The History of Leith

May 9, 2012

“mair love and kyndness towards thame by their supposed enneymies than of thair awin countrymen and friends.”

After the battle of Dunbar, when Cromwell took
possession of Edinburgh and Leith, he seems to
have found a necessity for enforcing discipline
among his ” godly soldiers,” some of whom, as
Nicoll records, were scourged through the streets
by the provost-marshal’s men from the Stone
Cross to the Nether Bow and back again, for plundering
houses ; others were pilloried at the cross or
the wooden mare with pint-stoups at the neck and
muskets at the foot, for drunkenness ; and in the
history of the Coldstream Guards it is stated that a
drummer of Colonel Pride’s regiment was tried for
killing another soldier, and by sentence of a courtmartial
shot ” against the cross in Edinburgh.”
In the administration of justice Nicoll relates
that many Scottish suitors laid their cases before a
committee of Cromwellian officers sitting in Leith,
and cases that had been standing over for sixteen
years were disposed of with such military celerity
that some of the said suitors declared that they
found “mair love and kyndness towards thame
by their supposed enneymies than of thair awin
countrymen and friends.” But the troops, under
General Lambert, subjected Leith to a monthly
assessment of £22 sterling, besides a proportion
of the ,£2,400 Scots levied upon Edinburgh and
its vicinity.
When Cromwell returned to England he left
General Monk commander of his forces in Scotland,
where only the goodwill and coalition of the
people would have enabled so small a force to remain
unmolested. For a time the latter took up
his quarters in Leith, and while he was resident
he induced some English families of considerable
wealth and of great commercial enterprise to settle
The Mercurius Politicus—-the rare volumes of
which are preserved in the Advocates’ Library—
records that in October, 1652, there was a dangerous
mutiny among Monk’s garrison in Leith, in
consequence of deductions from their pay to form
a store. Four were condemned to be hanged, but
were ordered to cast lots to the end that one only
should die ; but the entire female population petitioned
for the life of him on whom the lot fell, and
he was spared in consequence.
In the preceding year, by a court-martial, he had
the wife of Lieutenant Emerson whipped through
the streets for profligacy, and shipped off to London.
(” Coldstream Guards.”)
In 1656 Monk set about the erection of a citadel
in North Leith, on the site of St Nicholas’ Church,
which he demolished entirely for that purpose. It
had been ordered by Cromwell in 1653, was pentagonal
in form, and entirely faced with hewn
stone. It had five bastions, and barracks inside,
and the house above the arch, or principal east
entrance, which still remains, is traditionally said to
have a been portion of his residence. Aniron helmet,
or ” Cromwell pot,” was found here in a mound
of rubbish, and presented to the Museum of Antiquities
in 1833.
The vexatious controversy about the superiority
of Leith having been again agitated, on the 5th of
May, 1656, the Town Council of Edinburgh granted
to General Monk ^5,000 towards the erection of
his citadel on the conditions that the city should
retain the superiority, and he should not retain the
; old French fortifications. Thus, though the Eng-
‘ lish commercial men whom he had invited to settle
in Leith gave an impulse to the mercantile spirit of
the port, they felt painfully the restrictions imposed
‘ upon them by the dominant Town Council of
Edinburgh, and though they had a Republican
government to appeal to, they failed to extricate
the inhabitants from any portion of their ancient

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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