The History of Leith

November 17, 2008

The Writers Museum

(c) John Arthur

Shown as Stair’s Close. Lady Gray’s Close. The older name, Lady Gray’s Close, i.b. 40; Wilson, i. 213, was derived from Egidia or Geida, wife of Sir Wm. Gray, of Pittendrul and sister of Sir John Smith of Grothill, Provost of Edinburgh in 1643. Sir Wm.Gray seems to have built the house, which gave its name to the close in 1622, on land acquired from Mr. Thomas, Aikenheid, one of the Commissioners of Edinburgh, Prot. A. B.5, 24/4/1717, and owned formerly by Catherine Livingstoun; the initials of Sir William and his wife are carved on the lintel of the entrance. He died in 1648, and his widow survived him for several years, giving her name to the close. After some changes of ownership the house was disponed on 7th April 1719 to Elizabeth, Countess Dowager of Stair, widow of John, 1st Earl of Stair, and daughter Sir John Dundas of Newliston, by Agnes, eldest daughter of Sir and Lady Gray, after the death of Sir John Dundas, his widow married Sir Archibald Primrose of Carrington, and their son Archibald was 1st Earl of Rosebery. It is from this Dowager Lady Stair, who died in 1731, that the house and close are named. Her son John, 2nd Earl of Stair, who died in 1747, married widow of 1st Viscount Primrose; she survived him twelve years.She may have visited her mother-in-law’s house, but to derive the name from her is quite erroneous, although from Robert Chambers do; ward this false derivation has been given. For all full account of the house and the families of Gray, Stair Primrose, see the Old Edinburgh Club, Vol. iii. p.243. The short form ‘Stair’s Close’ is also found, m.t.c. 5/8/1789. Edgar. Ainslie. Kirkwood. Kerr.

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