The History of Leith

July 28, 2007


ASK someone in Leith if they could direct you to Lapicide Place and they will consider it and then probably say, ‘Ah know the name but ah could nae tell you exactly where it is.’

Well, it lies off North Fort Street, stretches for barely one hundred yards and yet was shown on Kirkwood’s map of 1817 indicating even at that time some building had taken place. The name lapicide indicates that a stone cutter or engraver probably had a small workshop in the area but this had disappeared before 1826. One hundred and thirty years later however, the name was again mentioned when it became one of the first new blocks of housing built in Leith after the Second World War.

There had been intense pressure placed on Edinburgh Corporation immediately post war by the local Member of Parliament, Councillors and Leith Chamber of Commerce for a start to be made to the housing programme but the problem was that before new houses could be built, the old ones had to be pulled down and before this could happen, alternative accommodation had to be found for those families who had been displaced.

This argument appeared to be reasonable but the community pointed out that there were many derelict sites in Leith which could be used for housebuilding without the need for rehousing and this was a situation which was to concern Leith for many years to come.

The first of these four storey blocks in Lapicide Place was completed in 1953 and it was described by a City official as having ‘all the conveniences of a modern bungalow combined with the solidity of an old fashioned tenement.The new housing was well received and appeared to have been well built within a good specification. The walls were built with an imposing stone frontage and the three and four apartment flats were fitted with modern appliances, designed to make life as labour saving as n possible. At the foot of each stair there were special stalls so that prams could be kept there as well as bicycles.The stairs themselves were built at a slightly easier pitch to make the journey to the upper flats a little less tiring.

Internally, the larders had stone shelves, and there was an airing cupboard, built in cupboards and wardrobes.The windows too were burglar proof and easy to clean as they could be adjusted to make them open inwards. The ground floor houses had tiled floors, cookers were fitted to all houses and there was good lighting throughout the whole block.The now block was regarded as one of the best that had been built in Leith for some time and were considered to be roomy, airy and could be easily furnished.

The new housing in Lapicide Place was the forerunner to the further development of housing in Burns Street where tenants were already being moved out and it was not long before the developments at the Fort and the Kirkgate were underway.

Hopefully, when someone next asks you the way to Lapicide Place you will be able to give precise instructions and perhaps ask them if they are looking for someone in one of the first housing developments built in Leith after the war.

Source “The Porthole”

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