Fires in the Square

Parliament Square suffered three major fires between 1700 and 1824.  Robert Chambers, who witnessed the great fire of 1824, published an account of it within a week and included brief references to the numerous recorded fires in Edinburgh from 1385-1824[1].  It came out just after he had published his Traditions of Edinburgh in 1824 and forms a sort of appendix to that worthy book.  Many of the following accounts are extracted from Chambers’ publication and from an excellent booklet The History of Edinburgh Fire Brigade by Alexander Reid.

Early History of Fires in Edinburgh

In 1385 Edinburgh was burnt and pillaged by the invading army of Richard II.  Chambers observes that most of the houses at that time were built of wood and thatched with straw, which made them particularly vulnerable.  The occupants tried to remove the thatch in a vain attempt at prevention and the town officers were provided with long poles tipped with iron hooks for this purpose. 

The type of hook used to remove thatch. Edinburgh Museum of Fire

In 1544 another disastrous fire was deliberately caused, again by an invading army, this time sent by Henry VIII to discipline the Scots for refusing to consent to an arranged marriage between the infant Queen Mary of Scotland and Henry’s heir, the juvenile Prince Edward.  In addition he destroyed Holyrood Abbey and the Palace, which was rebuilt in 1561 for the reception of Queen Mary.

The wynds and closes of Edinburgh tended to be blocked by stacks of heather, broom and whin for use as fuels which created a great fire hazard as well as causing difficulty of access.  The Town Council had from time to time introduced regulations banning such practices but they were largely ignored.  In 1585 a baker’s boy set fire to a stack of peat which caused a fire in Peeble’s Wynd.  The careless boy was punished by being burnt at the Cross the next day. Brothels were for some reason regarded as a special fire risk and were obliged to be located at the outermost end of the town where ‘the least peril is.’  

In 1508 James IV permitted the building of wooden extensions to the frontages of houses to the extent of 7 feet. This style of building continued to constitute a fire hazard well into the seventeenth century.  A visitor to Edinburgh in 1617[2] noted that “the houses are built of unpolished stone…which in that brood streete would make a faire shew, but the outsides of these are faced with wooden galleries built upon the second story of the houses; yet these galleries give the owners a faire and pleasant prospect….” Numerous fires are recorded during the seventeenth century and the Edinburgh Improvement Act of 1621 stipulated that houses shall be roofed with slate, lead or tile instead of thatch.  In 1677 the Town Council decreed that the walls of all houses in the future “shall be built altogether with stone and lime and no part thereof, nor any forestairs…shall be built with timber.”[3] In 1698 regulations restricted new buildings to a height of five stories but this did not apply to buildings already in existence.

Examples of the hazardous wooden extensions

Fires in Parliament Close

The first fire recorded in Parliament Close was in 1676.  There are few details on record other than it was started by a stationer ‘louting down with a candle among loose papers.’ It involved the east side of the Close extending to the Cross and burnt down the house of the Lord Advocate, Sir John Nisbet among others[4].

The fire of 1700 was a major event.[5]  It started at eleven pm on 3 February in a court of houses occupied mostly by lawyers, in the north east corner of the Meal Market which lay in the Cowgate just below the Square.  The fire extended rapidly up hill to involve the tall tenements on the south and east sides of the Square. One, fifteen storeys high, the tallest building in Edinburgh, was reduced to a heap of ashes and ‘made a prodigious blaze’[6]. These buildings were densely occupied and about three or four hundred families lost their homes, including many notables such as the President of Parliament, the President of the Court of Session and other Lords, lawyers, clerks and poorer families. Several lives were lost and a great number seriously injured.  

Multi-story buildings on the south side of Parliament Square viewed from the Cowgate

Offices of businesses were destroyed including the recently opened Bank of Scotland – the only bank in Scotland at that time.  Mercifully the Parliament Hall and St Giles escaped undamaged.  The Advocates, who lost their library in the fire, were given space in the Laigh Hall below Parliament House.

