Regular viewers may have twigged that I spend rather a lot of time trawling through old pictures. I've been looking at this one on the @NatGalleriesSco site, the photographer and date are unknown, but the location of The Shore in Leith is not in dispute.…
Have a look for yourself though, the detail crammed into it is seemingly limitless. You really do have to doff your cap at the skill, art and science of Victorian photographers.
Let's delve into the photo deeper. The sailing ship is the Rita. She's drawing 5 feet just now so must be mostly unloaded. The open hatches further suggest this.
Rita has a "Plimsoll Line" marking. Samuel Plimsoll was an MP who campaigned for maritime safety. The Plimsoll Line is a set of markings that specify the safe loading depth of a ship. Plimsoll was resisted by shipowners, but his mark became law in 1876. So our photo is after that
Two men working on Rita, one seems to be coiling a rope, both are clearly aware of and paying attention to the photographer
Behind Rita, you could mistake it for the quayside, but it's a rather solidly and crudely built, slab-sided sailing vessel, possibly some sort of collier. She has a single mast, a large sail and a very rudimentary and short forecastle.
Behind the unknown ship is the King's Landing tavern and lodgings. Named for the visit of King George IV in 1822, it's now partly the Ship on the Shore seafood restaurant
And that ship sign, above the lantern bracket, or a reproduction of it, is still there too
A busy scene outside the tailors. People go buy, a couple holding hands, a horse and cart waits, someone holds a parasol. The name above the door is F. Schmidt, a reminder that there were quite a number of northern Europeans long native to Leith
Outside the confectioners at No. 32 a line of barrels are waiting. What's in them? Is it beer or water for that ship? Something for the confectioners? Where are they going and where have they been?
A flick through the Post Office directories tells us this confectioners was long the business of one W. Crawford. Those with long memories may recall "Crawfords the Bakers". This is the shop where it all began.…
Above the bakers, a wee laddie peers out his attic the window at the world below. Notice also the even smaller dormer next to the chimney above.
Out of focus in the front of shot is a lamp bracker, property of the Leith Harbour Commissioners. It has the form of an oil lamp bracket, but has a small gas spigot so probably was converted. The glass is missing, was it vandalised?
The lamps on The Shore were some of the oldest public street lighting in Scotland and have their own interesting history including the drunken Russian sailors who drank all the lamp oil and caused a blackout in Leith
On the corner of Bernard Street, the "Clock" building, the premises of Mackenzie & Storrie, nautical chart sellers. This Scots Baronial style tenement was built in 1864, the architect James Anderson Hamilton. It's positively crammed full of Perseveres and Leith coats of arms
Bernard Street is busy as ever. The shop in the background appears to be selling Nestle's Milk. Even in these simpler times you can rarely move for corporate advertising - especially in more workaday neighbourhoods.
Speaking of which, there's an utterly gigantic roof-top billboard for the same product hiding in plain sight on the rooftops! Doubt that lasted the first gales of winter.
There's quite such a crowd here, not just to watch the Rita pass, but because the "Lower Drawbridge" is up for her and they can't cross the river without heading upstream to the Sandport Street "Upper Drawbridge".
The premises at No. 36 The Shore is of Rutherford & Co., who had a number of higher class taverns around the town. One is now well restored on Drummond Street as the Hispaniola restaurant
(the others long succumbed to the Edinburgh wrecking ball)
I believe this very large building in the background that towers over everything was the Queen's Tobacco Warehouse, where all tobacco landed in Leith was held until duty was paid.
So when might the photo have been taken? We know it's most likely after 1876 from the Plimsoll Line on "Rita". A lot of flicking back and forth on PO directories shows us that Mackenzie & Storrie don't take over the premises on the corner of Bernard Street until 1876/7
Nestle's Milk (the Anglo-Swiss Milk Company) reached British shores in 1873, so that doesn't help tie it down further.
F. Schmidt, Tailors and Outfitters at No. 30 the Shore never appear in the PO directories, but then lots of smaller businesses never do.
But then there's this. *This*, if I'm not mistaken, is an *electric* street light. One of the first in Leith. These ornamental standards were made by Macdowall Steven and Co Ltd in Glasgow when Leith got the 'leccy. That would push us all the way into the early 20th century
You'll have seen these lamps if you've ever stoated around Old Leith. If you haven't, you weren't looking.…
Round about 1905-1910, the Bernard Street drawbridge was replaced by a swing bridge to allow the electric tram to cross here (the whole lot rotated, poles, cables, rails and all), so it's before then. (Pic © Edinburgh City Libraries)
Now what bugs me about this image is there's absolutely no sign of the drawbridge in it. It *should* be there, it was a substantial stone structure and the draw section would be obvious when raised. It's the rearmost in this picture (Pic © Edinburgh City Libraries)
So the only conclusion I can draw is that the bridge isn't there in the picture because... it isn't there. Is this picture taken in the period between the old drawbridge being demolished and the new swing bridge being put into place about 1905?
And it *has* to be before 1905 as otherwise we'd see all the overhead cables for the electric Leith Corporation tram along Bernard to Commercial streets. The previous horse tram only ran as far as the wider part of Bernard Street.
So who was plying their trade on the Shore in 1904? At no. 1 ("The Tower") is the Leith & Kirkcaldy Shipping Co. Next door at what is now "The Shore" mussel bar, is John Barton, Spirit Merchant.
one door down at no. 5-6 is John Cran & Co., shipbuilders. Now George Brown & sons, a long established marine engineers.
Maritime House, at no. 8 the shore, once the local branch of the National Union of Seamen, but extensive rebuilding and remodelling have erased all traces of the 1904 ground floor frontage.
At 16 - 22 the Shore, again demolition and sympathetic rebuilding has taken place, but an old door lintel from 20 survives, "CHRISTUS [REX] REGUM, QUI NON DORMITA[T I]N AEVVM PROTEGAT HANC AEDEM, NECNON SIN[E] CRIMINEPLEBEM"
Or, "May Christ, King of Kings, who sleepeth not for all time to come, keep this house in safety and its people free from sin". In 1904 this was the New Ship Lodging House, prop. Charles W. Murrison.
we have covered Mackenzie, Storrie and Rutherfords already on either side of Bernard Street. The other premises visible in this photo would be the Leith and Iceland Shipping Co. and the Leith Steam Tugs Offices at no. 42 and... no. 43 the East of Scotland Irish Nationalist's Club! 🇮🇪 I have absolutely no idea about them, and the internet doesn't seem to either beyond PO directory listings.
And we can tell pretty much exactly where the photographer stood, as they handily kept that old lamp post in shot.
Addendum. I have spotted the swing bridge, hiding in plain sight! Because it's swung partially open it's hard to make it out. So it is pre-tram (which I now think went across in 1909), but post electric light (c. 1904). So I think the photo must be 1905-1909 most likely.

