LEITH, a burgh and sea-port town, in the county of Edinburgh, 1½ mile (N. by E.) from Edinburgh, and 392 (N. N. W.) from London; containing, with the parishes of North and South Leith, 28,268 inhabitants. This place, which is of considerable antiquity, formerly belonged to the abbey of Holyrood, and, in a charter of David I. to the monks of that establishment, is noticed under the designation of Inverleith, from its position near the influx of the river or Water of Leith into the Frith of Forth. Its earlier history is almost identified with that of the city of Edinburgh, of which it forms a kind of suburb, and within the jurisdiction of which, notwithstanding its charter of incorporation, it is still in some respects essentially included. Previously to the commencement of the fourteenth century, though possessing every advantage of situation, it had acquired little importance as a commercial town: in 1329, its harbour, and the mills which had been erected, were obtained by the corporation of Edinburgh, by grant from Robert Bruce, on the payment of fifty-two merks annually. In 1398, Sir Robert Logan, lord of Restalrig, and superior of the town, resisted the claims of the corporation to the banks of the river of Leith, which they consequently bought of him for a very considerable sum; and in 1561 the superiority of the burgh, which had been sold by his family to Mary, queen of James V., then regent, for 10,000 merks, was purchased from Mary, Queen of Scots, by the town-council of Edinburgh, by whom the inhabitants of Leith were held in a state of abject vassalage. By act of the corporation, they were restrained from carrying on any trade, and from the building of warehouses for the reception of merchandise landed at the port, which, immediately on its arrival, was forwarded to Edinburgh. They were also prohibited from keeping shops of any kind, and from opening inns or houses of entertainment for strangers, or even for passengers arriving by the vessels; nor was it permitted that any merchant in Edinburgh should enter into partnership with an inhabitant of Leith, under a penalty of forty shillings and forfeiture of the freedom of the city for one year. In 1313, and also in 1410, the town suffered severely from the English, who burnt all the ships in the harbour; and in 1488, after the battle of Bannockburn, it was seized by the insurgent nobility who had taken arms against James III., during whose occupation of it the Frith of Forth was scoured by the ships of Sir Andrew Wood, the firm adherent of that monarch, with whose successor, James IV., he afterwards held an interview at this place.
   The town was plundered in 1544 by the English forces under the Earl of Hertford, who had landed at Royston with an army of 10,000 men, and who, after securing the whole of the vessels in the harbour, and leaving 1500 of his soldiers here, advanced to Edinburgh, on his return from which, previously to the embarkation of his troops, he set fire to Leith. The place suffered a similar calamity in 1547, from the same leader, then Duke of Somerset, who seized thirty-five vessels at that time in the Frith. In 1549, the French General D'Esse landed at Leith with a force of 6000 men, for the assistance of the queen regent against the lords of the congregation, and strongly fortified the town, which the lords fruitlessly endeavoured to take by escalade, but which subsequently surrendered by capitulation. It was besieged by the English in 1560; and two of the mounds raised by the troops on that occasion, and from which they discharged their artillery, are still to be seen on the Links. In 1561, Mary, Queen of Scots, upon her return from France, landed here on the 20th of August, and, after remaining for a few hours to rest from the fatigue of the voyage, proceeded to Edinburgh, where she was received with joyful acclamations. Not long afterwards, the fortifications, which consisted of an octangular rampart, defended with strong bastions at the angles, were demolished by order of the corporation of Edinburgh; but the town was partly fortified by the Earl of Morton in 1571, when the regency was held by the Earl of Lennox, who made it his residence, and held his court here for some time, during which the misunderstandings between him and Morton frequently involved the inhabitants in all the calamities of civil war. In 1590, James VI. landed here with his queen, Anne of Denmark; he arrived in the roads on the 1st of May, but was compelled, from want of accommodation in the town, to remain on board till the 6th, during the preparation of Holyrood palace for his reception.
   At the commencement of the war in the reign of Charles I., it was proposed again to fortify Leith; and considerable progress was made in the works by numerous volunteers who gratuitously gave their assistance, persons even of the higher classes undertaking the performance of most laborious tasks. In 1643, the solemn league and covenant was zealously subscribed by the inhabitants, who almost exclusively embraced the doctrines of the reformed religion. During the continuance of the plague in 1645, not less than 2430 persons fell victims to its ravages, and, for want of room in the churchyards, were buried in the Links, where immense quantities of human bones, wrapped in blankets, have at various times been discovered. In 1650, the town was taken possession of by the army of Cromwell, who made it their head-quarters, and levied monthly contributions on the inhabitants. After Cromwell's return to England, General Monk, his commander-in-chief, built a strong fortress here called the Citadel, at an expense of £10,000; but the site of this fortress, which was in the form of a pentagon, with bastions at the angles, and having an entrance towards the east, is now occupied by the buildings of the docks and the Mariners' church, recently erected. During the residence of Monk in the town, he induced several English families to settle here, who contributed greatly towards the establishment of its subsequent commercial prosperity.
