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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHEX. 221 castellated mansion, the demolition of which, by the Trustees of the Institution, occasioned much regret among the lovers of antiquity. From the Edinburgh Mugazhe for 1800 we quote the following remarks by a correspondent :- “ How grateful must it have been to the inhabitants of Edinburgh, to be able to point the attention of a prejudiced stranger to the towering and venerable fabric of Wrytes Hme, one existing memorial, among many others, of the ancient power and greatness of Scotland, and of her early proficiency in the architecture and sculpture formerly in repute. Will persons of taste in this country believe it ?-will liberal and lettered Englishmen believe it ?-this beautiful castle, in the environs of the capital, and the ornament of Bruntsfield Links, a public resort, ie at this moment resounding the blows of the hammers and axes of final demolition ! ” “The Managers of the late Mr. Gillespie’s mortification having, by reason, it is said, of the voracity of some greedy proprietor, been disappointed in their original intentions, ‘ They spied this goodly castle, Which choosing for their Hospital, They thither marched.’ And who could have doubted that it might easily have been transformed into a most capacious and elegant hospital-a truly splendid abode for decayed Gillespies ! t I I “But down it must come, if it should be for the sake only of the timber, the slates, and the stones. A few weeks will leave scarcely a trace to tell where once it stood. Ten thousand pounds would not rear such another castle ; and, if it did, still it would be modern. Above one window was the inscription, ‘Sicut Oliva fructifera, 1376 ;’ and above another, ‘In Domino emfido, 1400.’ There are several later dates, marking the periods, probably of additions, embellishments, or repairs, or the succession of different pr0prietors.l The arms over the principal door were those of Britain after the union of the crowns. On triangular stones, above the windows, were five emblematical representations- Its fate is now irretrievable. “ WryteS House: was of considerable antiquity. ‘ And in those five, such things their form express’d, As we can touch, taste, feel, or hear, or see.’ . A variety of the virtues also were strewed upon different parts of the building. In one place was a rude representation of our first parents, and underneath, the well-known old proverbial distich- ‘ When Adam delv’d and Eve span, Quhair war a’ the gentles than.’ In another place was a head of Julius Ccesar, and elsewhere a head of Octavius Secundus, both in good preservation. Most of these curious pieces of sculpture have been defaced or broken, no measure having been taken to preserve them from the effects of their fall.’ This is much to be regretted, as there can be little doubt that some good gentleman, who would not only have given the contractor an advanced price, but would have so disposed of these relics aa to ensure their future existence and preservation. Had the late Mr, Walter Ross been alive they would not have been allowed to &ash against the ground and shiver into fragments ! What, suppose the Managers themselves were yet to erect a little Gothic-looking mansion, in some convenient corner, constructed entirely of the sculptured and ornamented stones of the castle. l In a note by the editor of the Magazine, it is stated as the opinion of another antiquarp, that these dates were more likely to have been inscribed at the same period, to record some particular e m in the history of the ancestors of the owner ; and that the neatness, distinctness, and uniformity of the letters, rendered this opinion highly probable. * ‘* A long stone, on which was curiously sculptured a group resembling Holbein’s Dance of Death, was some time ago (July 1800) discovered at the head of Forrester’s Wynd,:which in former days was the western boundary of St. Giles’s High Churchyard. “his relic, too, was much defaced, and broken in two, by being carelessly tossed down by the workmen. It was a curioua piece. Amid other musicians who brought up the rear, ww an angel playing on the Highland bagpipe-a national conceit, which appears also on the entablature of one of the pillars of the supremely elegant Gothic chapel at Roslin.”
Volume 9 Page 294
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222 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. Thus, so far from misapplying their funds, they might at once produce E beautiful summerhouse, or termination of a vista, and discharge an imperious debt they owe to their countrymen and t o posterity-the preservation and transmission of those specimens of Scottish workmanship of remote ages. Such a building, composed chiefly of antique carved stones, may be seen near St. Bernard‘s Well, in the policy, or pleasure-grounds of the gentleman last-mentioned ;l and Portobello Tower, built by Mr. Cunningham, consists principally of the sculptured and ornamented stones found in the houses which were pulled down to make way far the South Bridge.”’ The suggestions of the I antiquary were not attended to by the Managers. The Hospital, which was opened in 1802, is capable of containing sixty-six pensioners, but the Governors have never been able to make provision for more than forty-two persons.8 The internal management is committed to the charge of a House-Governor, or Chaplain, and a Governess, who act under the immediate direction of the Treasurer-the whole being under the control of the Board of General Governors. In the Council Room of the Hospital is a capital painting of the founder, by Sir- James Foulis of Woodhall, Bart., in which the venerable proprietor of Spylaw is represented as seated on a rudely formed chair, or summer-seat, in the garden, with his hands resting on his staff. His countenance has all the mildness of expression observable in the Etching by Kay.‘ The School endowed by Mr. Gillespie stands entirely detached from the Hospital. The number of children taught average one hundred and fifty. The first teacher was Mr. John Robertson, who held the situation at the opening of the school in 1803 ; and was aided by an assistant. 1 “ Mr. Walter Ross, a gentleman of much taste and suavity of manners, whose memory is cherished by all who knew him, and know how to estimate probity, honour, and rare accomplishments, of which Mr. Ross possessed an eminent share indeed. The delight which he took iu works of art and antiquities led him to collect some curious fragments of old buildings about Edinburgh, some of which he has preserved by fixing them in and about the tower, under which his remains lie buried: In the middle of the field in which this turret is built, a huge block of freestone stands erect ; it is partly cut out in the form of a human figure, and, if report speaks truly, it was intended by the then magistrates of Edinburgh to form the effigy of Oliver Cromuell : but the Restoration put an end to the design ; and the fine equestrian statue of Charles II., to be seen in the Parliament Square, was, by the prudent magistrates, ordered in its stead. In consequence, the above shapeless mass lay upwards of a century and a half neglected and unknown, till Mr. Ross, having obtained possession of this precious piece of antiquity, placed it upright with its face fronting the city; in which position it remains a standing joke against the unsteady loyalty of the times.”-Camphell‘s Journdy from Edinburgh. Among other curiosities collected by Mr. RQSS, were four heads, in alto relieve, which formerly were placed over the arches of the Cross of Edinburgh : also the baptismal fonts belonging to St. Ninian’s Chapel, which stood near the Register House. a Many of the carved stones of Wrytes House are preserved at Woodhouselee. a In a late article in the Scottish Pilot newspaper, this circumstance WBS earnestly recommended to the notice of the public, with the view of promoting the funds of the Institution. “The cost of the establishment,” says the statement, “for the maintenance of each Inmate, is from &12 to 215 per annum-the rate varying according to the price of provisions and other contingencies. If the latter sum ia assumed to be necessary, and BS the Governors can dispose of money bearing interest at five per cent. a-sum of S7000, or thereby, would sufiice for the required object-the support of twentyfour additional inmates-that being the number of vacancies in the Institution.” ‘ At the time Kay executed the Print he resided in one of the flats above the shop of the tobacconists, from wbom, it is said, he received five pounds to suppress it. It is more probable that the five pounds were given for the miniature. The one appean to be a copy of the other.
Volume 9 Page 295
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