In 1827 Leith became a Burgh as Edinburgh was, this lasted for a short time as in 1920 Edinburgh took over. Leith was first mentioned in history in 1143 when King David I granted the monks lands at ‘Inverlet’ He also had a harbour built at the Shore for personal use. Leith has been a very important area due to its position on the forth and closeness to Edinburgh.
The port of Leith has been attached by Spanish, French, English and American ships over the years and eventually taken by Edinburgh in 1920.
Take a trip to the redeveloped area of the commercial quayside just over the bridge at the Shore, where you will find many types of open air restaurants and just a short stroll away from the Royal Yacht Britannia and the indoor shopping mall Ocean Terminal. On a Sunday there is an outdoor market. In 1813 a Mr William Crawford opened a small biscuit Shop on the Shore Leith eventually merging with McVities circa 1960.
The King’s Landing is the historic occasion of George the IV becoming the first monarch to stand on Scottish shores since Charles II in 1651. It came about by an invitation from Sir Walter Scott on a suggestion by Henry Dundas,
(a very powerful politician at the time). This is when the kilt and tartan wear became popular.
The plaques can be seen on the Shore and can be seen on the wall above the plaque.
The Plaque reads;
OPPOSITE THIS SPOT KING GEORGE IV LANDED | ON 15th AUGUST 1822. AN HISTORIC VISIT |
ARRANGED MAINLY BY SIR WALTER SCOTT |
FOR THE BICENTENARY OF WHOSE BIRTH | THIS PLAQUE WAS ERECTED | LEITH CIVIC TRUST August 1971
The Signal Tower
The Signal Tower built in 1685 had sails of a windmill. The stone tower you can see today was originally higher by at least two further floors. The battlements were built during the Napoleonic war when the tower became the signal tower relaying flag messages to incoming ships
The Sailor’s Home
The Sailors Home built in 1883 was accommodation for sailors whose ships were in port. Look for the angel above the door an emblem for the seaman’s mission, now a luxury hotel. The Memorial to merchant seamen can be seen in front of the building.
The Memorial takes the form of a 5.5 metre sandstone column featuring seafaring scenes in bronze relief. It is possible to see navigators with charts, a ship’s cook, stokers, engineers, and seamen hauling lines. The Shore was chosen as the location for this new Memorial because Leith was Scotland’s premier port for more than 300 years, and served as Edinburgh’s trading port for more than 700 years. In addition, the Memorial recognises the 132 years of service dedicated to the Merchant Navy by Leith Nautical College (1855-1987) and its training ship, “Dolphin” (1944- 1979).
Four shelves on the the working seamen showing their different duties.
This sculpture of grey slate is a memorial to three musicians and was designed by the sculptor James Parker from Galloway Scotland.
Thomas (Tam) Bennett Sim White
He was a Blues and Jazz singer, TV personality and film actor. He was In many TV dramas and soaps performed on
Top of the Pops. He was born in Grassmarket Edinburgh he went to the same secondary school (Darrock Academy)
as Sean (007) Connery
Raymond (Boz) Burrell
He was born in Holbeach England. He was a musician, singer-songwriter and Guitar player.
He played with Ritchie Blackmore, King Crimson, Bad Company and Tam White.
Derek “Dell Boy” Allen
The Gates of Leith
The Gates of Leith stand with two cannon from the 16th century once part of the artillery that protected the Leith Docks from invaders. In the centre a bust of Governor John Hunter, son of a Leith ship master and second in command aboard H.M.S. Sirius when they found the colony of New South Wales in 1788.