   In 1705, Capt. Green, of the Worcester East Indiaman, who had taken shelter in the harbour, was, by a singular incident, recognised as having committed murder and piracy on the crew of a Scottish vessel off the coast of Malabar, and, together with three of his crew who had been concerned in that transaction, was hanged within the flood-mark, on the shore. During the enterprise of the Pretender in 1715, Brigadier Mc Intosh of Borlane, with a party of his adherents, took possession of the citadel, which he occupied for some time; but, being pursued by the Duke of Argyll, he evacuated the post in the night, and, after plundering the custom-house, and liberating the prisoners in the gaol, retreated over the sands at low water. In 1779, a party of Highland recruits who had enlisted into the 42nd and 71st regiments, refusing to embark on board the transport vessels in the harbour, a serjeant with a detachment of soldiers was sent from Edinburgh Castle to enforce order, when a violent conflict arose, and the serjeant being twice severely wounded by the Highlanders, his party fired upon the mutineers, of whom twelve were killed, and twenty severely wounded. In the same year, the appearance of the notorious pirate, Paul Jones, with three armed vessels, excited some alarm; and a battery of nine guns was erected to the west of the citadel, to protect the town from the threatened invasion: but a storm which arose, dispersing his vessels, delivered the inhabitants from all further apprehension. The town was anciently celebrated for its public games, of which golf was the most prevalent; and it was while he was engaged in this sport, on the Links, that Charles I. was informed of the Irish rebellion, when he instantly left the ground, and on the following day returned to London. Races were formerly held on the sands, under the patronage of the corporation of Edinburgh, who annually gave a purse, and attended them in their habits of ceremony; but in 1816, they were transferred to the Links of Musselburgh, where they are still held, and numerously attended. George IV., on his visit to Scotland in 1822, arrived in the Leith roads on the 14th of August, and on the following day landed at the harbour, and was received by a vast concourse of the nobility and gentry, attended by the civic functionaries, who escorted him from the town to the palace of Holyrood House. Leith was also visited by Her present Majesty, when making a tour through her Scottish dominions, in September, 1842; and on the 3rd of that month the provost and magistrates presented a loyal address to the queen, who was then entering the burgh, from Dalmeny Park, on her way to Dalkeith. A triumphal arch was erected on the occasion, and every other means adopted to testify the joyous feelings of the inhabitants.
   The town, which is situated on the south side of the Frith of Forth, at the influx of the Water of Leith, is of considerable extent, and has within the last few years been greatly improved by the erection of several spacious and well-formed streets, crossing each other at right angles. The more ancient part, situated between Kirkgate-street and the river, consists chiefly of narrow lanes and alleys of mean houses, inhabited only by persons of the lowest order; but that portion of the town which is of more modern date is uniformly built, containing handsome houses; and the public buildings are of elegant character. Kirkgate-street, in which are the church of South Leith and the Trinity House, forms a continuation of Leith Walk, a noble line of approach from Edinburgh, and contains several remnants of antiquity, among which was till lately the mansion of the Balmerino family, now demolished, where Charles II. slept on the night of his arrival in Scotland by invitation from the Scottish parliament, in 1650. Other houses are said to have been the occasional residence of the queen regent and of Oliver Cromwell. Parallel with Kirkgate-street is Constitution-street, a handsome and very uniform range of buildings, joined at one extremity by St. Bernard's-street, from which Balticstreet branches off, leading into Salamander-street. Great Junction-street, conducting to the fort, is a spacious avenue; and there are various other regular and wellformed streets. The town is lighted with gas, and amply supplied with water, which is carried by pipes to the houses.