Distressing spectacles were seen such as the one-legged judge, Lord Crossrig[7] (in whose lodgings the fire had started), hopping naked from his dwelling carrying a child under his arm.   A broadsheet entitled Fire! Fire! stated that the fire had been started by someone throwing a bottle of whisky into an open hearth.. The fire engines were of little or no use, water being scarce and the old closes so narrow that they could not gain access. Duncan Forbes wrote to his brother that it was the greatest fire he ever saw ‘notwithstanding I saw London burne’.

All the pryde of Edenr. is sunk; from the Cowgate to the High Street all is burnt, and hardly one stone left upon another…the Parliament House very hardly escapt; all Registers confounded; Clerks Chambers, and processes, in such confusion, that the Lords and Officers of State are just now mett at Rosse’s Taverne, in order to adjourneing the Sessione by reason of the disorder…twenty thousand hands flitting ther trash they know not wher…These babells, of ten and fourteen story high, are down to the Ground, and their fall’s very terrible….This Epitome of dissolution I send you, without saying any more, but that the Lord is angry with us, and I see no intercessor.[8]

This last point was taken up by the clergy who preached sermons in which they attributed the fire to God’s punishment for the wickedness of the populace. The Town Council also took the matter up and on 4 December 1702 introduced an ‘Act anent suppressing Immoralities, which contained the following:-

…considering the great growth of immoralities within the City and Suburbs, and the fearful rebukes of God, by a dreadful Fire in Parliament Close….which happened about midnight upon 3rd February 1700….also, remembering the terrible Fire….on the north side of the Lawn market….28 October 1701 with several lives lost.   Likewise reflecting upon other Tokens of God’s wrath lately come upon us… We…being moved with the zeal of God….do in the Lord’s strength resolve to be more watchful over our hearts and ways than formerly; And each of us in our several capacities, to reprove vice with due zeal and prudence as we shall have occasion…. under penalty of Twenty Merks Scots[9].

Following the fire, the Square was rebuilt in a uniform style of architecture, which until the erection of the New Town, was regarded as being the most splendid piece of building in the city.  The height of the new tenements was restricted to eleven storeys rather than the fifteen storeys of their predecessors but even so Smollett writing in 1770[10] observed that ‘I cannot view it without horror; that is, the dreadful situation of all the families above, in case the common stair-case should be rendered impassable by a fire in the lower stories’.

The first fire insurance company was started in Edinburgh in 1720.  This, the Friendly Insurance Office, was given its seal of cause in 1727. In 1733 the Sun Fire Office of London opened an office in Edinburgh.  The Fire Insurance companies issued their policy holders with metal plates called firemarks which were affixed to the front of buildings.

Firemarks of L Caledonian and R Sun Insurance Companies (from A Reid)

The fire insurance companies had their own small and poorly trained fire squads which dealt only with fires in buildings showing their companies firemark. Before these introductions the only compensation available to the victims was from charitable contributions by individuals, churches and the Town Council which were not always equitably distributed.  Following a fire in the Lawnmarket in 1725 in which many houses were consumed, the sum of £938 was collected for the relief of the sufferers of which £225 was given to James Lind, merchant, who afterwards became Lord Provost; £124 to James Ker, goldsmith, who later became Member of Parliament,  but only £2 to George Honeyman an episcopal clergyman – for whosoever hath, to him shall be given[11]!

On December 12 1786 a fire occurred in Beth’s Wynd immediately to the west of Parliament House. It started in a basket maker’s shop and spread to the lodgings above. Three principal families lost their all as did a great number of others of inferior rank. For a long time the appearances were truly alarming, a number of adjacent houses being mostly composed of wood.  The Lord Provost, magistrates and City Guard, gave immediate attendance and by the proper attention of the people who managed the fire engines, together with pulling down part of a tenement, it was happily got pretty much under about ten o’clock.[12] It threatened to destroy Parliament House which was protected by wet cow-hides, according to Chambers and by horse dung, according to Kincaid.[13]  

