Page images

situation, so eminently belonging to it, will see with pleasure the feelings that have been excited in the public mind by the proposal of erecting a jail in Prince's Street. This proposal seems to meet with universal disapprobation; and it is to confirm this just and honourable feeling, that I venture to send few remarks.

"There is not perhaps in Europe a finer view of the kind than Prince's Street, as seen from the North Bridge, displays. Its great length, the uniformity and neatness of its buildings, and its happy termination towards the west, in the view of the hills which seem there to bound it, present altogether a combination which never fails to excite the most pleasurable sensations, in every one possessed of the smallest spark of taste, and uniformly calls forth the warmest admiration of strangers.

"If we view the Old Town from the terrace of Prince's Street itself, nothing can exceed its picturesque appearance. It is the view, of all others, that strikes a stranger most; not less from its inherent beauty, than its great singularity, and the contrast of times and circumstances which it at once suggests to the mind. Nor is this beauty of appearance limited to the day alone; for the lights that start up in the several habitations at night, fantastically disposed as they are, present a picture of the most singular and striking description.

"Well might our poet, in viewing such scenes, exclaim:

Such dusky grandeur clothed the height, Where the huge castle holds its state,

And all the steep slope down, Whose ridgy back heaves to the sky, Piled deep and mossy, close and high,

Mine own romantic town!

"All this, however, must fall a sacrifice, if this extraordinary project be carried into execution. Who would not regret the loss of such beauties, to gain even the greatest advantage! Who does not execrate the

project, of sacrificing them to the erection of a jail!

"By the execution of such a project, not only would great beauties be thus at once annihilated; but an object always in itself unpleasant, would be constantly obtruded on the public eye. However necessary such buildings may be, they are not of the kind one would wish to have daily, and even hourly in our view.. So unfortunate, however, is the situation now proposed, that they would necessarily be seen on every side, and stand prominently forward as an object which it is impossible to avoid. Whatever may be done to render the front of the proposed court-rooms ornamental, it is impossible to conceal the prison behind. It will present itself in full view, from the west of Prince's Street, from the Mound, and from the North Bridge; and no one can pass from the Old to the New Town, without having his feelings harrowed up, by the sight of dismal loop-holes and grated windows, and all the train of melancholy associations, to which they necessarily lead. In course of time, too, the place of execution will be brought to the same situation; for though the reporter seeks to obviate this objection, by observing that the execution of criminals ought not to take place at the jail, and that the old mode of procession to some distance is more impressive no one can donbt, that if this were at first established, pretences would easily be found for recurring to the practice of prison-executions, which must ever be so much more convenient to those officially called to the superintendance of such melancholy dutics.

"It is also to be remarked, that if once the Terrace of Prince's, Street be encroached on, it would lead ultimately to the whole line being occupied by buildings. It is well known that this has, for a considerable time, been an object in view with sonte per


sons, who are disposed to prefer the acquisition of a little public revenue to every other consideration, and who, we may charitably presume, have not taste enough to value any thing else. This disposition has hitherto been effectually resisted by the present proprietors in Prince's Street; but the ground of resistance would be greatly weakened by the execution of the proposed encroachment, and perhaps even the disposition to resist would gradually wear out, and finally die away."

These appropriate observations were followed by some remarks of a severer description, by "A CITIZEN," as follows :

"Can the immediate neighbourhood of the long stagnated marsh of the North Loch, or the putrid effluvia of the slaughter-houses and fishmarket, be a more desirable situation than the heart of the city, upon a gradually rising ground, with a southern exposure, open and dry on all sides and in the immediate neighbourhood of the Parliament House, the SheriffCourt-house, Police-Office, and Council Chamber? By the present proposal the property in Prince's Street, must be much injured, the air interrupted, and the beauty of the Street destroyed. But, we are told, the elegant part of the magnificent buildings will front Prince's Street, and that the site of the Jail will be nearly to the bottom of the bank-a most healthful situation, indeed, for the prisoners! Can their lower apartments be free from damp, whatever sum may be expended in draining? From the north and west wind the Jail, will be almost completely excluded, by the elegant buildings in front, and by the Mound on the west. The prisoners will indeed reap all the benefit of a current of east wind, conducted by the north back of Canongate, bellowing through the arches of the North Bridge, and sarrying perfumes from the slaughter gases, h-market, &c. direct to

their apartments; and by the south wind they will be regaled with the smoke of the city, circulated through the north closses, and impregnated with the unwholesome vapours arising from public nuisances. The public however, are not aware of the enormous burdens, those projected elegant buildings on this most agreable site, may subject them to. Let the present condition of the College, and what was long the situation of the Register Office, be considered-these will give wisdom. But it is needless to enlarge, as, I trust, the public are on their guard, and the proprietors in Prince's Street will doubtless attend to their own interest. If the site long ago determined on, be deemed too small for a common jail-(for the most part the lodgement of felons) the Calton Hill, Burntsfield Links, or other places in the neighbourhood of the city, ought to be chosen ; and not a situation where the air must be bad-where the beauty of one of the finest streets in the world must be destroyed-where the sun in winter will scarcely reach the prison-and where damp must be ever present."

