In exploring the built heritage of Edinburgh's Old and New Towns, there are several architects whose names crop up regularly.
William Playfair, Robert Adam, and Thomas Hamilton are just three of the figures whose buildings and grand designs help to give the city its sense of style.
But there are other architects whose buildings were never finished, or have long since been demolished - and then there's James Craig, whose influence on the city was extensive but in a more subtle way.
There are no public memorials to James Craig. Only one structure that he designed still stands in the city, and at the time of his death he was buried in an unmarked grave. But Craig's influence was integral to the city as it stands today, over two centuries after his death - because his was the vision which gave the Georgian-era New Town its distinctive grid system of intersecting straight lines.
Born in Edinburgh in 1739, Craig's father was a city merchant, and his mother was the sister of the poet who wrote the lyrics to Rule, Britannia!. James was the only one of the six children to survive infancy, and was educated at George Watson's Hospital, a school founded to educate the sons of city merchants.
Craig left school in 1755, at the age of 16, and in 1759 began six years of training as an apprentice mason and architect. Despite his work, he appears never to have formally sat his exams, and was never officially a member of the incorporated trades register of architects in the city.
In 1765, the city of Edinburgh launched a public competition to design a layout for the proposed New Town expansion to allow the city to grow across the valley to the north of the mouldering Old Town. Seven architects entered the contest, among them was an idea for a plan drawn up by James Craig.
There is a degree of uncertainty over what Craig's plan looked like at this stage. If you look at the protrait of Craig at the top of this page, you'll see the plans on which he's working resemble the New Town but with a circular element which never manifested in the development of 1767....
There is a suggestion that Craig's original vision took inspiration from the design of the Union Flag which had been drawn up following the union with England in 1707, featuring an element of diagonal streets linking to a central 'circus' - there's even a hand-annotated map which can be viewed at the National Library of Scotland archive of maps which shows what this version of the New Town might have been expected to resemble.
If this was Craig's vision, it would account for him being chosen as the winner of the competition - celebrating the new union was one key intention with Edinburgh's New Town project - but was fundamentally a problematic design. The landscape on which the New Town was developed is a high ridge of rock with steep valleys to its north and south, and constructing a circular intersection at the summit of this ridge would have been architecturally challenging at the time.
So although Craig was picked as there winner, he is believed to have then worked with the council authorities to develop his plan and his vision into a form that would be architecturally practical. And the grid system of the New Town as we know it today was that improved form.
Craig's original drawings for the New Town can be seen today in the Museum of Edinburgh on the Royal Mile. In a case nearby are Craig's pencil case and pens which he used in his work as a draughtsman.
But the layout of the city streets of the New Town are the best celebration of his vision for a modern city - the first example of comprehensive town planning in the UK, and the first time a British city had been built from scratch to a specific plan.
Craig was set for a career as a master architect and town planner - at a time when Edinburgh was growing and building at a faster rate than ever before.
Except Craig was, in the eyes of some of the city's master masons and architectural practitioners, an unqualified amateur - and having been given the opportunity and prestige of laying out the New Town over some of the era's best-known builders and designers, he was considered an unwelcome upstart. So he never fully developed the career he might have anticipated, and although he was associated with a number of major projects in the city, relatively few developed into paid employment for him.
He did build the original headquarters for the Royal College of Physicians, on George Street - the grandest street of his iconic development. The building was constructed in the 1770s, directly opposite St Andrew's Church (now St Andrew's and St George's) on the site of The Dome bar and restaurant today.
As that notation indicates, Craig's building no longer stands - it was never finished to his (or the College's) satisfaction due to rising costs, and in 1843 the building was demolished in order for David Rhind's banking hall for the Commercial Bank of Scotland.
In 1790 Craig was employed to redesign the stable block of Newhailes House, James Smith's Palladian estate property in East Lothian, and was employed to produce engineering plans and drawings for a variety of grand country properties across Scotland.
The only project in Edinburgh which James Craig built and which remains visible to visitors today can be found at the top of Calton Hill at the eastern end of the New Town.