Governor John Hunter Bust
Vice Admiral |John Hunter R.N.| 1737-1821
Captain John Hunter was captain of the HMS Sirius and later became the 2nd Governor of New South Wales Australia from 1795 returning to Britain in 1800. New South Wales was the penal outpost of the British Empire. As a professional sailor John Hunter was involved in the American War of Independence and took part in Chesapeake and Sandy Hook He was appointed third lieutenant of his flagship HMS Victory and he received his first command in 1782. John Hunter ended his career as a Vice-Admiral and spent his final years in Leith in 6 Cassels Place (43 Leith Walk near the corner of Kirk Street) before returning to London where he died in 1821. The inscription on the plaque reads; Governor John Hunter | Governor of New South Wales 1795 – 1800 | Born Leith 29th August 1737 Died London 13th March 1821 | John Hunter, son of a Leith Ship Master, was Second in | command aboard H.M.S. Sirius to Governor Arthur Phillip | Who Founded the Colony in January 1788. He Returned to be | The Colony’s Second Governor and Conducted its Government | with Sense, Duty, And Humanity. | This bust was donated to the Scots Australian Council in | Edinburgh by its Sculptor, Victor Cusack, and the Scottish | Australian Heritage Council in Sydney and was unveiled on | 28th August 1994, by The Rt. Hon. Norman Irons, the | Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh, and his | Excellency, The Hon. Neal Blewett, High | Commissioner for Australia.
HMS Sirius built in Newhaven Leith Edinburgh, was the flagship of the First Fleet. The HMS Sirius set out from Portsmouth, England, in 1787 to establish the first European colony in New South Wales, Australia.
The original position of the lighthouse beacon was in Burntisland, Fife (1876) and was moved to its present position in 1990. The roman numerals that can be seen on the front of the lighthouse show the date when it was first used.
Sandy Irvine Robertson OBE
Wine merchant, charity promoter and founder of the Scottish Business Achievements Awards Trust. After his premature death, his friends commissioned a bronze statue which sits on the waterfront at the estuary of the Water of Leith. Behind is a harpoon gun from Port Leith Whaling Station, and the Victoria Swing Bridge that was built in 1874.
1851 Christian Salvesen arrived in Leith and set up in business as a shipowner and broker, later the family started the whaling from Leith in 1906 and by 1911 Christian Salvesen & Co had become the largest whaling company in the world. Whale Oil was a very important commodity as it was used for the oil for lamps, machine lubrication, margarine, soap and glycerine for explosives. The gun came from one of the whale catchers run by the Salvesen Company which was registered in Leith
Victoria Swing Bridge
This bridge formerly carried a road, railway crossing and footpaths and was the largest swing bridge in Great Britain. The original Victoria Swing Bridge across the Inner Harbour linked the Albert Dock to the Victoria Dock and was built in 1874. The bridge is now static and is used as a footpath to cross the mouth of the Water of Leith.
Fingal Luxury Hotel
Fingal was built in 1963 by Blythswood Shipbuilding Company, Scotstoun Glasgow. As steam tender vessel for the Northern Lighthouse Board. The ship was registered in Leith and based for most of its life in Oban (30 years) and 6 years in Stromness, Orkney. The ship on its retirement was sold in 2000 and moored in Cornwall. In 2014 the Britannia trust purchased the vessel which had been renamed Windsor Castle and brought it back to Leith. The ship is 239.01 feet (72.85 m) in length. Its breadth: Beam to Beam is 40.35 feet (12.30 m) and Depth 8.50 feet (5.64 m). The Name has reverted back to Fingal and is now a Luxury five star hotel, moored at the Alexandra Dock in the Port of Leith.
Royal Yacht Britannia
Ocean Terminal Leith
The Royal Yacht Britannia is the former Royal Yacht of the British monarch Queen Elizabeth II. The ship is now permanently moored at Ocean Terminal in Edinburgh. The Britannia is the 83rd vessel since the first Royal yacht owned by King Charles II in 1660. It is the second Royal yacht to bear the name Britannia, the first being the famous racing cutter built for the Prince of Wales in 1893. Have a day out and look around the famous Yacht. Now the rich and famous hire the ship for the evening for dinner parties.
Heritage Room Museum
Kinloch Anderson was started in 1868 by William Anderson and his two sons in Edinburgh’s George Street.
It has Royal warrants of appointment and is a global name in tailoring.
The Museum tells the story of the Kinloch Anderson Family business from its start in 1868.
