The History of Leith

September 8, 2007

The “Golden Charter” of South Leith

The origins of the “Golden Charter “lay in the fact when King James VI annexed all the Church property in Scotland in 1572 it was discovered that certain Church property wasn’t Church property at all as they were considered secular and had belonged to one of Military Orders such as the Templars or the Hospitallers and so they were unannexed and among them was
the Preceptory of St Anthony in 1592.

The Preceptory had owned extensive property in Leith, the St James Chapel in Newhaven, the Church at Hailes and several other properties including Lamp Acre Seafield (where Seafield cemetery is now) and Holy Blood Acre at Annfield.. However due to the nature of the Preceptory it couldn’t be claimed by the crown. So the property was passed through several hands starting with the Baillies and Council of Leith in 1572 and then to John Hay in 1592 who was an ordinary clerk of Session of the Preceptory and the Preceptory itself was suppressed in 1592. From John Hay it was passed to Daniel Hay and his wife Margaret Purdie and then re-conveyed back to King James in 1596. The property is then gradually transferred piecemeal to the Ministers, Elders, Deacons and Kirk Session of South Leith for the creation of the King James VI hospital between 1596 and 1606 and the Charter of the 2nd March 1614 was a Charter of Confirmation granted by King James VI at Whitehall. That is why the Elders of South Leith up to the 19th century were called the Preceptors of St Anthony and could
appoint a Baron Bailie of St Anthony up to 1833 with a Thomas Barker being the last to be so appointed..

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