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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [North Bridge. after nnmixous schemes and suggestions, the North Bridge was widened in 1873, after designs by Messrs. Stevenson. The average number of footpassengers traversing this bridge daily is said to be considerably in excess of go,ooo, and the number of wheeled vehicles upwards of 2,000. The ground at the north-east end of the bridge has been so variously occupied in succession by an edifice ?named Dingwall?s Castle, by Shakespeare Square, and the oldTheatre Royal, with its thousand memories of the drama in Edinburgh, and latterly Jay the new General Post Office for Scotland, that we must devote a chapter or two to that portion ? of it alone. CHAPTER XLIII. EAST SIDE OF THE NORTH BRIDGE. Diogwall?s Castle-Whitefield?s ? Preachings?-History of the Old Theatre Royal-The Building-David Ross?s Management--Leased to Mr. Foote-Then to Mr. Digges-Mr. Moss-- Yates-Next Leased to Mr. Jackson-The Siddons Fumre-Reception of the Great Actress-ME. Baddeley-New Patent-The Playhouse Riot-?The Scottish Roscius ?-A Ghost-Expiry of the Patent. BUILT no one knows when, but existing during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there stood on the site now occupied by the new General Post Office, an edifice named Dingwall?s Castle. In 1647, Cordon of Rothiemay, in his wonderfully distinct and detailed bird?s-eye view of the city, represents it as an open ruin, in form a square tower with a round one at each angle, save on the north-east, where one was fallen down in part. All the sloping bank aiid ground between it and the Trinity College church are shown as open, but bordered on the west by a line of houses, which he names Niniani Suburbium seu nzendicorum Fatea (known latterly as the Beggar?s Row), and on the west and north by high walls, the latter crenellated, and by a road which descends close to the edge of the loch, and then runs along its bank straight westward. This stronghold is supposed to have derived its name from Sir John Dingwall, who was Provost of the Trinity College church before the Reformation ; and hence the conclusion is, that it was a dependency of that institution. He was one of the first Lords of Session appointed on the 25th May, 1532, at the formation of the College of Justice, and his name is third on the list. Of him nothing more is known, save that he existed and that is all. . Some fragments of the castle are still supposed to exist among the buildings on its site, and some were certainly traced among the cellars of Shakespeare Square on its demolition in 1860. During the year 1584 when the Earl of Arran was Provost of the city, on the 30th September, the Council commissioned Michael Chisholm and others to inquire into the order and condition of an ancient leper hospital which stood beside Dingwall?s Castle; but of the former no distinct trace is given in Cordon?s view. In Edgar?s map of Edinburgh, in 1765, no indication of these buildings is given, but the ground occupied by the future theatre and Shakespeare Square is shown as an open park or irregular parallelogam closely bordered by trees, measuring about 350 feet each way, and lying between the back of the old Orphan Hospital and the village of Multrie?s Hill, where now the Register House stands. It was in this park, known then as that of the Trinity Hospital, that the celebrated Whitefield used yearly to harangue a congregation of all creeds and classes in the open air, when visiting Edinburgh in the course of his evangelical tours. On his coming thither for the first time after the Act had passed for the extension of the royalty, great was his horror, surprise, and indignation, to find the green slope which he had deemed to be rendered almost sacred by his prelections, enclosed by fences and sheds, amid which a theatre was in course of erection. The ground was being ?appropriated to the service of Satan. The frantic astonishment of the Nixie who finds her shrine and fountain desolated in her absence, was nothing to that of Whitefield. He went raging about the spot, and contemplated the rising walls of the playhouse with a sort of grim despair. He is said to have considered the circumstance as a positive mark of the increasing wickedness of society, and to have termed it a plucking up of God?s standard, and a planting of the devil?s in its place.? The edifice which he then saw in course of erection was destined, for ninety years, to be inseparably connected with the more recent rise of the drama in Scotland generally, in Edinburgh in particular, and to be closely identified with all the artistic and scenic glories of the stage. It was long a place replete with interest, and yet recalls
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THE OLD THEATRE ROYAI,. 341 North Bridge.] happy reminiscences and bright associations in the minds of thousands; and it was one of the very few theatres that, escaping the ravages of fire, attain to a good old age. Prior to the reign of George 111. there was not a single theatre in Scotland countenanced by the law of the land. One which was erected in Glasgow in 1752, and on which a military guard mounted nightly, was demolished about two years after, by a mob when returning from one of Whitefields sermons ; but when the New Town' of Edinburgh was projected, a clause was introduced into the Act empowering t h e Crown to grant royal letters patent for the establishment of a theatre in Edinburgh. Mr. David ROSS, manager of a small one then existing, amid many difficulties, in the Canongate, and latterly of Covent Garden Theatre -a respectable man, who had managed two houses in Londonobtained the patent, and the foundationstone of the new theatre was laid on the 16th of March, 1768. prologue, which was written by Janies Boswell, who, in the following lines, referred to the new theatre as the first one licensed in Scotland :- " Whilst in all points with other lands she vied, The stage alone to Scotland was denied : Mistaken zeal, in times of darkness bred, O'er the best minds its gloomy vapours spread ; Taste and religion were opposed in strife. .---.*--- GEORGE DRUXMOND, LORD PROVOST. (From f :e E i i , ~ a v . n ~ by Mac&enzie, ofter ih2 Original in the Rwal In$mra*y.) . . In the stone was laid a silver plate, inscribed thus:- '' The first stone of this new theatre was laid on the 16th day of March, in the year of our Lord 1768, by David Ross, patentee and first proprietor of a licensed stage in Scotland. May this theatre tend to promote every moral and every virtuous principle, and may the representations be such *' To make mankind in conscious virtue bold, Live on each scene and be what they behold." But Mr. ROSS'S first legitimate performances as a licensed manager took place in the old theatre, which opened unusually late in the season, owing to a dreadful riot' that happened in January, and the repairs incident to which occupied ten months, during which there were no representations whatever. Ross opened then, with the patented company on the 9th of December, 1767, with the tragedy of the RnrZ of Essex. He spoke the And 'twas a sin to view this glass of life ! When the muse ventured, the ungracious task, To play elusion with unlicensed mask, Mirth was restrained ty statutory awe, And tragic greatness feared the scourge of law ; Illustrious heroes errant vapants seemed, And gentlest nymphs were sturdy begsnrs deemed." By the proposals for building this new theatre, according to the S o t s Mugazine for 1768, Mr. Ross had to raise Lz,.joo by twenty-five shares, at LIOO per share, for which the subscribers were to receive 3 per cent., and free access to all performances and every part of the house, except behind the scenes. "The house is to be IOO feet in length by 50 broad. To furnish new scenes, wardrobe,- and necessary decorations will, it is computed, cost A1,500 more: and the whole building, &c., is to be insured for A4,000, and mortgaged as security to pay the interest. As it would be impossible to procure good performers should the tickets continue at the low prices now paid, it is proposed to make the boxes qs., the pit 3s., the first gallery zs., and the upper IS. For these prices, says Mr. ROSS, this stage shall vie with those of London and Dublin. There shall be five capital men-actors, one good man-singer, one second ditto ; three capital womenactresses, two capital women-singers, one capital man-dancer, and one woman ditto; the rest as good as can be had : the orchestra shall be conducted with a good first fiddler, as a leader, a harpsichord, and the rest of the band persons of merit."
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