The records of Scotland, which were then kept in the Laigh beneath Parliament House as was the Advocate’s Library, were much at risk and this highlighted the need for a more secure location in the new Register House currently being built in the New Town and due to be opened the following year. Chambers commented that:-

This as well as numerous late instances, might be sufficient to point out the risk which is incurred by placing important public buildings in close neighbourhood with the shops of artizans, and the abode of a low and disorderly population.  It agonizes an antiquarian’s heart, to think of the dangers with which the Advocates Library is surrounded.[14]  

The relative safety of the well constructed and spacious houses of the New Town was demonstrated in 1786 when the first recorded fire in the New Town was quickly brought under control without doing much damage. “Nothing can more clearly show the excellency of the present mode of buildings; viz with brick and stone partitions….the fire did not spread beyond the apartment in which it began.”[15]

In 1796 a fire started in the shop of Mr Bowman, goldsmith, in the lower floor of Goldsmiths’ Hall in Parliament Square. The Hall was free standing but in close proximity to Parliament Hall and the adjoining new Advocates Library, and to that part of St Giles designated as the Tolbooth Church whose windows were reached by the blaze. The Goldsmiths’ Hall was destroyed together with the records of the Corporation of Goldsmiths.  The ruins of the edifice were not removed until the frontages of the Parliament Close buildings were reconstructed in 1808.  This observation is of interest as it helps to date the Painting, for in it Goldsmiths’ Hall is intact. 

On 10 November 1811 the upper floors of the Exchequer Chamber in Parliament Square were destroyed, “to a distant beholder from the south it seemed as if the whole of Parliament Square were in one blaze.”[16]

 1824 was remarkable for the number of fires which occurred in Edinburgh – one in each month.  On 24 June one devastated most of the north-east corner of Parliament Square.  The fire engines played water on the smoking ruins for three days.  Andrew Chalmers a town officer suffered fatal burns. This fire destroyed the cellar of the tavern in which Archibald Pitcairn, the celebrated physician, used to pass his convivial hour and consult his patients a century before.  Lord Auchinleck, father of James Boswell, had occupied the fourth floor flat in the same tenement.

The Great Fire of 1824

The fires of June 1700 and June 1824 in Parliament Square were eclipsed by a much greater fire which commenced in the evening of Monday, 15 November 1824. It started in the premises of Robert Kirkwood and Son, engraver and printer, at the head of Old Assembly Close on the south side of the High Street, half-way between the Tron Church and St Giles Cathedral.  Several fire engines, soldiers, the Sheriff, Lord Provost and Baillies attended “but the want of an experienced director was severely felt…” [17] The hand drawn fire engines were equipped with leather hose pipes which were broken in several places and very little water was delivered. The night was calm and the sparks formed a thick drift ‘like a snow storm’ damaging the clothes of the assembled crowd. By morning a range of houses six or seven storeys high, extending back almost to the Cowgate was a burnt shell. The Old Assembly Hall, the warehouse of Bell and Bradfute, booksellers, and the office of the Courant newspaper were destroyed.  The fire seemed to have been controlled by midday on Tuesday, when suddenly the Tron Church caught alight.  Cockburn gives a characteristically vivid description of the scene[18]:-

We ran out from the Court, gowned and wigged, and saw that it was the steeple, an old Dutch thing, composed of wood, iron, and lead, and edged all the way up with bits of ornament.  Some of the sparks of the preceding night had nestled in it, and had at last blown its dry bones into flame. There could not be a more beautiful firework; only it was wasted on the day-light.  It was an hour’s brilliant blaze.  The spire was too high and too combustible to admit of any attempt to save it, so that we had nothing to do but to admire.  And it was certainly beautiful…. The conflagration was long presided over by a calm and triumphant gilded cock on the top of the spire, which seemed to look on the people, and to listen to the crackling, in disdain.  But it was undermined at last, and dived down into the burning gulf, followed by the upper half of the steeple.  The lower half held out a little longer, till the very bell[19] being melted, this half came down also, with a world of sparks.  There was one occurrence which made the gazers start.  It was at a quarter before twelve, when the minute hand of the clock stood horizontally. The internal heat – for the clock was untouched outwardly – cracked the machinery, and the hand dropped suddenly and silently down to the perpendicular. When it was all over, and we were beginning to move back to our clients, Scott,…lingered a moment, and said, with a profound heave, “Eh, Sirs! mony a weary, weary sermon hae I heard beneath that steeple!” 