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More from @cocteautriplets

30 Aug
I have previously gone into a bit of detail about the last days of Henry Robbs, Leith's last shipyard. But thought I might also fill out a bit of the middle too
Robb was quite late on the scene, only forming in 1918 when one of the yard managers from Ramage & Fergusons, Leith's major shipbuilder, struck out on his own. That was Henry Robb
Robb grew in the post-war slump by buying up slipway capacity from older shipyards. By 1934 they bought over Ramage & Ferguson themselves and became the only major shipbuilder in Leith.
Read 65 tweets
23 Aug
I am probably going to get pelters for this. But here we go. Scottish politicians as WW2 British Aircraft...
Jackson Carlaw - Fairey Albacore.
A big, imposing appearance but old-fashioned looking. Distinctly underpowered. Tried its best and had a few small successes but its career at the top was very short. Had the ignominy to be outlived by its own predecessor.
Ian Blackford - Short Sunderland.
Had a long development in the commercial sector in the service of the wealthy. Proved to be adaptable into a into a tough, effective workhorse that could take a lot of punishment from its opponents. At home off the west coast of Scotland.
Read 39 tweets
31 Mar
I would like this morning to deal with a troubling subject. Why does London Road have an almost imperceptible kink in it through Abbeyhill, and why does Lower London Road lead off it at a super acute angle, only to reconnect further up? ImageImage
Let's start with a little bit of background on London Road. The name is obvious in its root; it was the route to the east (therefore South) out of the city. It was planned in the early 19th c. as part of the Calton New Town, the final phase of expansion of Georgian Edinburgh.
Ainslie's map of 1804 shows the tortuous route into the city from the east, along what is now Royal Park Terrace and Spring Gardens to Abbeyhill and the Canongate and around the south flank of Calton Hill. A new road was planned to bypass the lot (attribution: NLS) Image
Read 27 tweets
7 Feb
These handles are door pulls for the close door. Pull the handle and via an elaborate system of wires, conduits, cranks and pulleys buried in the tenement wall, you could open the front door from your own landing
Here is where the lifting cable exited our close wall and ran round a pulley to the other side, to work the lift mechanism
The close door had a lifting latch, worked by an "Odell Key" or "French Latch Lifter". You put your key in and instead of turning, you lifted it, and it lifted the latch if it was the correct shape. These were common to Scottish tenements from the late 18th century onwards
Read 14 tweets
4 Feb
There was some chat the other week about place names that were so bewildering as to how they should be pronounced that they were the shibboleth of the "real" local. One which kept coming up for Edinburgh was "Sciennes".
First things first, it's Sciennes as in Sheens as in Machine Ma- or Rise of the Ma-
And the name comes directly from St. Catherine of Siena, a convent in her honour being established in the locality in 1517. In Scots, Siena was Seynis or Schiennes. From there it's a short leap to the modern Sciennes, but the pronunciation has remained true to the original
Read 24 tweets
27 Jan
So I wasn't actually intentionally on the look out for old SNP leaflets earlier. I was after something *much* more interesting (depending on your point of view!) There's much talk about "city mobility" in Edinburgh just now, so lets look at an earlier attempt.


or... City of Edinburgh Rapid Transport.

A guided busway from the Airport to the city centre via the Gyle and the direct fore runner of the current tram line.
CERT was first mooted in about 1993 by Lothian Regional Council and the City of Edinburgh District Council during the depths of Majorism and the uninspired graphic design and woeful branding is very appropriate for the time.
Read 51 tweets

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