Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Leith.] ST. JAMES?S CHAPEL. 243 CHAPTER XXVII. LEITH-CONSTITUTION STREET, THE SHORE, COAL HILL, AND SHERIFF BRAE. Constitution Street-Pirates Executed-St. James?s Episcopal Church-Town H a l l S t . John?s Church-Exchange Buildings-Head-quarten of the Leith Rifle Volunteen4ld Signal-Tower-The Shore-Old and New Ship Taverns--The Markets-The Coal Hill-Ancient Council House-The Peat Ne&-Shim Bme-Tibbie Fowler of the Glen-St. Thomas?s Church and Asylum-The Gladstone Family-Creat Junction Road. CONSTITUTION STREET, which lies parallel to, and eastward of the Kirkgate, nearly in a line with the eastern face of the ancient fortifications, is about 2,500 feet in lehgth, and soon after its formation was the scene of the last execution within what is termed (? flood-mark.? The doomed prisoners were two foreign seamen, whose crime and sentence excited much interest at the time. Peter Heaman and Francois Gautiez were accused of piracy and murder in seizing the briglane of Gibraltar, on her voyage from that place to the Brazils, freighted with a valuable cargo, including 38,180 Spanish dollars, and in barbarously killing Johnson the master, and Paterson a seaman, and confining Smith and Sinclair, two other seamen, in the forecastle, where they tried to suffocate them with smoke, but eventually compelled them to assist in navigating the vessel, which they . afterwards sank off the coast of Ross-shire. They landed the specie in eight barrels on the Isle of Lewis, where they were apprehended. This was in thesummer of 1822, and they were, after a trial before the Court of Justiciary, sentenced by the Judge-Admiral to be executed on the 9th of ? the subsequent January, ?on the sands of Leith, within the flood-mark, and their bodies to be afterwards given to Dr. Munro for dissection.? On the day named they were conveyed from the Calton gaol, under a strong escort of the dragoon .guards, accompanied by the magistrates of the city, who had white rods projecting from the windows of the carriages in which they sat, to a gibbet erected ? at the foot of Constitution Street-oi raiher, the . northern continuation thereof-and there hanged. Heaman was a native of Carlscrona, in Sweden ; Gautiez wa8 a Frenchman. The bodies were put 4 in coffins, and conveyed by a corporal?s escort of ? dragoons to the rooms of the professor of anatomy. During the execution the great bell of South Leith church was ttilled with minute strokes, and the papers of the day state that ? the crowd of spectators was immense, particularly cn the sands, being little short of from forty to fifty thousand; but, owing to the excellent manner in which everything was In 1823 the same thoroughfare witnessed another legal punishment, when Thomas Hay, who had - arranged, not the slightest accident happened.? been tried and convicted of an attempt at assassination, was flogged through the town by the common executioner, and banished for fourteen years. Between Constitution Street and the Links stands St. James?s Episcopalian church, an ornate edifice in the Gothic style, designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, having a fine steeple, containing a chime of bells, It was built in 1862-3, succeeding a previous chapel of 1805 (erectedatthe cost ofx1,6ro)on an adjacent site (of which a view is given on p. 240), and to which attention was frequently drawn from the literary celebrity of its minister, Dr. Michael Russell, the author of a continuation o? Prideaux?s Connection of Sacred and Profane History,? and other works. According to h o t , the congregation had an origin that was not uncommon in the eighteenth century, when the persecution was set on foot against those of the Episcopal communion in Scotland who did not take the oaths required by law, the meeting-house in Leith was shut up by the sheriff of the county. Persons of this persuasion being thus deprived of the form of worship their principles approved, brought from the neighbouring country Mr. John Paul, an English clergyman, who opened this chapel on the 23rd June, 1749. It is called St. James?s chapel. Till of late the congregation only rented it, but within these few years they purchased it for Azoo. The clergyman has about L60 a year salary, and the organist ten guineas. These are paid out of the seat rents, collections, and voluntary contributions among the hearers. It is, perhaps, needless to add that there are one or more meeting-houses for sectaries in this place (Leith), for in Scotland there are few towns, whether of importance! or insighificant, whether populous or otherwise, where there are not congregations of sectaries.? The congregation of St. James?s chapel received, in about the year 1810, the accession of a nonjuring congregation of an earlier date, says a writer in 1851, referring, doubtless, to that formed in the time of the Rev. Mr. Paul. The Leith Post Office is at the corner of Mitchell and Constitution Streets; it was built in 1876, is very small, and in a rather meagre Italian style. The Town Hall, which is at the corner of Constitution and Charlotte Streets, was built in 1827, at a After the battle of Culloden,
Volume 6 Page 243
  Enlarge Enlarge  
244 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Leith cost of .&3oo, and has two ornamental fronts; respectively with Ionic pillars and a Doric porch. St. John?s Established Church adjoins it. It was originally a chapel of ease, but became a Free Church from the Disruption in 1843 till 1867, when, by adjudication, it reverted to the Establishment. Designed by David Rhind, it has an imposing front in the Early Pointed style, surmounted by a lofty octagonal tower, terminating in numerous pinnacles, and not in a tall slender spire, accord- On the west side of Constitution Street, the way, for nearly 300 feet, is bounded by the wall enclos ing the burying-ground of St. Mary?s Church, to which access is here given by a large iron gate, after passing the Congregational chapel at the intersection of Laurie Street. In No. 132 have long been established the headquarters and orderly-room of the Leith Volunteer Corps, numbered as the 1st Midlothian Rifles. Originally clad in grey (like the city volunteers), THE TOWN HALL AND ST. JOHN?S ESTABLISHED cnuRcH. ing to the original intention of the talented architect. The Exchange Buildings at the foot of Constitution Street, opposite Bernard Street, were erected, at a cost of A16,000, in a Grecian style of architecture, and are ornamented in front by an Ionic portico of four columns. They are three storeys in height, and include public reading and assembly rooms ; but of late years assemblies have seldom been held in Leith, though they were usual enough in the last century. In the Week& Magazine for I 7 76 we read of a handsome subscription being sent by ?the subscribers to a dancing assembly in Leith,? through Sir William Forbes, for the relief of our troops at Boston. this regiment now wears scarlet, faced unrneanhgly with black, and their badge is the arms of Leiththe Virgin and Holy Child seated in the middle of a galley, with the motto, 4? Persevere.? The corps was raised when the volunteer movement began: under Colonel Henry Amaud, a veteran officer of the East India Company?s Service, who, in turn, was succeeded by D. R. Macgregor, Esq., the late popular M.P. for the Leith Burghs. On the same side of the street stands the Catholic Church of ?Our Lady, Star of the Sea,? built in 1853. It is a high-roofed cruciform edifice, in a coarse style of Early Gothic. Constitution Street is continued north to the intersection of Tower Street and the road beyond
Volume 6 Page 244
  Enlarge Enlarge     Pictures Pictures