Designed and built in the late 1770s, the City Observatory was a public installation which provided access to the latest astronomical and scientific instruments - when the money ran out in 1777, the building had only been part finished, and would later be completed in 1792.
Although the bulk of the observatory complex was redeveloped by Playfair in the 19th century, the western elevation with its gothic tower still stands today.
Towards the end of his life, Craig had been living his uncle at a house at the bottom of the West Bow in the Grassmarket. His financial situation was precarious because of the lack of work, and any income from cash-in-hands jobs he was able to secure went straight to paying off his creditors.
He had only ever had one paid employment south of the border in England, and Craig lamented in one letter to a friend that he received few offers of work which deviated from what he described as "the monotony of the straight line", a reference to his iconic work designing the grid system New Town.
Craig died of tuberculosis on 23 June 1795. He was buried in an unmarked family plot in the Greyfriars Kirkyard, just a stone's throw from the house in which he died. His grave today is marked with a stone noting his influence on the New Town.
I think it's a shame Craig remains overlooked and broadly uncelebrated, despite the impact his vision had on the Scottish capital. But despite never having achieved his full potential as a grand designer, Craig's influence on Edinburgh was unmistakable and iconic - and still there for visitors to see!
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As the world's first UNESCO City of Literature, Edinburgh is renowned for its literary influences and connections. Chief among the figures frequently celebrated is Robert Louis Stevenson, who was born in the city on 13 November 1850.
Stevenson is still widely read with works such as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and one story that has a particular connection to Edinburgh itself, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
To mark 170 years of Stevenson's influence and legacy in Edinburgh, here are eight locations in the city associated with this literary giant.
17 Heriot Row
The Stevensons moved to this grand address in Edinburgh's New Town when Robert Louis Stevenson was six years old, and he spent the bulk of his childhood at this address.
As a child he was prone to illness, especially problems with his lungs and his breathing, and so was rarely allowed to go out into the damp Scottish climate to play with the other children of the neighbourhood.
Directly across the road from the house is Queen Street Gardens, a private garden space, where Stevenson would watch the other children playing, from the safety of the drawing room on the first floor of the house.
In these gardens is a pond, with a small island in the centre of it. Literary historians have speculated that it was from watching the children playing around this pond and its island that Stevenson came up with the ideas of what became Treasure Island.
During the summers of the late 1870s, Stevenson spent much of his time in this picturesque village on the side of the Pentland Hills, to the south of Edinburgh.
His father had rented one of the properties, and Stevenson used the village as the inspiration for his unfinished novel St Ives, written in parallel with The Weir of Hermiston, which he did manage to complete.
Today the village of Swanston is still a rural retreat from the city of Edinburgh itself, with access to the hills, and remains popular with dog walkers and ramblers.
Another local setting which Stevenson borrowed for his writing was one of the many hills which make up Edinburgh's landscape. Corstorphine is to the west of the city, towards Edinburgh airport, and features in Kidnapped, Stevenson's adventure story set in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite Uprising.
The book ends with the two main characters form the story - David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart - going their separate ways on Corstorphine Hill. Today a statue of the figures by the artist Alexander Stoddart can be found on Corstorphine Road, near the location where the scene from the book is set.
Princes Street Gardens
Stevenson spent the latter years of his life on an island in Samoa, in the Pacific Ocean. He integrated into the community there, who named him 'Tusitala', meaning 'Teller of tales', and on his death in 1894 he was buried in a spot overlooking the ocean, a reminder of his time as a traveller, journeying in the way many of his characters did in their respective stories.
So he has no formal grave in Edinburgh, his hometown. Instead, in Princes Street Gardens, surrounded by a glade of birch trees, is a simple commemorative headstone bearing his initials, RLS, and the legend 'A man of letters'.
The Writers' Museum
One place where Stevenson is celebrated fully is in Edinburgh's Writers' Museum, a small building celebrating the life and work of three of Scotland's greatest literary figures - Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, along with Robert Louis Stevenson.
The museum can be found on Lady Stair's Close, off the Lawnmarket on the Royal Mile. It's a free entry museum and is worth exploring for anyone interested in the lives of the writers featured.
