Edinburgh World Heritage - Learn about the Close’s the darker history which inspired the famous tale ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’

 

Learn about the Close’s the darker history which inspired the famous tale ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’

Local folklore suggests that Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde was inspired, at least in part, by a nefarious act committed against Adam Pearson, Secretary of Excise For Scotland, and former Chessels Court residents.  At the centre of Stevenson’s novella is a character who seems to have two completely different personalities: one good (Dr Jekyll) and one evil (Mr Hyde).  It has been suggested that Stevenson was partly inspired by a prominent Edinburgh citizen, William Brodie, who led a secret criminal life and met his come-uppance in Chessels Court.  

Brodie was a skilful cabinet-maker, member of the Town Council and deacon of the Incorporation of Wrights and Masons. He socialised with the gentry of Edinburgh, and met Robert Ferguson and Robert Burns. However, he had a secret night-time occupation as the leader of a gang of burglars. This was necessary to support his extravagant lifestyle which included two mistresses, children, legitimate and illegitimate and a gambling habit.  

Brodie's last crime was an armed raid on the Excise Office, then in Chessels Court.  It went disastrously wrong and although Brodie got away he was later captured, brought to trial and hanged in 1788.  Robert Louis Stevenson’s father owned furniture said to have been made by William Brodie and Robert himself was always fascinated by Brodie’s story. Adam Pearson is buried in the Canongate Kirkyard in the new extension.

‹ Back to Map

 
Property Owner?

Get information on grants, read the property owners guide and access useful links.

City Visitor?

Explore the highlights of the World Heritage Site, follow walking trails and find out the stories behind Edinburgh's streets and buildings.

Teacher?

Visit our learning site to download lesson plans, browse resources and find out about our schools programme.


 

© Edinburgh World Heritage. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Cookie Policy
5 Bakehouse Close, 146 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DD. T: 0131 220 7720. E: info@ewht.org.uk
Registered in Scotland No.195077. Scottish charity No. SC037183

 

Website by Urwin Digital