Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Twelve Closes Project to Light Up the Old Town

EWH has launced a major project to transform twelve Old Town Closes.

Nov 25, 2015

The Twelve Closes Project will see a series of bespoke improvements to the selected closes, including new artwork, lighting and interpretation, to encourage greater use by the public. Local communities will play a crucial role in the project, researching the history of the closes to provide ideas and design inspiration for their presentation.

The EWH project aims to change perceptions, transforming closes that currently feel under-used, unloved or unsafe. The project will reveal the closes’ atmospheric charm, share their rich history and reclaim them as useful pedestrian links across the city. A demonstration lighting event was held in Bakehouse Close on 26 and 27 November in collaboration with Edinburgh Napier University, to show how artistic and architectural lighting can transform Old Town closes. (Photos below courtesy of Dave Morris www.dave-morris.net)

The Old Town’s network of closes and wynds are a key element of the city’s World Heritage status, and date back to the medieval beginnings of the city. Today there are still 74 closes, forming an integral part of the fabric of the Old Town, and home to residents, businesses and many city institutions.

Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage said: “Historically the closes were the secondary routes through the medieval city, however they have long been underused and in some cases neglected spaces.  We hope that with the help of residents, students, artists, local businesses and the City of Edinburgh’s street lighting and neighbourhood teams we will be able to create something of beauty and enchantment in the closes. We hope to encourage people to explore these neglected historical spaces, improving the quality of the spaces for the residents, and supporting businesses by encouraging footfall”.

Councillor Ian Perry, Planning Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “The improvements to the closes are a key part of the Royal Mile Action Plan. However, many visitors may be unaware that these unique aspects of the city’s history are there to be explored. This project is a great way to showcase the closes using new lighting techniques. Council planners and lighting staff have been working with Edinburgh World Heritage and we are pleased to continue our support for this impressive project.”

Sean Bradley of the Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust said: "It is good news that Edinburgh World Heritage is instigating improvements to selected Old Town closes. Essential to the character of the place, these are also important pedestrian thoroughfares and we look forward to getting residents and others who make daily use of them involved in the project."

The final selection of closes is still under discussion, but the current shortlist includes Riddle’s Close, Crichton’s Close, Stevenlaw’s Close, Fleshmarket Close, Carruber’s Close, and Bakehouse Close.

The main funding for the project will come from Edinburgh World Heritage. Grants, sponsorship from local businesses and public donations, as well as contributions from the City of Edinburgh Council and other partners, will match the EWH budget of £190,000 to complete the project. EWH will be working in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University and the Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust in delivering the project.

Old Town Closes
The closes of the Old Town date back to the medieval origins of the city. Originally, individual plots of land were set up lining the main street, with paths to gain access to the land behind. As each plot became built up over time, so they developed into narrow lanes connecting with courtyards and streets behind the Royal Mile. The network of closes is crucial to the Old Town’s character, forming a street pattern which is often described as like the bones of a fish.

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