The History of Leith

December 9, 2008

Leith Museum Newsletter, December 2008?

Dear All,

This newsletter aims to give supporters of the campaign for a Leith museum an update about how our campaign is going. There has been a lot going on – mainly in the background, but we believe we are making solid progress!

This newsletter gives details of some of the steps that have been undertaken or are under way – and also how you can help our campaign!

Mark Lazarowicz,
MP for Edinburgh North & Leith
Chair, Leith Museum Company

Charity recognition and incorporation as a company

After a long period of going through various bureaucratic hoops, our group has finally been incorporated as a “company limited by guarantee”, and the official name of the group is now the “Leith Museum Company” (company registration no. SC350374). The objectives of the company make it clear that we have been established for a “charitable purpose”, with the powers “to operate and manage a museum in Leith”, and for various related activities.

We have also successfully applied to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator for registration, so our group is now a “charitable company”.

This means that it will now be possible for us to apply to a number of trusts and other bodies which only fund registered charities.

Custom House Working Group

Our main efforts are directed towards the aim of establishing a museum for Leith in the “Custom House” building in Leith. We have established a small group of experts who have been giving their time on a voluntary basis to develop proposals for this building, and we hope to have an initial report ready just after the New Year. The Custom House is currently owned by the National Museums Scotland who use it for storage. National Museums Scotland have advised that in their view Custom House is unsuitable for long term museum storage, and its use in that way is not appropriate for one of the finest buildings in Leith. We agree! We hope that our study will make a powerful case for the Custom House to be transformed into a museum for Leith, and subject to obtaining funding will be followed up by a more detailed feasibility study and business case for a museum.

Film on the Plague in Leith

As well as seeking to establish a permanent museum in Leith, we also aim to undertake some other activities to highlight key moments in the history of Leith, which will also help to underline the case for a museum. We are proposing to make a short film on the impact of plague, in 1645, on the community of Leith. This will be a sign of the content and quality of product we can produce as we develop visual resources for a new museum in Leith. This film will depict one of the best documented outbreaks of plague (Black Death) in Scotland. It had disastrous consequences cutting the population by two-thirds, yet paradoxically brought to the fore the Leith characteristics of compassion and perseverance. We have applied to Edinburgh City Council for a Community Grant to pay for the costs of producing this film.

Mobile exhibition on the history of Leith

Another of our planned activities meantime is our plan to produce a mobile exhibition, depicting key moments and key themes in the history of Leith.

This would consist of a number of display panels, with accompanying material, which could be set up at various venues in the community of Leith (this could include schools, community centres, shopping centres, youth centres, and other venues in Leith and beyond). We are applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund for help with the funding of this exhibition.

Scottish Parliament Petition

Our petition to the Scottish Parliament backing the case for a museum in Leith has been well received by the Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee. The committee has agreed to consider our petition again once we have completed the feasibility study referred to above.

How YOU can help us establish a museum in Leith!


Our campaign so far relies almost entirely upon volunteers. A number of Leith businesses have been backing our campaign through the generous commitment of staff time, and through other help ‘in kind’. However, we now need to raise funds to help us develop our case for a museum, to produce and distribute newsletters like this, to publicise our work in other ways, and to support projects such as the film and mobile exhibition described above. If you can help us by making a donation, small or large, that would be very welcome. Cheques should be made payable to “Leith Museum Company”, and should be sent c/o Mark Lazarowicz, 17 Bellevue Place, Edinburgh EH7 4BS.

Get more supporters for our petition!

We are still keen to get supporters of a Leith Museum to sign our petition. That shows the extent of support, and also lets us keep supporters informed of what we are doing. We have a paper petition – email with your address if you would like us to send you copies. Alternatively, you can sign up to our e-petition at

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