The fire in the Tron Steeple engraving by W M Turner

The steeple, which at the time of the fire was made of wood, with its bell and ancient clock[20] was destroyed but the main body of the church was saved and subsequently restored with a new masonry steeple. The bell was recast and reinstated when the steeple was rebuilt in 1828.  

At ten pm on the Tuesday, 16 November, a third alarm was raised by the occurrence of a fire in the south-east corner of Parliament Square which ‘originated in an apartment occupied by a female of abandoned character in the attic storey …of the highest building in Edinburgh’[21].  This occurred some distance up wind of the earlier fires and it was thought that it might be unconnected.

The fire in Parliament Square by WM Turner
Note the fortunate absence of the statue of Charles II which had been removed for repair.

Cockburn described the scene: 22

Judges, magistrates, officers of state, dragoons, librarians,…were all mixed with the mob, all giving peremptory and inconsistent directions,…the firemen were few and awkward, and the engines out of order; so that while torrents of water were running down the street, nobody could use it.  Amidst this confusion, inefficiency, and squabble for dignity, the fire held on till next morning; by which time the whole private buildings in the Parliament Close, including the whole east side, and about half of the south side, were consumed. 

Among the many people who shared in this confusion was the Lord Advocate, Sir William Rae, who had been born in one of the destroyed houses.  He tried to assist with one of the fire engines and was congratulated by one of the firemen with ‘Weel done my Lord’.  Burning embers from this blaze were blown one and half miles to the east.  Heavy rain during the night helped to extinguish it.

Sir Walter Scott, who had observed all the phases of the disaster, wrote a letter to Lord Montague on 18 November 1824 describing the fire in Parliament Square:[23]

By great exertions it was prevented approaching the public buildings and Sir William Forbes’s Bank also escaped. All the other  houses in the Parliament Square are totally destroyed and I can see no sight more grand or terrible than to see these lofty buildings on fire from top to bottom vomiting out flames like a volcano from every aperture and finally crashing down one after another into an abyss of fire which resembled nothing but hell for there were vaults of wine and spirits[24] which sent up huge jets of flame whenever they were calld (sic) into activity by the fall of these massive fragments – Between the corner of Parliament Square and the South Bridge, all is destroyed excepting some new buildings at the lower extremity and the devastation has extended down to the closes which I hope will never be rebuilt on their present or should I say late form.  The general distress is of course dreadful.

The Scotsman, 17 November 1824 described the scene viewed from St Andrew’s Square as ‘wild, terrific, and sublime’ but ‘A nearer approach changed the feeling. Pity was excited by the condition of the poor – men, women, and children, driven from their houses, carrying in their hands some miserable remnant of their furniture but without a penny to obtain food, or a house to shelter them’.

All that was left after the fire were two towering remains of the walls of the tall tenements.  On Saturday of that week sailors, sappers and miners brought these ruins down.  One of these ‘was part of the tallest house in Edinburgh, and was then probably the tallest self-standing wall in Europe – being, from the Cowgate, about 130 feet high.  It was pulled down by a party of sailors from a frigate in Leith Roads…’[25].The other was brought down with explosives. ‘The sinking of the wall on the eastern side of  the Square was truly magnificent,…as the mighty mass descended, shouts arose…from the assembled multitude – a tribute of admiration at the sight of so imposing a spectacle – of joy that the dangerous work was accomplished without injury to any human being… ’[26].

