The History of Leith

June 3, 2012

The burning of Leith,

The choir and transepts are said to have been
destroyed by the English, according to Maitland
and Chalmers, in 1544. ” No other evidence exists
however, in support of this,” according to Wilson,
“than the general inference deducible from the
burning of Leith, immediately before their embarkation—
a procedure which, unless accompanied by
more violent modes of destruction, must have left
the remainder of the church in the same condition
as the nave, which still exists.” He therefore
concludes that the choir and transepts had been
destroyed by the Scottish and English cannon
during the great siege, in which the tower of St.
Anthony perished.
Robertson, an acute local antiquary, held the
same theory. That the church was partially destroyed
after the battle of Pinkie is obvious from
the following letter, written by Sir Thomas Fisher
to the Lord Protector of England :—” i ith October,
1548. Having had libertie to walke abroad in the
town of Edinburghe with his taker, and sometymes
betwix that and Leghe, he telleth me that Leghe is
entrenched about, and that besydes a bulwarke
made by the haven syde near the sea, on the ground
where the chapel stood (St. Nicholas), which I
suppose your Grace remembereth, there is another
greater bulwarke made on the mane ground at the
great church standing at the upper end of the
town towards Edinburghe.” (Mait. Club.)
In a history published in the Wodrow Miscellany
we are told that in 1560 the English ” lykewise
shott downe some pairt of the east end of the
Kirk of Leith,” thus destroying the choir and transepts.
On Easter Sunday, when the people were at mass,
a great ball passed through the eastern window, just
before the elevation of the host.
That Hertford’s two invasions were unnecessarily
savage—truly Turkish in. their atrocities, as dictated,
in the first instance, by order of Henry VIII.
—is perfectly well known ; but it is less so that he
materially aided the work of the Reformers.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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