The History of Leith

February 5, 2011

references to Leith in the pages of Scottish history from A.D. 1329 to A.D. 1822

The following table shows, in chronological
order, some of the references to Leith in
the pages of Scottish history from A.D. 1329 to
A.D. 1822.
1329 Robert the Bruce grants a Charter to
the City of Edinburgh conveying the
harbour and mills of Leith.
1400 Henry IV takes possession of Leith.
1423 James I and his Queen, Jane, land at
Leith, 2oth March.
1438 James II conveyed by strategem in a
chest to Leith from the Castle of Edinburgh,
and carried thence to Stirling
by sea.
1449 Mary of Gueldres married by proxy at
Brussels to James II—lands at Leith,
ist April.
1469 Margaret of Denmark arrives at Leith—
married at Holyrood to James III.
1506-8-10 James IV grants a Charter to Newhaven,
under the name of ” Our Ladye’s Port
of Grace.” The Great Michael supposed
to have been built there.
1537 James V and Queen Magdalene land at
Leith, 28th May. She kneels, kisses the
ground, and prays God to_ bless the
1544 Invasion by Earl of Hertford—part of
Leith burned.
1555 Mary of Lorraine, Queen Dowager,
Regent, resides in Leith.
1557-60 Knox preaches the reformed faith in
Leith. The town figured prominently as
the Citadel of the Regent Queen, who,
with French mercenaries, bravely withstood
the attacks of the Lords of the
Congregation reinforced by English
1561 Mary, Queen of Scots, after an absence of
thirteen years, returns to Scotland, and
lands at Leith, igth August.
1571 The Duke of Lennox, Regent, and the Earl
of Morton, his lieutenant, establish«headquarters
in Leith, and erect a Council
Chamber on the Coalhill.
1589 James VI and Anne of Denmark married
in Norway, land at Leith, ist May.
1600 James VI crosses from Kinghorn to Leith.
1638 Solemn League and Covenant signed on
Leith Links, and again in 1643.
1645 Leith visited with plague and famine.
1650 King Charles II visits the troops on Leith
Links, and resides for the time in the
mansion of Lord.Balmerino, Kirkgate.
1682 James, Duke of York, plays golf on the
Links. Mons Meg burst on being fired
in honour of His Grace.
1698 Darien Expedition, consisting of five
frigates, with ” 1,200 men and 300
gentlemen,” sails from Leith Roads, 26th
1745 Arthur, sixth Lord Balmerino, leaves his
mansion in Leith, and joins Prince Charles,
after the Battle of Prestonpans.
1754 Mons Meg removed to the Tower of London.
1763 Two stage coaches between Edinburgh and
Leith—three horses, coachman and postillion
—taking one hour to accomplish the
1779 Paul Jones arrives in Leith Roads, I7th
1791 Smacks first established between Leith and
1812 The first steamboat, the Lady of the Lake,
introduced into the Firth of Forth, plying
between Alloa and Leith.
1822 George IV lands at Leith, I5th August.
As is stated above, the Harbour of Leith was
conveyed to the City of Edinburgh by Royal Charter
in 1329, and at that time and for the next four
centuries the accommodation consisted of tidal
berths near the mouth of the Water of Leith. With
increasing trade, however, the need for improved
facilities became urgent, and at the beginning of
the nineteenth century the first enclosed docks
were built. In 1838 the ownership and control
of the Harbour and Docks was transferred to a
Statutory Body, the Leith Dock Commission.
Dock construction since 1800 has been as
follows :—
East Old Dock 1806
West Old Dock 1817
Victoria Dock … … … … 1852
Albert Dock 1865
Edinburgh Dock 1881
Imperial Dock … … … … 1902
East and West Breakwaters and improved
entrance… … … … … 1942
Deep Water berths, Western Harbour … 1955
The Port of Leith has many natural advantages :
direct access to the great seaports of Europe;
easily navigable approaches to the port; a safe
anchorage and easy entrance to the harbour and
docks ; proximity to the Lothians coalfield; and
good road and railway connections.

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