The Scotsman praised the efforts of the Lord Provost, Deans of Guild, Magistrates and the military but was very critical of the fire engines, which were in bad condition and deficient in mechanical power, with the exception of one from Leith Fort which was worked by a detachment of the Royal Artillery:-[27]

We are sorry that we cannot extend our praise to the fire engine department….  hitherto, neither the magistracy nor the police have had either fire engines or men for working them, …Engines were kept by such Insurance Offices as choose to do so – and in such manner, and with such men as they chose; and, in action, the men, jealous of each other, were under no proper subordination. 

Another commentator wrote:- 

….having Company Engines…creates a degree of jealousy among the men who work them, that…seems to increase with the fury of the flames.….you have soon many more engines than you require… depriving each other of the requisite supply of water, much of which is not only consequently wasted….[28]

Between four and five hundred families were rendered homeless by the fire.  Of these 170 people were accommodated in Queensberry House until alternative housing could be found.  Thirteen people were killed, including two boys who were delivering water to one of the fire engines and two of the firemen. Many suffered burns and other injuries. Similar sentiments were expressed after this fire as had followed the fire of 1700, some regarded it as evidence of divine retribution upon the City for such evils as holding Music Festivals![29] Such festivals had become exceedingly popular then as they are now. They were held in October in Parliament Hall, Corri’s Rooms in Leith Walk, St Cecilia’s Hall and in the Theatre Royal.  The festival of 1824 was held just a month before the Great Fire.  

Many people contributed clothing and furniture and a relief fund set up by the Lord Provost and Magistrates was generously supported.  Forbes Bank, which had survived the blaze on Parliament Square, donated £500, the Commercial Bank £300, the Society of Writers to the Signet 250 guineas and the French Consul £80.  The Count D’Artois, who had been welcomed in Edinburgh after he fled from France, made a munificent donation. The eighteen-year old fifth Duke of Buccleuch, sought the advice of his guardian, Sir Walter Scott, regarding the amount which he should contribute.  Scott replied on 7 December:-

It is very kind of your Grace to think of the singed rufles of poor auld Reekie. The wealthy classes in Edinburgh subscribed from ten to thirty guineas a piece.  Lord Melville and one or two noblemen £50, and two or three in their munificence gave £100, for example the Diva Pecunia whom mortals call Mrs Coutts[30].  There is fully as much money subscribed as is necessary for most of the sufferers are of the lowest class and we must take care not to give them such excess of charity as may be a bounty for carelessness if not a proemium (sic) for future fires. In these circumstances I would say that £50 or 50 guineas from the Duke of Buccleuch not yet sui juris [of legal age] would be considered as very handsome and quite sufficient to express his good will to the metropolis of Scotland.

A year later the total sum collected amounted to £11,702 of which up to that time only £6,699 had been disbursed to the needy leaving a balance of £5,000.[31]  The committee handling the money gave a handsome piece of plate, twenty guineas in value, to Mr Daniel Millar, builder to reward him for his success in blowing down the extensive ruins by gunpowder.  The residue was converted into a fund for the relief of firemen who might be hurt in the execution of their duty and, in the event of their death, as a means of provision for their families[32].

Two good things emerged from the fires of 1824 – the clearance of a large area of substandard buildings and the formation of an organised fire service. The migration of the gentry to the New Town had resulted in many of the Old Town lands becoming overcrowded and neglected slums. The destruction of a large number of these unhygienic ancient tenements, closely packed in narrow closes and wynds, made way for a more elegant reconstruction in harmony with the surviving buildings in the Square and its neighbourhood.  New building in the Square was commenced in 1827, initially to provide further accommodation for the Supreme Court at government expense. 

The creation of a fire service

After the smaller fire of June 1824, the Town Council had realised the inadequacy of the existing fire service and proceeded to found the Edinburgh Municipal Fire Brigade. On 10 October 1824, James Braidwood (1799 – 1861), a twenty-four year old surveyor, was appointed Master of Fire Engines with a starting salary of £50 a year.  This was the first organised fire brigade in Britain and one of the first in Europe, but alas it did not have time to get established before the Great Fire which occurred a month after its foundation. 

  One of the large fire engines used in the Great fire of 1824 preserved in the museum of the Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service in Lauriston Place, Edinburgh.

