The History of Leith

July 12, 2011

The Old Leith Tolbooth (Now removed)

The Old Tolbooth had become decayed and ruinous, and soon after the demolition of the Heart of Midlothian its doom was pronounced. Sir Walter Scott, Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, and other zealous antiquaries, left nothing undone to induce the magistrates of Edinburgh, under whose auspices the work of demolition proceeded, to preserve the picturesque street front, and re-build the remainder
on a proposed plan. A deputation waited upon the provost for this purpose, but ” were courteously dismissed with the unanswerable argument that the expense of new designs had been incurred; and so the singular old house of justice of Queen Mary was replaced by the commonplace erection that now ‘occupies its site.”
The old edifice was demolished in 1819, and its unprepossessing successor was erected in 1822, at the expense of the city of Edinburgh, in a nondescript style, which the prints of the time flattered themselves was Saxon ; ” but though it has several suites of well-lighted cells, and is said to be. a very complete jail,” wrote a statistical author, ” it remained, at the date of the Commissioners’
Report on Municipal Corporations, and possibly still remains, unlegalised. An objection having been judiciously made to its security, the Court of Session refused an application to legalise it; and a misunderstanding having afterwards arisen between the Corporation of Edinburgh and the community of Leith, the place was neglected, and not allowed the benefit of any further proceedings in its favour. A lock-up house, consisting of cold, damp, and unhealthy cells, such as endangered life, was coolly permitted to do for the police prisoners the honours and offices of the sinecure Tolbooth.”

Source-Old and New Edinburgh

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