The History of Leith

February 6, 2012

The celebrated Whitefield

The ground occupied by the future theatre and Shakespeare Square is shown as an open park or irregular parallelogram closely bordered by trees, measuring about 350 feet each way, and lying between the back of the old Orphan Hospital and the village of Multrie’s Hill, where now the Register House stands.
It was in this park, known then as that of the Trinity Hospital, that the celebrated Whitefield used yearly to harangue a congregation of all creeds and classes in the open air, when visiting Edinburgh in the course of his evangelical tours. On his coming thither for the first time after the Act had passed for the extension of the royalty, great was his horror, surprise, and indignation, to find the green slope which he had deemed to be rendered almost sacred by his prelections, enclosed by fences and sheds, amid which a theatre was in the course of erection.
The ground was being ” appropriated to the service of Satan. The frantic astonishment of the Nixie who finds her shrine and fountain desolated in her absence, was nothing to that of Whitefield. He went raging about the spot, and contemplated the rising walls of the playhouse with a sort of grim despair. He is said to have considered the circumstance as a positive mark of the increasing wickedness of society, and to have termed it a plucking up of God’s standard, and a planting of the devil’s in its place.”
The edifice which he then saw in course of erection was destined, for ninety years, to be inseparably connected with the more recent rise of the drama in Scotland generally, in Edinburgh in
particular, and to be closely identified with all the artistic and scenic glories of the stage.

Source-Old and New Edinburgh

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