The Citadel Archway
The Citadel Archway is the only remains of Leith Citadel built by Oliver Cromwell’s troops in 1656. Located next to what was St Ninian’s Church. When the Citadel was first built it stood alone next to the beach. Leith was fought over by the English and French and eventually a treaty was signed. The Citadel was a fortification where retreating troops would go when the main walls of the city defences were breached. Leith Citadel was one of the largest as its location to Edinburgh made it an important site to control. The other Citadels that were built were in Perth Inverness, Ayr and (Inverlochy) now Fort William. In 1827 Leith became an independent Parliamentary Burgh which lasted less than 100 years as in 1920 it became a part of Edinburgh. The first recorded mention of Leith was in 1143. Leith was so important that even the American Navy under John Paul Jones tried to capture the port of Leith.
Take a trip to the redeveloped area of the commercial quayside just over the bridge at the Shore, where you will find many types of open air restaurants and just a short stroll away from the Royal Yacht Britannia and the indoor shopping mall Ocean Terminal.
The coat of arms over the entrance of the Customs House is that of King George III.
The Leith Customs House was built circa 1811 to house and control the goods being brought into Leith by the many ships that traded around the world. All Captains had to declare there cargo and pay a duty. The customs Houses were at every port and have been in operation circa 1390. The customs house of Leith was previously at Trinity House where the maritime museum is now situated.
The King’s Wark
The King’s Wark has history from circa 1430 when it was built by order of James I. In 1590 King James VI, his wife the Queen, Princess Anne of Denmark, resided there for five nights. In 1606 the King’s Wark and lands were gifted to Bernard Lindsay by James VI, The King’s Wark was known to be rebuilt and extended by Mr Bernard Lindsay in 1613 with a tennis court and four Taverns, one for the King and a cellar for the King’s wines. In 1649 it became a weigh House for hemp and iron. The thoroughfare was known as Bernard’s Nook but in 1806 when improvements were being made the new thoroughfare was named Bernard Street after Bernard Lindsay.
This Plaque commemorates the landing in Leith of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots upon her return from France on 19th August 1561. Mary Stuart (Mary Queen of Scots) was born on 8 December 1542. She was the queen of Scotland from December 1542 until July 1567. An infant Queen due to her father King James V death 6 days after her birth. Her reign ended on a forced abdication by Scottish nobles in 1567 at Carberry. Mary’s cousin Queen Elizabeth I had her arrested and she spent the rest of her life as a prisoner until her execution in 1587.
Lamb’s House was built in 1610, was one of the finest merchant’s houses in Scotland. It was built by a merchant called Andrew Lamb a member of the lamb family who lived in the Leith area for circa 200 years. As the date of May Queen of Scots landing was prior to this it is unlikely to be the same house. It is more likely to be the King’s Wark that she waited as this was for the upper class and royalty.
Old Leith Bridge
North Leith and “St Leonard’s Lands” or what became South Leith were joined by a bridge that connected the two areas in 1493. This was the first Stone Bridge to be built over the inlet. Due to the shipbuilders operating upstream from the bridge and when the ships were ready to sail they would have to pass under the bridge, which stopped large ships from being built. The first bridge was replaced by a drawbridge which was built closer to the estuary. When shipbuilding stopped the bridge was replaced by what is in place today.
St Ninian’s Chapel
St Ninian’s Chapel was established in 1493 by Robert Ballantyne, Abbot of Holyrood. When the English were on the rampage burning and destroying churches and castles in Scotland 1560-1 St Ninian’s was not spared.
In 1609 North Leith parish was a new parish and required a Church The ruins of St Ninian’s became the possession of the people of north Leith and rebuilt the chapel which became the parish Church. The Church was extended in 1675.
As Leith grew the church became to small for the congregation and a new church was built in 1816.
The church building was used by other church groups until 1825 when it was used for commercial purposes.
On the wall above the main entrance, stone inscriptions read:
Blessed Are | They Yet Heir | Yevord of God | And keep It | Luke XI | 1600
The SS Explorer is the last surviving steam trawler in the world. It was a purpose built fishery research ship. She is on the National Historic Ships. Launched on 21 June 1955. SS Explorer went out of service in 1984.
The SS Explorer was a fishery research Ship which was to investigate fish breeding and feeding grounds which could establish fishing levels and types of fish that would suit the British markets.
This would enable fishing boats to be more productive.
The SS Explorer has been in Leith docks since 1996 being restored for historic purposes and would be a unique museum. She was one of the last ship of it kind registered to the port of Leith.