Part two of my trawl through Edinburgh in an alphabetic fashion (read about A to C here) brought to you by the letters D, E and F!
THE LETTER D
D is for Dumbiedykes, an area of the city between Holyrood Road and Holyrood Park. Today it's a housing area, but historically was the site of the UK's first school for deaf and dumb children. Founded in the 1760s by Thomas Braidwood, the school was unique in tailoring its teaching to the needs of pupils who would ordinarily be excluded from standard schooling. Braidwood developed a form of what became sign language, and also taught children the skill of lip-reading.
In 1783, Braidwood and his family moved to London, and re-established their school there, expanding and developing their services until Braidwood's death in 1806, when the school was taken over by Braidwood's youngest daughter, Isabella. A grandson, John Braidwood, established a school for deaf children in Virginia, US, in 1812.
Today little remains of the original Braidwood Academy, except a few crumbling sections of wall, marked by a commemorative plaque, but the area in which it stood became known as Dumbiedykes (with a silent 'b'), a pejorative nickname acquired because of the large number of deaf and 'dumb' children who would be found there.
THE LETTER E
E is for Enric Miralles, the Catalan architect who designed the new Scottish Parliament building. Built on a regenerated industrial site at Holyrood, the parliament offers a splash of post-modernism amongst the city's predominantly classic architecture, and is a building filled with symbolism and imagery.
Miralles' vision for the parliament was that it should reflect a variety of elements of Scottish culture and heritage, the idea being that the building as a whole symbolised Scotland as a whole.
Unfortunately, Miralles died before the building could be completed. Aged just 45 when he died of a brain tumour in July 2000, Miralles' parliament building had to be completed under the guidance of another lead architect, Benedetta Tagliabue, Miralles' wife.
The parliament was designed as a public building, with free entry to visitors to explore its interior spaces, which are (broadly) more attractive than the exterior of the buildings. In architecture, as in life, it's what's inside that counts!
THE LETTER F
F is for Fleshmarket Close, one of the narrow lanes and alleys - the 'closes' - of Edinburgh's Old Town. These lanes run off the Royal Mile, into the steep gullies on either side of the city, and remain some of the most evocative and atmospheric parts of the Old Town.
Edinburgh's closes were named for significant people who lived on them, or the trades and businesses based there - Fleshmarket Close was a butcher's market, where meat would be hung along the alley, blood dripping down the steep incline of the lane to drain naturally down to the lake in the valley to the north of the city.
Today, Fleshmarket Close is one of the first visions that greets visitors emerging from Waverley Station, it steps stretching up out of sight - a worthy introduction to a city filled with staircases and alleys!
The crime writer Ian Rankin, who lives in Edinburgh, sets his Inspector Rebus stories in the city, and often utilises the real life locations in his stories. One of his novels is entitled Fleshmarket Close after this dark and brooding passageway through the Old Town.
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