Stevenson was known for living the lifestyle of a nineteenth-century writer, which meant (broadly) significant amounts of drink, drugs, and a fondness for prostitutes... One of the bars in which he drank still survives, and is today an Italian restaurant in the Old Town.
The Hispaniola was a bar popular with writers, poets and figures associated with the University of Edinburgh, and Stevenson is known to have spent time here with figures like William Henley, a writer and poet who had a large red beard and only one leg, the other having been amputated after a childhood illness...
The Hispaniola bar helped give Stevenson the name for the ship in Treasure Island, and surely a one-legged bearded man must have inspired that story's notorious pirate, Long John Silver?
Another suburb of the city where Stevenson spent time was Colinton, a small village near to Swanston where he spent time during his childhood. Stevenson's grandfather was minister of the church in Colinton, and the area provided young Robert with plenty of space to roam and explore and develop his interest in the natural world.
Today Colinton remains a peaceful residential suburb of Edinburgh, with the Water of Leith running through the area, and visitors can find a small statue of a boy playing with his dog, near to a heritage and nature trail. The boy in the statue is Robert Louis Stevenson, and his dog is Coolin, Stevenson's own childhood pet.
My final Edinburgh location which has a Stevenson connection is Chessel's Court in the Old Town, just off the Canongate section of the Royal Mile.
It was here in 1787 that a robbery took place, masterminded by Deacon William Brodie, the man whose life would help to inspire Stevenson's most enduring (and influential) character study - that of the duality of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde...
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Of all the figures who have shaped or influenced Edinburgh's development through the ages, one man probably deserves ultimate recognition for creating not just the visual appeal of the city as we know, but for developing the very principles which underpin Edinburgh's heritage sector.
Patrick Geddes had a major influence in a variety of different fields and subjects during his life, and Edinburgh was the focus of several of his major ideas for city planning and heritage preservation. He was born on 2 October 1854, in Aberdeenshire, and his journeys would take him not just across Scotland but around the globe.
Geddes's primary interest was in the natural world, and his career incorporated work as a zoology professor (in Edinburgh), botany (in Dundee), sociology (at the University of Bombay, now Mumbai), and town planning (in Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv - which became the only modern city fully laid out to Geddes's plans).
His diversity of interest led him to criticise the tendency for scientists to specialise in a particular field to the exclusion of others - the interconnectedness of the natural world and human civilisation was key to his multi-faceted approach to life.
The emblem of the three doves (seen on the sign of the steps which bear Geddes's name in Edinburgh's Old Town today) was a motif he used throughout his work, symbolising the three factors which he considered important in any work of human endeavour - hand, heart and head (in that order of priority).
In Geddes's Edinburgh, at the end of the nineteenth- and turn of the twentieth centuries, the crumbling structures of the medieval Old Town were being ritually demolished and replaced with 'modern' Victorian buildings. This improved their function, but lost the history and heritage of the older structures. Dismayed by this sacrificing of the old in favour of the new, Geddes experimented with a new way of thinking about urban development, which combined modernisation with historical preservation.
In 1886 Geddes and his wife purchased a block of eighteenth-century buildings on James Court, just off the Lawnmarket, which at that time had become a dense, dirty and overcrowded slum district.
Instead of demolishing the buildings, Geddes oversaw a project which he described as "conservative surgery" - he had the worst buildings removed, in order to improve the situation for the surviving structures. Creating more space, with more light, and a better flow of fresh air through the site, Geddes then renovated the surviving buildings to improve conditions. The site became a halls of residence for Edinburgh University students.
Geddes's next major project in the city was to take over the Outlook Tower on Castlehill, which had been built in the 1850s as Maria Short's Observatory and Museum of Science. Today the building survives as the city's Camera Obscura.
Geddes arranged the exhibitions in the building in order of focus, beginning on the ground floor with an overview of world geography, on the next floor was Europe, then the United Kingdom, then Scotland, and finally a feature dedicated to Edinburgh itself. The camera obscura on the very top of the building provided a real-time demonstration of Geddes's vision of Edinburgh as a living, breathing, developing city.
