The History of Leith

July 18, 2004

The Impost of Wine

In Addition to their ordinary revenue from lands, rents and gifts, the Preceptory of St Anthony were entitled to a Scots Quart of Wine out of every tun or cask imported into Leith.

This tax or impost added considerably to their annual income. However Wine being an article of foreign commerce, the Leith Wine Trade wholesale and retail was the monopoly of the merchant’s burgesses of Edinburgh. Leithers could and did keep taverns for the sale of ale and beer but they were not allowed to sell wines. The wine sellers had formed themselves into a Fraternity or guild. No one could be a wine merchant in Leith who was not at the same time a free burgess of Edinburgh and a member of this guild.

It was through this fraternity or guild that the canons of St Anthony received their impost or money value of a quart from every tun of wine brought into the town and it was in all probability from this fact that the wine merchants were led to adopt St Anthony as their patron saint and called their guild the “Fraternity of St Anthony”. Like all guilds they had and maintained a chaplain and alter in honour of their patron saint in the Parish Church. The Chapel of St Anthony was in the South transept of St Giles and now forms the east portion of the Moray Aisle for in it the Regent Moray was below.

Below is the lintel stone of the “Fraternity of St Anthony” from Storries Alley in Leith as can be seen the name has been changed probably because of the reformation the guild continued for well over a hundred years after the date shown. After 1560 the wine impost went to South Leith Church and continued as before but gradually over time the wine merchants resented paying it and eventually it had stopped altogether by the late 18th century..

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