Edinburgh World Heritage

Hatters' Land

In the 1850s Warden's Close was home to the notorious Hatter Land, described as “…perhaps the most wretched close in Edinburgh”…

The surgeon Dr Robert Foulis was only too aware of its problems, and said that it was: “…celebrated, at least in the medical profession, for more fever and cholera being taken to the Infirmary from that building than any other in Edinburgh.”

Dr Foulis described: "...from the top of the close to the bottom, one continuous pool of wet, filth and pollution.”  The inhabitants were Irish immigrants, living in dirty and overcrowded conditions. Foulis mentions that: “In one room alone at the top of the house, between sixty and seventy people have been known to sleep during the harvest season.”

At his own expense, Dr Foulis bought Hatters’ Land and other buildings in the close. He had them all re-built or extensively repaired and also provided a drying green, grocer’s, coffee shop, reading room, and a lodging house for working men.

The improvements certainly worked and Dr Foulis reported that: “Since the opening of the house eight months ago, 13,000 night’s lodgings have been paid for. Out of these not a single case of fever has occurred…”

Story hosted by: Castle Rock Takeaway www.grassmarket.net

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