Twenty-two ‘fire engines’ had attended the blaze which sounds a great number until one realises what a fire engine was at that time and that each was acting independently without central control.  The name ‘fire engine’ was applied to any manually operated pump.  These varied from large four wheeled vehicles and smaller two wheeled vehicles to pumps carried by hand.  The few large engines were manned by up to twelve auxiliary firemen with minimal training and poor equipment who pulled the vehicle by hand – a difficult and dangerous task in Edinburgh’s hilly streets. A correspondent to the Scotsman suggested that a fire engine worked by steam power would be an improvement but it was pointed out that the time lost in heating the boiler and bringing the engine into a state fit for action was an insuperable objection.[33] Horse drawn fire engines with steam driven pumps were not introduced in Edinburgh until 1873. 

The ‘engine’ consisted of a tank to hold water and a manually operated pump connected to a heavy leaking leather hose – greased to keep it flexible, with a metal spout or ‘director’.  The water to fill the tank was obtained from fire cocks connected with the water mains, of which there were forty five in the entire City at the time of the Great Fire, (many more were created subsequently), or else by chain gangs of volunteers carrying water in leather buckets to the vehicle from the nearest available source.  Braidwood did not like the portable pumps which were designed to be carried into the house on fire.  He felt that a few buckets of water would be just as effective.

Despite a progressive increase in the water supply to the City, it proved inadequate to deal with the demands of a fire.  The City water came from springs at Comiston and the Pentland Hills, starting with a three-inch lead pipe in 1681, supplemented with progressively larger pipes culminating in a seven-inch iron pipe in 1790. An additional source from the Glencorse Reservoir was introduced in 1821. However only 500 gallons per minute could be delivered from the reservoirs on Castle Hill and Heriot’s ground and this, coupled with the inefficient means of connecting the primitive engines to the main, made them relatively useless[34].

After the Great Fire, increased funding was raised to upgrade the Edinburgh Fire Brigade.  The sum of £200 was provided by the Town Council and similar sums were donated by six Fire Insurance Companies.  Braidwood was able to recruit a force of eighty firemen, mostly young and skilled craftsmen in the building trades, who were provided with uniforms and leather helmets.  He trained these men regularly into a disciplined body versed in the use of their equipment and in life saving techniques such as lowering victims from heights for which he used the North Bridge as his training ground.  The firemen continued at their normal occupations but were always on call and received additional turn-out pay when called out to attend a fire.  Occasionally they were put on standby when special risks were anticipated.  Braidwood’s log book recorded these, such as the entry for 24 December 1828 which read:-

This being the night of the trial of Burke and MacDougal for murder, it was thought advisable by the Superintendent of Police and Master of Fire Engines, that seven men should remain in the main office Engine-house, …all night, in case the mob should set fire to Dr Knox’s classrooms in Surgeons Square or his dwelling place at Newington[35].

The success of Braidwood’s Fire Brigade can be demonstrated in the reduction of total losses due to fire from eleven in 1824/5, to seven in 1825/6 and only one a year in the subsequent three years despite an increase in the number of fire alarms during this period.[36]

In 1830 Braidwood published a book On the Construction of Fire-engines and Apparatus, the Training of Firemen and Method of Proceeding in Cases of Fire. This was the first book in English on the subject and remained the instruction manual used by all fire brigades for many years – indeed many of its recommendations remain valid to this day.  In 1833 London recruited him to organise a similar fire service there.  He held the job of Superintendent of the London Fire Engine Establishment for thirty years until his death in 1861 caused by falling masonry while taking part in fighting the Great Fire in Tooley Street. So celebrated and respected had he become that his funeral was recorded as being ‘one of the most imposing funerals that has taken place in the metropolis since the public obsequies of the Duke of Wellington.’[37]  Since his death a Masonic Lodge and a River Thames fire boat have been named after him.  Edinburgh has remembered him belatedly, by erecting a statue of Braidwood in Parliament Square in 2008 inscribed: 

Father of the British Fire Service, this statue is dedicated to the memory of James Braidwood, a pioneer of the scientific approach to Fire Fighting.