This sociological laboratory, as he described it, put the emphasis on observation and study as a means of understanding the world, and from that his ethos of 'diagnosis before treatment' - to understand a thing before an attempt to improve or renovate it. He disagreed with a trend at that time to build or develop a city with a pre-ordained sense of how its users would interact with it - better, Geddes thought, to understand how a historic population had grown to use their space, how a city had been shaped by its inhabitants, and to develop from that.
Across the Royal Mile from James Court was Riddle's Court, another run-down and poorly maintained building, this time a survivor from the sixteenth century. Riddle's Court had previously been associated with high status figures like the Enlightenment philosopher David Hume, as well as having hosted James VI of Scotland his new wife for a banquet in their honour in 1598. By the 1890s the building was overcrowded, with terrible sanitation, and was ripe for demolition.
Instead, Geddes brought to bear his 'conservative surgery' method, stripping away the parts of the development which couldn't be saved, and transforming the remainder of the building into another student accommodation block, in which he also implemented the outrageous idea (for the time) of letting the student living here govern themselves! They set their own in-house policies, and were responsible for maintaining the building to suit their needs.
Riddle's Court was recently renovated by the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, and today houses the Patrick Geddes Centre, a conservation and learning organisation founded on Geddes's principles.
As well as the large buildings and gardens which survive as monuments to Geddes's vision, smaller details of the city also reflect his influence on the city. Notably on Wardrop's Court, another lane leading off the Royal Mile.
At the entrance to the lane are two colourful dragon sculptures, commissioned by Geddes during his extensive renovations of the nearby structures.
Most poignantly, the pair of dragons on the inner court were carved not by a master craftsman, but by Geddes's youngest son, Arthur, with guidance from the sculptor Alec Miller.
They may not be as refined and expertly finished as the outer dragons, but they stand as a direct connection to Geddes family itself.
Past the dragons is the small courtyard of Lady Stair's Close, home to the Writers' Museum and sometimes known as Makars' Court.
Lady Stair's House itself is another of Geddes's renovations, though not one he undertook himself. Rather he convinced the Earl of Rosebery, a distant relation of the original owner of the building, to buy the property back from Edinburgh Council in order to repair and restore the structure.
Today the building has a decorative plaque bearing both the date of its original construction (1622) and the date of its restoration (1897)
One of Geddes's perennial concerns was the amount of green space in the Old Town of Edinburgh - or rather the lack of it. Geddes recognised the need for people to have access to open space, to have contact with the natural world in the heart of the densely crowded city.
As such, he introduced a number of urban gardens into spaces left vacant by buildings which had been removed, or created green spaces with the intention of having them with public access for local people to enjoy as they saw fit. Examples of Geddes's gardens can be found around the Grassmarket, tucked away behind buildings or up narrow alleys, and further down the Royal Mile, off Canongate, is one of his original spaces which was renovated in the 1970s.
Dunbar's Close Garden is a recreation of an eighteenth century private garden, on land that was acquired by Geddes in the nineteenth century. It continues to offer a peaceful escape from the busyness of the city, and a secret oasis of tranquility just off the Royal Mile.
There are significant numbers of other buildings and lanes which bear the mark of Geddes's interventions to preserve and maintain them, but the one which most visitors notice at some point during their visit stands right in front of Edinburgh Castle.
Ramsay Garden was where Geddes himself lived for a time, in a development which began in the 1740s by the poet and librarian Allan Ramsay. This distinctive pink and white coloured building was built as a collection of private apartments designed for each individual family who lived in them, and as such the building has no fixed floor plan over its levels, but is instead a series of properties all constructed and laid out according to the the needs of each separate family.
Today flats in this building are some of the most sought after and highly valued properties in Edinburgh, with commanding views over the New Town to the north, or across to the mighty fortress of Edinburgh Castle itself.
And to think that without Geddes's vision and commitment to preserving the city's ancient structures and fitting them to the needs of the contemporary society, so many of these historic features may have been (as so many others were) lost to the merciless swing of the demolition ball in the nineteenth century development boom.
Truly, it is Sir Patrick Geddes to whom we owe a debt of gratitude of gifting us the modern Old Town of Edinburgh.
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