Edinburgh Bookshelf

Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


Volume 10 Page 396
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LEITH, AND THE NEW TOWN. window forms the chief ornament of this portion of the building, finished with unusually fine Elizabethan work, and surmounted by a coronet and thistle, with the letter C. Behind this a simple square tower rises to a considerable height, finished with a bartizaned roof, apparently designed for commanding an extensive view. Such is the approach to the sole remaining abode of royalty in this ancient burgh. The straitened access, however, conveys a very false idea of the accommodation within. It is a large and elegant mansion, presenting its main front to the east, where an extensive piece of garden ground is enclosed, reaching nearly to the site of the ancient town walls; from whence, it is.probable, there waa formerly an opening to the neighbouring downs. The east front appears to have been considerably modernised. Its most striking feature is a curiously decorated doorway, finished in the ornate style of bastard Gothic, introduced in the reign of James VI. An ogee arch, filled with rich Gothic tracery, gurmounts the square lintel, finished with a lion’s head, which seems to hold the arch suspended in its mouth ; and on either side is a sculptured shield, on one of which a monogram is cut, characterised by the usual inexplicable ingenuity of these quaint riddles, and with the date 1631.l Here, according to early and credible tradition, was the mansion of John, third Lord Balmerinoch, where he received the young King, Charles 11.) on his arrival at Leith on the 29th July 1650, to review the Scottish army, which then lay encamped on the neighbouring links, numbering above forty thousand men. Charles having failed in obtaining the Scottish Crown on his own terms, notwithstanding his being proclaimed Eing at the Cross of Edinburgh on the execution of Charles I., had now agreed to receive it with all devout solemnity on the terms dictated by the Presbyterian royalists, as a covenanted King. He proceeded from Leith on Friday, 2nd August, and rode in state to the capital of his ancestors, amid the noisiest demoustrations of welcome from the fickle populace. From the Castle, where he was received with a royal salute, he walked on foot to the Parliament House, to partake of a banquet provided for him at the expense of the City, and from thence he returned the same evening to my Lord Balm er inoch’ s House at Leith. We have furnished a view of the fine old building at the Coalhill, near the harbour, which is believed to have been ‘(th e handsome and spacious edifice ” erected by the Queen Regent for the meeting of her council. It is a large and stately fabric, and presents numerous evidences of former magnificence in its internal decorations. The tradition is confirmed by further evidence ; as a small and mean-looking little court behind, though abandoned probably for considerably more than a century to the occupation of the very poorest and most squalid of ‘the population, still retains the imposing title of the Parliament Square. The whole of the buildings that enclose this dignified area abound with the dilapidated relics of costly internal adornment; some large and very fine specimens of oak carving were removed from it a few years since, and even a beautifully carved , The arms on the amnd shield do not upp port the tradition, (IS they are neither those of Lord Balmerinoch, nor of his ancestor, James Elphinstone, Lord Coupar, to whom the coroneted C might otherwise have been suppased to refer. The Earla of Crawford are also known to have had a mansion in Leith, but the arm8 in no degree correspond with those borne by any of theae families. They are-quarterly, 1st and 4th the Royal Arms of Scotland ; 2nd and 3rd, a ship with Bails furled ; over all, on B shield of pretence, a Cheveron. AB, however, the house appears by the date to have been built nineteen yeara before the visit of Charles to Leith, and the period waa one when forfeiture and ruin compelled many noble families to abandon their possessions, it is still possihle that the tradition may be truatworthy, which assigne it aa the mansion of Lord Balmerinoch, and the lodging of the Merry Monarch, 22 .
Volume 10 Page 397
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