapted to the new level.' In the ancient title-deeds of Merchant's Court, already referred to as the mansion of the Earl of Haddington, it is described as '(that great lodging, with the yaird, well, closs, and perta thereof, lying betwixt ye lands pertaining to umq" Wm. Speed, bailie, and me certain trance regal, leading to ye Grayfrer's Port, on ye west. The arable land, or croft of the Sisters of ye Nuns of ye Sheyns, on ye south, &c." On a part of this ground lying to the south of the Cowgate, and belonging to the Convent of St Catherine de Sienna, a corporation was established so early as 1598, for the brewing of ale and beer, commodities which have ever since been foremost among the staple productions of Edinburgh. The name Society, which still pertains to this part of the town, preserves B record of this ancient company of brewers, and from the same cause, the neighbouring Greyfriars or Bristow Port, is frequently styled Society Port' Between this and the Cowgate lies the once fashionable district, which a correspondent of the Edinburgh Advertiser in- 1764 styles '' that very elegant square, called Brown Square," and which he thinks wants nothing to complete its beauty but (' an elegant statue of his Majesty in the middle f " Such a project might not now seem so extravagant, since the improvers of the neighbourhood have swept away the east and west sides of it, and thrown it open to the great public thoroughfare of the neighbourhood; but at that time it was a little square area not so large as S c o l ~N~ov,. 16, 1844. ' '.The foundation and building of the howssis for sill and beir brewing, beqd the Grayfrier Port, callit the Societie, was begun in the yeir of God, 1598."-f&t. of King Jam the Sed, p. 374, In ye beginning of yie moneth, the Societie begrin to yr work at the Gxay Friar Kirke."-BireZs Diary. A curious fragment of the Old Town wall remains to the south of Society buildings, and one of them, built upon it, is a singular and unique Bpecimen of early architecture, wrought in ornamental panels between the windows, and with deep eaves to the roof, somewhat in the style of the old brick and timber fronts, common at Canterbury and other ancient English towna Adjoining thia was a Jong-established tavern, which bore the quaint name of the E& in thc Way. " Ap. 26,1598.
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