James Braidwood’s Statue in Parliament Square


[1] Chambers, R (1824) Notice of the most remarkable fires in Edinburgh from 1385-1824 including an account of the Great Fire of November 1824   Edinburgh, Charles Smith and Co 

[2] Extract from Moryson, F (1617) Itinerary Containing Twelve Years Travels Cited in Bannatyne Club Miscellania II (1836)  p393fn

[3] Ibid p399fn.  In 1508 an edict of James IV permitted householders to build extensions of made of wood projecting seven feet into the street. 

[4] Richardson (1901)  p16

[5] Chambers loc cit p11-29

[6] Richardson, R (1902) p17

[7] Sir David Hume (1643-1707) assumed the title Lord Crossrig (or Corserig) on becoming a judge.  He had lost a leg as a result of an accident. 

[8] Duncan Forbes to Col John Forbes, 6.February 1700.  Culloden Papers  p27

[9] Chambers loc cit p19

[10] Smollett, T. The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker  p262

[11] Matthew 13:12

[12]Chambers loc cit p37 quote from Scots Magazine 48 p618

[13] Kincaid 1787 appendix 19 p315

[14] Chambers loc cit fn p43-3

[15] ibid p36-7

[16] ibid p46

[17] ibid p54-7

[18] Cockburn Memorials  p394-5

[19] This was a relatively new bell having been installed in 1774 to replace its cracked and discordant predecessor which was described by Robert Fergusson in his poem To the Tron-Kirk Bell as a ‘Wanswurdy, crazy dinsome thing’. (wanswordy – worthless). The bell was recast and restored when the steeple was rebuilt in1828.  Kay’s Portraits I p224

[20] The clock had originally been in the steeple of the Old Weigh House at the entry to the Lawnmarket which had been removed by Cromwell in 1650.  It was installed in the church steeple in 1678.  The Weigh House, the last obstruction in the High Street, was itself removed in 1822 to open up the High Street for the visit of George IV. 

[21] Browne p221. Richardson, R (1902) p 20, states that this was the 15 storey building which had  replaced the one destroyed in the fire of 1700, referred to above. 

[22] Cockburn p395-6

[23] The Letters of Sir Walter Scott 1823-25 VIII p437-8 

[24] The vaults were those of Messsrs Brougham & Anderson, wine and spirit merchants. The Brougham was John, brother of Henry, the Lord Chancellor Baron Brougham and Vaux.

[25] Cockburn p396

[26] Chambers loc cit p73-4

[27] Scotsman 17 and 20 November 1824

[28] Letter by Sir Patrick Walker (1814) Scots Magazine no.9

[29] Browne p214

[30] The Mrs Coutts referred to was Harriot, the very wealthy widow of Thomas Coutts (see chapter on ‘Banking’).  Scott ‘always found her a kind friendly woman without either affectation or insolence in the display of her wealth and most willing to do good if the means be shown to her’. She visited Scott at Abbotsford in 1825 together with her future second husband the Duke of St Albans, her entourage being conveyed in three coaches! 

[31] Scotsman 24 November 1824 and 16 November 1825

[32] Braidwood p107

[33] Scotsman 20 November 1824 p832

[34] An additional source of water from the Glencorse Reservoir had been opened the year before the Great Fire, but the rate of flow was limited by the capacity of the main.  During the subsequent century further sources were tapped from the north and south slopes of the Pentland Hills culminating with the Talla Water and acqueduct from the Moorfoot Hills in 1905.

[35] Cited in Reid, A The History of the Edinburgh Fire Brigade  The incident referred to was the trial of Burke and Hare who had killed at least sixteen individuals in order to provide bodies for the anatomy class of Dr Knox.  Knox denied any knowledge of the source of his subjects but the mob doubted this.

[36] Braidwood p132

[37] Allaway, B (2004) in preface of Braidwood, J On the construction of Fire-Engines and Apparatus .