The History of Leith

May 4, 2004

Once upon a time in Leith

The port of Leith today for all intents and purposes is now finished and is now turned to building developments and new housing. How so very different it was over a hundred years ago.

When steam ships from Leith or Granton went to Hamburg, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Bremerhaven, Copenhagen, Dantzig (Gdansk), Dunkirk, Ghent, along with sailings to London. In 1880 the Arrow Line put a number of steamers direct between Leith and New York and proved to be a great success. Apart from that ships travelled to Newcastle, Thurso, Orkney, Shetland, Inverness, Fort George, Invergordon, Cromarty, Dundee, Aberdeen, Montrose, Aberdour, North Berwick Alloa.

The first screw steamer from Leith to London was started in 1855. The above list doesn’t include the whalers that left Leith for Greenland and the Southern Oceans and the trade with the Baltic and West Indians.

This prosperity came with the building and development of the new docks and in turn caused the population to increase in the local area causing massive overcrowding in Leith and in many ways wealth for the few and misery for the many. But as they say that is another story. The shipping industry has died in Leith being superseded by Grangemouth just along the coast. But shipping and the sea was what made Leith and to understand the history of Leith is to understand the Sea and Ships.

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