The History of Leith

February 18, 2012

Chessel’s Court

Four alleys to the eastward, Bell’s. Gillon’s, Gibbs’ and Pirie’s Closes, all narrow, dark, and filthy, have been without history or record ; but Chessel’s Court, numbered as 240, exhibits a very superior style of architecture, and in 1788 was the scene of that daring robbery of the Excise Office which brought to the gallows the famous Deacon Brodie and his assistant, thus closing a long career of secret villainy, his ingenuity as a mechanic giving him every facility in the pursuits to which he addicted himself. ” It was then customary for the shopkeepers of Edinburgh to hang their keys upon a nail at the back of their doors, or at least to takeno pains in concealing them during the day. Brodie used to take impressions of them in putty or clay, a piece of which he used to carry in the palm of his hand. He kept a blacksmith in his pay, who forged exact copies of the keys he wanted, and with these it was his custom to open the shops of his fellow-tradesmen during the night.”

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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