   Two public subscription libraries, containing extensive collections of interesting volumes, are well supported; and card and dancing assemblies take place in an elegant suite of rooms in the Exchange Buildings in Constitution-street, where also are held the meetings of the Philharmonic Society, established in 1831, concerts being given every Wednesday evening from the commencement of October till the end of April: in the same edifice are the library and lecture-room of the mechanics' institution. These Exchange Buildings were erected at an expense of £16,000, and form a spacious structure in the Grecian style of architecture, consisting of a projecting centre and two slightly-projecting wings. In the centre is a stately portico of four Ionic columns, rising from a rusticated basement to the roof, and supporting an entablature and cornice surmounted by a triangular pediment; the wings are also embellished with Ionic columns, between which are entrances to other parts of the building. The interior contains the assembly and concert room, with card, tea, and supper rooms adjoining, a library and reading-room, the lectureroom for the mechanics' institution, already noticed, and the post-office, in addition to the various offices and apartments for the purposes of the exchange. On the Links, behind Constitution-street, are the Seafield baths, to which is attached an hotel, erected in 1803, at an expense of £8000, by a proprietary of £50 shareholders, and replete with every accommodation. At Leith Fort, to the west of the custom-house, are the artillerybarracks, a spacious range. The ancient stone bridge across the Water of Leith, erected by Robert Ballendean, abbot of Holyrood, has been removed, and a handsome bridge of stone erected a little above the town; there are also two bridges of wood over the river, affording facility of communication between the districts of North and South Leith.
   The principal manufactures carried on in the town are those of soap, candles, ropes, cordage, sailcloth, crown-glass, and bottles: there are several breweries, a distillery, a large establishment for the refining of sugar, extensive saw-mills, and cooperages; and in the vicinity are some iron-foundries and other works. The foreign trade of the port is chiefly with the North of Europe and the West Indies, in addition to which it has an important coasting-trade; the principal imports are, wine, tobacco, timber, hemp, and tallow. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port, in 1843, was 263, of the aggregate burthen of 27,897 tons: the number which in that year entered inwards, was 266 British, of 38,647 tons, and 364 foreign, of the burthen of 33,671 tons; and the amount of customs was £628,008. There are three companies engaged in the trade with London, in which they collectively employ twenty-two vessels; five vessels are employed in the trade with Hull, four in that of Newcastle, five in that of Aberdeen, four in the trade with Inverness, several also with Greenock, Wick, Fife, Dundee, Stirling, Liverpool, and other ports, and seven in the Greenland trade. The harbour, upon the improvement of which very considerable sums have been expended without adequate benefit, is under the management of commissioners appointed by act of parliament in 1838. The entrance is defended by a martello tower: at the mouth is a lighthouse with reflecting lamps; and another, with a revolving light, has been erected on the small island of Inch-Keith, in the middle of the Frith, about four miles from the shore. The present docks were commenced in 1800, and completed in 1817, under the superintendence of the late Sir John Rennie, civil engineer, at a cost of £285,000, of which £265,000 were borrowed from government by the corporation of Edinburgh. The two wet-docks are each 250 yards in length and 100 yards in breadth; they are protected from the sea by a strong wall, and are capable of containing 150 ships of ordinary size. On the north side are three graving-docks, each 136 feet long and seventy feet wide, with an entrance thirty-six feet in breadth; and on the south side of the wet-docks is a fine range of spacious warehouses, for the bonding of grain, foreign wines, and other articles of merchandise. The pier has been greatly improved at the joint expense of government and the corporation of Edinburgh: the Leith roads afford good anchorage for vessels of any burthen; and of the vessels employed in the coasting-trade, the greater number lie in the harbour, and the remainder in the wet-docks. Ship-building is carried on to a considerable extent, and there are several yards for that purpose, from which various fine steamers and other vessels have been launched: in 1840, a government steamer and a merchantman of very large dimensions were built here.
   The custom-house, situated on the north side of the harbour, and at the west end of the lower drawbridge, is a fine structure in the Grecian style of architecture, erected in 1812, at a cost of £12,617. In the centre of the principal front, which has a slight projection, is a receding portico of two lofty columns, rising to the roof, and supporting a triangular pediment, in the tympanum of which are the royal arms: the wings also project slightly beyond the main line of the building. The whole edifice is crowned with a handsome entablature and cornice surmounted by a parapet panelled in compartments, and relieved in the, intervals with an open balustrade. The National Bank, in St. Bernard'sstreet, is an elegant building likewise in the Grecian style, two stories in height. The centre of its main front has a semicircular projecting portico of four Ionic columns, sustaining an entablature and cornice continued round the building, and surmounted by a graceful dome; and the front on each side of the portico is embellished with pilasters of corresponding character. In the Tolbooth wynd is the market-place, which is well arranged, provided with convenient stalls, and plentifully supplied with fish and with provisions of all kinds. Facility of communication is maintained with Edinburgh and the neighbourhood by roads kept in excellent order; and a branch of the Edinburgh and Dalkeith railway, four miles in length, has its terminus here, contiguous to which are spacious inclosed yards belonging to the proprietors of the several collieries in the vicinity, whence the inhabitants are chiefly supplied with coal. In July, 1844, an act was obtained for the extension of the Edinburgh and Trinity-pier railway, now called the Edinburgh, Leith, and Granton railway, to Leith and to Granton-pier; these two branch lines have been commenced, and are expected to be completed in 1846, the whole forming a junction with the Edinburgh and Glasgow and the North-British railways.