These pointed remarks made a considerable impression, and were followed up by a new proposal in the following spirited terms by, "A FRIEND TO EDINBURGH :"

"The Sheriff, in his report, mentions the Calton Hill as a situation which must occur to every one, but states the want of access as an insurmountable objection. It has long been a favourite speculation, that the Calton Hill might be connected with Prince's Street, by taking away the houses. which form the east end of it, and throwing a bridge across the hollow lying between the foundation of these houses and the Calton Hill. This hollow will be found to present ne difficulty; and I apprehend that the construction of proper abutments and retaining walls on each side, would render more than one arch unneces


sary. In this way, Prince's Street would be prolonged to the Calton, thereby opening a short communication to every part of it; and the difference of the level of Prince's Street and the point of arrival on the Calton Hill, would be so trifling, as to ⚫ccasion no ascent or descent which need at all to be regarded. The road might then proceed by the corner of the burying-ground, and pass in front of the Bridewell; conducting, in the first instance, to a situation which may possibly be considered the best for a new Jail on the Calton Hill--that space which lies to the east of the Bridewell. I conceive the communication which I now suggest must remove the objection to this situation, on the ground of its being inaccessible; and it would not be remote, as the new Jail would be as near the Register Of fice as the General Post-Office now is. The convenience of the Magistrates has been stated as a reason for the Jail being within a limited distance; but while it is proper that such a consideration should not be disregarded, it is surely to be hoped, that in an age when improvement is so well understood, the circumstance of the Magistrates having their Councilroom in the old part of the Town, will not outweigh the numerous advantages of the Jail being placed in a sufficiently spacious, healthful, and detached situation. An arrangement might undoubtedly be made, by which prisoners committed for examination need not be carried to a distance from the Jail for that purpose. The attendance of the Magistrates or Sheriff at the new Jail, (proper accommodation being provided there for the purpose,) would assuredly be a better plan, than that prisoners should be moved even a short way for examination, and the inconvenience to them would not be considerable.

"Were a jail built upon the Calton Hill, it would, in all probability, lead to the removal of the Justiciary Court

to the same place, and it does not occur, that any material inconvenience would result from that change, there being no urgent reason for the sittings of the Justiciary Court being in the same place with the Court of Session. At all events, if a change is to take place, the Calton Hill would be as unobjectionable as the situation proposed in Prince's Street, and there would be greater convenience as to the Justiciary Office, than having the Justiciary Court even where it is now held.

"With regard to the expense of the proposed undertaking;-I imagine that the expence of gaining the access to the Calton Hill would be compensated by the value of the thoroughfare to be opened, and all charges of a sufficiently spacious site for a jail, to be paid for at a high rate, (if elsewhere obtained,) would be saved by making use of ground which already belongs. to the Town.”

While I could not avoid noticing the effect of the projected prolongation of Prince's Street to the Calton Hill, in relation to the new Jail, now under consideration of the public, I will proceed to state briefly some very favourite effects of this measure, as a work of general convenience and embellishment of the Town.

I believe it to be quite practicable to continue the road from the front of Bridewell, upon a gradual declivity, taking advantage of the shape of the east shoulder of the Calton Hill. Having in this way formed the thoroughfare, I propose that it should be the great approach to the city of Edinburgh from the London road; and truly, I think, that a more striking and magnificent entrance cannet be figured -to gain the level of the Bridewell by a gradual ascent to overlook the Town and environs from that most striking of all points-to descend gently, and arrive upon the great thoroughfare of Prince's Street, the great point of divergence at the Register Office


having commanded the Town in its most striking aspect, and having avoided the continued ascent upon a necessarily crowded pavement,-I venture to think, that as to convenience and grandeur, the plan now suggested is infinitely preferable to the great street projected on the lower and north side of the Calton Hill; for, instead of following, as that street would, a dead level until you reach Leith Walk, and then ascending a great height abruptly in a short distance, close upon the point at which both ways meet, you gain the summit level to the east of the Bridewell, by commencing the ascent at a greater distance, and rendering it in consequence more moderate. But there is no reason why the plans should interfere, one with the other; for, if the inercasing size of the Town demands its extension on the lower side of the Calton Hill, streets must necessarily be laid out, and the street hitherto proposed in that quarter, as an approach to supercede all others, would make a most convenient inlet to the Town, through Picardy Place and York Place, while this street may in time be produced by the building a Second New Town. I do not see that it can be viewed as nearly so convenient an approach to the centre of the Town, as that across the projected bridge from the Calton Hill, nor can it all compare with it in beauty or grandeur of effect. The situation of the city has long been the admiration of all who visit it, but equally astonished have they been at the miserable entrance from the London road. In no way could the London approach be made so suitable to the grandeur of our Town, as it has hitherto been disgraceful to it, than by this striking improvement.

