Sense of Place
Find out the fascinating history of Edinburgh's public spaces - squares, parks and gardens.
In 1724 the town council bought Calton Hill, making it one of the first public parks in the country. The famous philosopher David Hume lobbied the council to build a walk ‘for the health and amusement of the inhabitants’, and you can still stroll along ‘Hume Walk’ to this day.
In the 1700’s Parliament Square was the hub of the Old Town. There were book sellers, watchmakers and goldsmiths shops, merchants meeting to do business at the Mercat Cross, and lawyers heading for the courts.
The Grassmarket was traditionally the place where cattle and horses were sold, but its wide open space also made it a suitable venue for public hangings. It was here in 1736 that the captain of the city guard, John Porteous, was hung from the pole of a barbers shop by an angry mob.
St Andrew Square was one of the first parts of the New Town to be completed, and in the 1780’s it was one of the most fashionable addresses in the city. Residents included the famous philosopher David Hume who lived at No. 8, and entertained Benjamin Franklin as one of his first guests.
In the early 1800’s Princes Street Gardens were private, and unless you were a resident a key could cost as much as four guineas a year. The first public opening came in 1851 at the request of the Scottish Society for Suppressing Drunkeness, who believed the gardens would tempt people away from the pub at Christmas and New Year.
A natural spring was discovered here in 1760, and was soon a visitor attraction as at that time ‘taking the waters’ was thought to be very good for the health.