   The burgh, under a succession of charters from the time of David I. to that of Charles II., by which king they were recited and confirmed, was till recently subordinate to the corporation of Edinburgh; and its government was vested in one of the magistrates of that city, who had the title of Admiral of Leith, and in two resident bailies chosen from the inhabitants of Leith by the Edinburgh town-council. Under the provisions of the Municipal act of the 3rd and 4th of William IV., however, the burgh affairs are entrusted to a provost, four bailies, a treasurer, and ten councillors, appointed according to the directions of that act, and exercising jurisdiction independently of Edinburgh. There are four principal chartered incorporations, viz., the Shipmasters, or the Corporation of the Trinity House, the Merchants' Company, the Maltmen, and the Trades. The last is subdivided into the several crafts of wrights, coopers, hammermen, bakers, tailors, cordiners, fleshers, barbers, and weavers, each of which sends a member to the association of conveners, also deemed a separate corporation. The freedom of the burgh is obtained by entrance into one of these four bodies, for which the fees vary extremely according to the age of the person; in some, from £50 to £150 for strangers, about half that sum for sons and sons-in-law of freemen, and for apprentices from £20 to £30: in other companies the fees are very inconsiderable. The provost is admiral, and the bailies are deputy-admirals, of Leith; they hold courts of admiralty, and, as magistrates of the burgh, courts for the determination of civil pleas: there is also a sheriff's court. The police of the town is under the superintendence of commissioners, consisting of the provost and magistrates of Edinburgh and Leith, the masters of the several corporations, and others chosen by inhabitants renting houses of £15 per annum. There is a separate police for the docks, appointed by the dock commissioners.
   The Town Hall, erected in 1827, at about the centre of Constitution-street, is a handsome building comprising convenient rooms for holding the sheriff's courts, and offices for transacting the police business of the burgh. The Trinity House, now called the Mariners' Hospital, situated in Kirkgate-street, was erected on the site of the ancient building designated Trinity Hospital, in 1817, at an expense of £2500. It is a handsome structure in the Grecian style, with a portico of two duplicated columns of the Doric order, surmounted by a balustrade, behind which is a Venetian window between duplicated columns of the same order, supporting an entablature and cornice, which are continued round the building, and are crowned in the centre by a triangular pediment having in the tympanum the emblems of navigation, well sculptured. On each side, the front is ornamented with pilasters, between which are handsome windows. In the hall where the masters hold their meetings are some good paintings, including portraits of the queen regent, Lord Duncan, and others; and in another of the rooms is an ancient view of the town. The Council Chambers, which have been rebuilt on the site of the ancient structure, form a neat building in the Norman style of architecture, and contain several well-aired apartments for the confinement of prisoners, besides the burgh court-house. In conjunction with Newhaven, Portobello, and Musselburgh, the burgh returns a member to parliament.
   The parish of North Leith once belonged to the abbey of Holyrood, from which it was separated in 1606; and in 1630, the baronies of Newhaven and Hillhousefield were severed from the parish of St. Cuthbert, and annexed to this parish, which now extends rather more than a mile and a half along the shore of the Frith, and is about a quarter of a mile in average breadth, containing a population of 8492. The lands in the rural district are all inclosed, and, with the exception of a few acres of arable land, are laid out in gardens, and in pleasure-grounds and plantations attached to the numerous villas with which the parish abounds: towards Newhaven, the sea has made very considerable encroachments. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Edinburgh and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; patrons, the heads of families. The minister's stipend, including the vicarage tithe on fish, is £285, with an allowance of £60 in lieu of manse, and a glebe valued at £394 per annum, subject to deductions for repairs. The church, erected by the heritors, in 1815, at an expense of £9000, and situated to the south-east of the fort, is an elegant structure in the Grecian style of architecture, after a design by Mr. Burn, with a stately portico of four Ionic columns, supporting a triangular pediment. Above is a tower of three diminishing stages, of which the first is of the Doric, the second of the Ionic, and the third of the Corinthian order; and this tower is surmounted by an elegant spire rising to the height of 158 feet from the pavement. The interior of the edifice is well arranged, and contains 1768 sittings, of which fifty-four are free. There are also places of worship for members of the Free Church and United Secession. The parochial school is well conducted; the master has a salary of £21, with a house and garden, and the fees average about £8 per annum. There are several other schools, of which four are supported by subscription.