It may be premature to consider what might be deemed best as to the occupation of the Calton Hill, when it should be thus brought within seach; this only is clear, that it

would become a public walk, with every advantage of nearness and healthiness, and while it might be ornamented by a few public buildings, such as the new Observatory and Jail, it is to be hoped, that it would be preserved uncovered, except, perhaps, along the upper or north-eastern side of the new road.

"CANDIDUS," in an excellent and well-written paper, powerfully seconded these ideas; and exhibited at same time, some tasteful and judicious remarks on this interesting subject; he states, that

"The first and primary objection which is likely to be made against opening up Prince's Street to the Calton Hill, is the expence. With the exception of a few houses on the east side of Shakespear Square, no property of any value interferes with the object in view. When the project of the South Bridge was first agitated, it met with strenuous opposition, and even with ridicule. It is needless to state the increased value of the property in that quarter, in consequence of the plan having been carried above all opposition, by the discernment and firmness of Sir James Hunter Blair, Bart. the chief Magistrâte. That our present Governors possess firmness, they have recently given a most noble proof, in an instance, I believe, known very generally. However trifling the risk appears in going farther, I will not prophecy any other return for what may be expended in the purchase of the property in Shakespear Square, behind it, and on the Calton Hill, than the payment of full interest-provided a handsome street shall be planned, and extend from the Register Office to the northeast corner of the burying-ground. Beyond that, (to a point I am about to notice particularly,) no building

Collection in aid of the Lancastrian schools.

[ocr errors]

building must be suffered, but this new prison."

So far then, we have an elegant and easy approach, to the enjoyment of a natural Panorama, unequalled in the world. At the end of the street, the rise of which will be imperceptible, three roads will branch off; one to the north, one to the Observatory and the Monument, and one eastward, passing the new Prison and the Bridewell. I observed a proposal to have the prison on the cast side of the Bridewell. There is an objection to this, sufficiently strong, without the consideration of others which may be gathered from the sequel. The space is a narrow stripe, on which no building, calculated for the security and comfort of the prisoners, could be erected. The space between the Bridewell and the burying-ground, as near as I can guess, contains fully a scots acre, and it presents a noble opportunity for a display of architectural skill.

Passing along the front of Bridewell, and a little beyond, there is a considerable quantity of debris, which will of course be removed, and thus a great portion of the rock, now concealed, will be opened up to view. It might add to its beauty and to the effect of the overhanging rocks, to have a few trees and shrubs scattered here and there, along the south slope of the hill. The street should now be prolonged, till it joins a suite of Terraces, which, while viewing the plans for a new town on the east side of Leith Walk, struck me, in one of those plans, as the production of a genius accustomed to look on nature with nature's eye, and fully aware of what species the encroachment should be, when, from necessity, we must encroach on nature.

The laying out of the ground below, though by no means a matter of indifference, must be considered se, in comparison with the encroachment on the Calton Hill, which are of such

importance that I beg leave to describe (as far as my memory will allow) the plan I have alluded to, and which I do not hesitate to pronounce to to be by far the best, in every respect, of all those that were exhibited, notwithstanding the very great merit which many of them possess.

In this plan (A.X.) there is a Terrace on the south side (which will beautifully join with the road proposed to pass by the new prison and the Bridewell) judiciously placed, so as to front Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat. On the north, and connected with the first by two cross streets, is a most excellent Terrace, the eastern division of which is concave and the western convex. I am inclined to propose a road to be carried from the west end of this last, and on the same level, round the north-west side of the hill, above Nottingham Place, to join the continuation of Prince's Street at its upper termination. If I remember well, the low ground in this plan was laid out in streets, diverging from a point opposite Pilrig Street, and exceedingly well chosen. The continuation of the south terrace to the Abbeyhill, and its junction with the London road, must strike the most superficial observer.

Thus, Sir, I have laid before you a design, which, if adopted, will prove an object of admiration to the surrounding country; and (if I must introduce such ideas) of profit to the managers of one of the noblest and best conducted charities in this or any other country.

Some additional information touching this important topic in discussion, was afforded by "Civis." This writer states, that


"Most people seem now perfectly satisfied of the unfitness of the situation in Forrester's Wynd for the Jail-the want of air-of extent of airing-ground, unless acquired at an enormous expense-the value of the houses and property necessary for accomplishing

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »