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Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


LEZTH, AND THE NEW TOWN. 373 stairs and loop-hole windows, contrasted most strangely with the ailjoining fashionable streets and squares. This ancient barony and the surrounding lands comprehended within its jurisdiction were granted by James VI. in 1568 to Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney, in whose time the Tolbooth of the burgh appears to have been erected. The bishop surrendered the lands to the Crown in 1587, in favour of Sir Lewis Bellenden of Auchnoul, Lord Justice-clerk ; who obtained a charter from the king uniting them into a free barony and regality. Broughton is reputed to have been notorious in old times as the haunt of witches, who were frequently incarcerated in its Tolbooth. An execution of these victims of superstition, which occurred there under peculiarly horrible circumstances, during the period of its possession by the Bellendens, is thus noticed in the minutes of the Scottish Privy Council :-'' 1608, December 1.-The Earl of Mar declared to the Council that some women were taken in Broughton as witches, and being put to an assize, and convicted, albeit they persevered constant in their denial to the end, yet they were burned quick, after such a cruel manner that some of them died in despair, renouncing and blaspheming [God] ; and others, halfburned, brak out of the fire, and were cast quick in it again, till they were burned to the death." Sir William Bellenden, the grandson of Sir Lewis, disposed of the whole lands to Robert, Earl of Roxburgh, in 1627, and by an agreement between him and Charles I., this ancient barony passed by purchase to the Governors of Heriot's Hospital in 1636, to whom the superiority of Broughton was yielded by the Crown, partly in payment of debts due by Charles I. to the Hospital. Thenceforward the barony was governed by a bailiff nominated by the Governors of the Hospital, who possessed even the power of life and death, the privilege of pit and gallom, which every feudal baron claimed within his own bounds. In 1721, the Treasurer of the Hospital complains of the expense incurred in prosecuting offenders in the case of some murders committed witkin the regality ; but these onerous and costly privileges were at length abrogated in 1746, by the act abolishing heritable jurisdictions, and the Governors a few years afterwards granted the use of the Tolbooth to one of their tenants as a store-house, " reserving to the Hospital a room for holding their baron courts when they shall think fit"2 The last occasion on which Old Broughton was directly associated with any event of public importance, was during the memorable campaign of 1650, which preceded the Battle of Dunbar, when General Leslie made it his head-quarters, while he threw up the line of defence from the base of the Calton Hill to Leith, which we have already described as the origin of the great roadway that now forms the chief thoroughfare between Edinburgh and Leith. Beyond the village of Broughton lies that of Canonmills, on the Water of Leith, which owes its origin to the same eource as the Burgh of Canongate, having been founded by the Augustine Canons of Holyrood, doubtless for the use of their own vassals on the lands of Brough'tbn; and their neighbouring possessions. Above this, on the Water of Leith, are the villages of Stockbridge, Bell's Mills, and the Dean, all of considerable antiquity, and now joined to the extended capital, or disappearing before the encroachments of its modern streets. King David L grants to the Abbey of Holyrood, in its foundation 1 Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, Sir Walter Scott, p. 315. ' Dr Steven's History of Heriot's Hospital, pp. 118, 119.
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374 MEiWORIALS OF EDINBURGH. charier, one of his mills of Dean, with the tenths of his mills of Liberton and Dean ; and although all that now remains of the villages of Bell’s Mills and the Dean are af a much more recent date, they still retain unequivocal evidences of considerable antiquity. Dates and inscriptions, with crow-stepped gables and other features of the 17th century, are to be found scattered among the more modern tenements, and it was only in the year 1845 that the curious old mansion of the Dean was demolished for the purpose of converting the Deanhaugh into a public cemetery. This was another of those fine old aristocratic dwellings that once abounded in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, but which are now rapidly disappearing, like all its other interesting memorials of former times. It was a monument of the Nisbeta of the Dean, a proud old race that are now extinct. They had come to be the head of their house, as Nisbet relates with touching pathos, owing to the failure of the Nisbets of that Ilk in his own person, and as such .“ laid aside the Cheveron, a mark of cadency used formerly by the House of Dean, in regard that the family of Dean is the only family of that name in Scotland that has right, by consent, to represent the old original family of the name of Nisbet, since the only lineal male representer, the author of this system, is like to go soon off the world, being an old man, and without issue male or female.” The earliest notice in the minutes of Presbytery of St Cuthberts of the purchase of a piece of family burying-ground, is by Sir William Nisbet of Dean, in March 1645, the year of the plague. ‘‘ They grantit him ane place at the north church door, eastward, five elnes of lenth, and thrie elnes of bredth.” It appears to have been the piece of ground in the angle formed by the north transept and the choir of the ancient Church of St Cuthbert ; and the vault which he erected there still remains, surmounted with his arms ; a memorial alike of the demolished fane and the extinct race. When we last saw it, the old oak door was broken in, and the stair that led down to the chamber of the dead choked up with rank nettles and hemlock ;-the fittest monument ihat could be devised for the old Barons of the Dean, the last of them now gathered to his fathers. The old mansion-house had on a sculptured stone over the east doorway the date 1614, but other parts of the building bore evident traces of an earlier date. The large gallery had an arched ceiling, painted in the same style as one already described in Blyth’s Close, some portions of which had evidently been copied in its execution. The subjects were chiefly sacred, and though rudely executed in distemper, had a bold and pleasing effect when seen as a whole. One of the panels, now in the possession of C. K. Sharpe, Esq., bears the date 1627. The dormer windows and principal doorways were richly decorated with sculptured devices, inscriptions, and armorial bearings, illustrative of the successive alliances of its owners; many of which have been preserved in the boundary walls of the cemetery that now occupies its site. The most curious of these are two pieces of sculpture in 6amo relievo, which surmounted two of the windows on the south front. On one of them a judge is represented, seated on a throne, with a lamb in his arms ; in his left hand he holds a drawn sword resting on his shoulder, and in his right hand a pair of scales. Two lions rampant stand on either side, as if contending litigants for the poor lamb ; the one of them . 1 Nisbet’a Heraldry, vol. ii part 4, p. 32. a History of the Weat Kirk, p. 24. Alexander Nisbet, Gent., published the first volume of hie system of heraldry in 1722 ; his death took place shortly stteiwarda.-V& Preface to 2d Edition Fol.
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