Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Twelve Old Town closes to be transformed by EWH

EWH has announced the selection of 12 closes to be transformed as part of a major project to improve the infrastructure and environment of the Old Town.

Feb 29, 2016

Among those chosen are the historic Bakehouse Close in the Canongate, Riddle’s Close which was once home to philosopher David Hume, and Fleshmarket Close well known as the setting for an Inspector Rebus novel. Each will see a series of improvements including lighting, artwork and interpretation, all designed to share their rich history and encourage greater use by the public. Residents of the Old Town will play an essential role in the project, investigating the history of each close to help generate ideas for their improvement.

Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage said: “Our aim is for this project to re-connect the people of Edinburgh with the closes of the Old Town. The intricate network of closes and courtyards that bind the Old Town together gives it a unique identity, is underused but has the opportunity to be revitalised, used and celebrated by all.”

Councillor Ian Perry, Planning Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “The improvements to the closes are a major part of the Royal Mile Action Plan, and help to highlight these unique parts of the city’s history to visitors, who not have realised that they are there to visit. Council planners and lighting staff have been working closely with Edinburgh World Heritage and we are pleased to continue our support for this fantastic project.”

John Thompson of the Old Town Community Council said: “This is a project to be welcomed, changing dilapidated and neglected closes into useful routes linking different parts of the Old Town. The closes were once busy thoroughfares, buzzing with all the life of the city, and it would be wonderful to see some of that atmosphere return.”

The closes of the Old Town are an important element of the city’s World Heritage status, and yet some can appear under-used, unloved or even unsafe. The Twelve Closes project aims to change perceptions, revealing their fascinating history and reclaiming them as valuable pedestrian routes. EWH will be working in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University, the Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust and the City of Edinburgh Council to deliver the initiative. Below: Fleshmarket Close - photographer Jonathon Fowler.

The selected closes:

Stevenlaw’s: In Georgian Edinburgh this close was home to a series of successful cookery schools, starting with Mrs McIver in the 1770s and followed by Mrs Fraser. Each brought out a best-selling book, with Mrs McIver’s offering the first printed recipe for haggis.

Riddle’s: In 1751 the philosopher David Hume moved into a house here, proudly telling a friend he was now head of a household with, “…two inferior members – a maid and a cat.”

Carruber’s: Home to Old St Paul’s church, whose congregation first met here in 1689 in an old wool store. A plaque commemorates the house of Archbishop John Spottiswoode, a prominent cleric during the early seventeenth century.

Trunk’s: Probably named after John Turing, a burgess of the city, who had a property in the close in 1478. Now home to the Cockburn Association and the Scottish Book Trust.

Fleshmarket: The location of the city’s meat market for around 200 years, it provides the title and much of the setting for one of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels.

Chessels: A close recreated in the 1950s, leading to the Georgian mansion-flats of Chessels Court, scene of the last robbery by Deacon Brodie.

Bakehouse: Probably the best preserved close in the Old Town, with an important collection of sixteenth and seventeenth century buildings including Acheson House built in 1633.

Crichton’s: Home to the Scottish Poetry Library, a unique national resource devoted to the nations poetry.

Fountain: Takes its name from the old street well that used to stand outside its entrance. It leads to the offices of the Saltire Society, the organisation devoted to promoting the arts and culture of Scotland.

Lady Stair’s: Leads to the seventeenth century Lady Stair’s House, now the Writers’ Museum with displays illustrating the works of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

North Gray’s: Has a rare surviving row of backland tenements dating back to 1581, linked to the prominent seventeenth century clergyman Bishop Sydserf.

Old Playhouse: The site of Edinburgh’s first successful theatre, built in 1747. The close is now being opened up as part of the development of the University of Edinburgh.

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