The History of Leith

October 25, 2010

St Anthony’s a Mediaeval Hospital

IN the days when James I. became king, Leith had really hardly attained to the dignity of being called a town. The population at this time could not have exceeded, if it even reached, fifteen hundred. But even in those days Leith was ever extending its bounds. At the
beginning of the reign the street known from time immemorial as the Shore did not extend farther than the Broad Wynd. On the stretch of rough, waste land beyond this, covered with sand and coarse grass, James I. built his King’s Wark, which occupied all the ground between Broad Wynd and Bernard Street.
While the King’s Wark was extending the Shore seawards, another group of buildings, whose character and purpose were very different, began to rise among the fields and meadows to the south, near where the lands of the Logans met those of the Monypennys of Pilrig.
This was the Hospital of St. Anthony, which, unlike the King’s Wark, has left its own memorial behind it in the form of some of the oldest and most familiar place names in the town. All wanderers in and about the Kirkgate know the St. Anthony district with its several old-time alleys—they can hardly be dignified as streets—to which the famous hermit saint has given his name.
The Hospital of St. Anthony was founded in 1430 by the first of the Logans to own the lands of Restalrig
Sir Robert, who had married the Lady Katharine, as the family tree designates her, the daughter and heiress of Sir John de Lestalric who died in 1382. Sir Hubert was now grown old in years. His life had no
doubt been wild and turbulent, as was the age in which he lived, but it had not been unaffected by the soften-influences of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. He was religious according to his lights, and now in his old age, when no longer able to pursue the strenuous life, his thoughts turned more and more to his duty to God and his fellow-men. The religious and enthusiasm which had founded and built the abbeys of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries had spent itself, and yet devotion to Mother Church and her teaching was more widespread among the people of Logan’s time than ever before.
In those centuries men believed with the ” gudewife ” of their own age who taught her daughter that,
” Meikle grace comis of praying
And brings men aye to good ending,”
acting on this belief, men sought to secure their own salvation and that of their relations by endowing the Church according to their means, and conferring such benefits and blessings on those who were in need, that both the Church and succeeding generations of recipients
of their benefactions would daily remember them in their prayers. And for these reasons Sir Robert Logan founded the Hospital of St. Anthony, which stood where the Trafalgar Hall and the Kirkgate United Free Church stand in St. Anthony Lane to-day. All that now survives
of this ancient religious house are its name (given to the district in which it once stood)

Source-The story of Leith

(Editors note-The Kirkgate United Free Church has now been removed and the South Leith Church Halls stands on the site)

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