   The parish of South Leith, which is much more extensive than North Leith, includes the villages of Jock'sLodge and Restalrig, the late quoad sacra district of St. John's, and part of the late quoad sacra districts of Glenorchy and Portobello; and contains a population of 19,776, of whom 3428 are in St. John's. It is about three miles in length, from the harbour of Leith, on the eastern bank of the river, to the confines of Portobello, and is about a mile and a half in breadth, comprising 1200 acres, and including the east side of Leith Walk, the Calton Hill, the North Back of the Canongate, and other portions of the environs of Edinburgh. The rural district, with the exception of the Calton Hill, consists of rich arable land in high cultivation, and of fertile meadows, extensive nursery-grounds, and vegetable, fruit, and flower gardens; it is thickly interspersed with stately mansions surrounded by plantations and pleasure-grounds, and with numerous villas inhabited by opulent families. The ministerial charge is collegiate: the stipend of the first minister, who is appointed by the Crown, is £395. 19. 11., with an allowance of £80 in lieu of manse, and a glebe valued at £80 per annum; the stipend of the second minister, appointed by the Kirk Session and Incorporations, is £247. 1. 2., without either manse or glebe. The church, originally the chapel of the Virgin Mary, was made parochial in 1609, when the parish church of Restalrig was destroyed as a monument of idolatry, by order of the first General Assembly after the Reformation. It is a very ancient structure, erected prior to the year 1490, and has suffered no alteration, except in 1791, when a gallery that obstructed the light was removed; it contains 1717 sittings, of which 150 are free. The church dedicated to St. John was erected by subscription in 1773. A church dedicated to St. Thomas, with a residence for the minister, was erected and endowed in 1840, in connexion with an asylum for sick poor and some schools, by John Gladstone, Esq., of Fasque, a native of the town, at an expense of £10,000. The church is a handsome structure in the later English style; and the asylum, in which is accommodation for ten patients, and the schools, form a neat range of buildings of a similar character; the whole after a design by Mr. Henderson. There are five preaching stations, where divine service is performed by the missionaries, who are licentiates of the Established Church, and have a stipend of £50 each. The episcopal chapel dedicated to St. James was erected by subscription in 1805, at a cost of £1600; it is a handsome structure in the Grecian style of architecture, with a receding portico in the centre, and two slightly-projecting wings ornamented in the upper part with duplicated columns, and crowned by a parapet divided into compartments by pedestals supporting urns. The interior is well arranged, and contains 380 sittings. There also are two places of worship for members of the Free Church, two for the United Secession, one for the members of the Relief, two for Independents, and one for Wesleyans.
   The High School, situated in the south-west part of the Links, in the immediate vicinity of the town, is under the direction of the magistrates of the burgh, the heads of the various corporations, and the ministers of the parish, to whom, as trustees, were paid over their share of Dr. Bell's bequest for the foundation of burgh schools on the Madras system, namely £4894. 16. 8. three per cent. consols, and £4895. 16. 8. bank annuities. The school is conducted principally by a classical master and an assistant, a mathematical master, two masters for English, and one for writing and arithmetic, who, in addition to the fees, receive certain salaries from the trustees. There were lately added an English master with a salary of £50, and a writing-master with a salary of £30, paid from Dr. Bell's endowment; and these teach on the Madras system. The building, erected in 1805, by subscription, is a handsome structure two stories in height, with two projecting porticos of two columns each, rising from a rustic basement; it is surmounted by a square turret, ornamented at the angles with columns of the Ionic order, and crowned by a graceful dome. The hall, and the several class rooms, are spacious and well arranged. There are various other schools, of which one for 120 boys, another for 80 girls, and an infant school in which are 170 children under the management of ladies, are supported by voluntary subscription. The Hospital of King James, to which James VI. in 1612 transferred the funds of the ancient preceptory of St. Anthony, with other endowments, has been long under the patronage of the Kirk Session, for the relief of poor widows, and indigent members of the several corporations. There are also a dispensary, a humane society, and various other religious and benevolent associations, including a Bible Society, a British and Foreign Bible Society, a Sabbath School Society, and a Religious Tract Society.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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