Building stones in Edinburgh from the Ballagan Formation
Building stones in Edinburgh from the Ballagan Formation
- 1 The 'Salisbury' Quarries (Camstone and Dumbiedykes)
- 2 Salisbury Crags Quarries
- 3 Greyfriar's Port Quarries
- 4 Other Old Town Quarries
- 5 Craigleith
- 6 Maidencraig
- 7 Barnton Park
- 8 Ravelston
- 9 Craigcrook
- 10 Granton Quarries
- 11 Bearford's Quarries
- 12 Upper Quarry Holes (London Road Quarries) and Lower (Nether) Quarry Holes
- 13 Quarries in the West End of the New Town
- 14 Broughton Quarries
The 'Salisbury' Quarries (Camstone and Dumbiedykes)
Early quarrying of sandstones of the Ballagan Formation also took place in Holyrood Park. It seems likely that the Camstone Quarries east of Salisbury Crags, together with other workings such as those at Dumbiedykes, west of the Crags, provided the stone for Holyrood Palace (146) between 1529 and 1536. Wall stones, newels, arch stones and stones for gutters were taken from these 'Salisbury Quarries' (presumed to include the Camstone Quarry) for the north range, the present north-west tower and the west and south ranges of the quadrangle of the Palace. In December 1532 local stones were used for a great oven in the Palace although the base of the oven used material from North Berwick (probably a basaltic rock rather than a sandstone). Sir William MacDowell was an overseer of these quarries between July and November, 1536. Sledges were used to carry stones between the quarry and the building work at Holyrood. Sometimes these sledges were hauled by horses but often men were used. The proximity of the Salisbury quarries to Holyrood and the intervening sloping ground would certainly have made sledges easy to use. In 1748 part of the Royal Park was let to George Knox with 'liberty to open and work stone quarries' and he did this between 1755 and 1757. In the late 18th century stone from Salisbury quarries was used to build the 'Bridewell' on Calton Hill, and to pave the Regent Road and Waterloo Place between 1810 and 1820. The 'Bridewell' had been founded by the Earl of Morton, the Grand Master of Scotland in 1791 and was the first of the prisons on the Calton Hill.
Salisbury Crags Quarries
At Salisbury Crags in Holyrood Park some of Edinburgh's oldest quarries worked the dolerite sill (a hard, coarse-grained, dark grey igneous rock). This durable rock, locally known as whinstone, was used extensively as `calsey stanes' for the streets of Edinburgh. The stone was used as rubble in buildings on the south side of Edinburgh. Rubble used at No. 82 Nicolson Street (40) (late 18th century) (Figure 2.9) and snecks at Nos. 16-22 George Square (43) are likely to be from these quarries. Occasional blocks of dolerite are seen as in No. 20 George Square (Plate 3).
The earls of Haddington were the hereditary keepers of the Royal Park of Holyrood and, over nearly 200 years to 1845 during which they held that office, permitted gradually increasing quarrying activity. This reached a peak during the first twenty years of the 19th century. So much stone was taken for paving the streets of Edinburgh, London and other cities that considerable alarm was expressed at the damage being inflicted on the Crags. The situation became so serious that legal action was taken to prevent further deterioration, but the case dragged on for twelve years, first in the Court of Session in February 1819 'to restrain certain operations authorised or conducted by Lord Haddington tending materially to the detriment' of the Royal Park. In September 1831 the House of Lords concluded that the Earl of Haddington had no right of title to work quarries in the Royal Park. In 1845 the 9th Earl was paid L30,674 sterling as compensation for surrender of the office of Hereditary Keeper.'
Greyfriar's Port Quarries
Greyfriar's Port, afterwards called Society or Bristo Port, was situated outwith the City Wall at the junction of Candlemaker Row and the present George IV Bridge. Quarries were present there in the early 16th century, since it is recorded that in October 1530 a woman, Katryne Heriot, was ordered to be drowned in one of the quarry holes. She was convicted for theft and for 'bringing of this contagious sickness from Leith to this town and breaking the statutes made thereupon'. Twenty-three years later, James Henrison was ordered by the Town Council to stop quarrying there and fill up the holes.' Stone was still being taken in 1583 and then in 1585 the Town Council made Andrew Slater, College Master of Works, responsible for filling up the holes.'
The Society Quarry (possibly one of the Greyfriars Port quarries) lay close to the west end of present-day Chambers Street. It belonged to the Fellowship and Society of Brewers and provided rubble for the preliminary work on nearby Parliament House (21) from the spring of 1632 and throughout 1633. In 1632 two quarriers were employed, each earning 66/8d Scots per week. Twelve labourers, working with them, were paid 30/- Scots each. The next year the quarriers received £4 Scots per week. The quarries in the SocietyYard are mentioned again twenty years later when space was allocated for bakers' ovens.
Other Old Town Quarries
Several other quarry sites lie within the Old Town but cannot be located precisely. In May 1581, a quarry on the land belonging to the Justice Clerk was used for repairs to the town wall in the Blackfriars and Cowgate Port area.' The Town's College had its own quarry which was in use in May 1670. Further south, Windmill Lane, connecting Chapel Street to George Square is near the site of a 17th century quarry which supplied stones for the use of the town. Nearby, a windmill was used to pump water from the Burgh Loch for local breweries. The quarry may have been the same one which was leased from time to time eighty years later, when it was rented by a mason who hired a quarryman and two barrowmen. Part of the condition of his seven-year let was that three feet of best earth was to be laid on top of the quarry rubbish. The quarry gave its name to Quarry Close near the junction of West Crosscauseway and Chapel Street. Building stones in Edinburgh from the Gullane Formation, where to see them
The Craigleith Sandstone, within the Cullane Formation (Figure 3.4), attains a maximum thickness of 107m and comprises a highly siliceous, close-textured, fine-grained, grey sandstone. As well as having been worked at Craigleith Quarry (Figures 3.5 to 3.6; Plate 1), it was also worked at Craigcrook, Maidencraig and Granton (Sea and Land) quarries. The principal Ravelston quarry, situated between Craigcrook and Maidencraig quarries, also worked Cratgleith Sandstone. Stone from Barnton Park was marketed as `Craigleith' but this quarry is possibly situated at a higher horizon. Numerous ancient quarries worked this sandstone in the New Town, for example those in Bearford's Parks, Upper Quarry Holes and possibly Broughton.
The Craigleith Sandstone was most extensively worked at Craigleith, 2 miles (3 km) west of the city centre, where a highly siliceous fine-grained sandstone was worked. Two types of stone were worked at Craigleith Quarry. The very hard, fine-grained, cream-coloured, compact sandstone, known as 'liver rock', was used for the fronts of the best houses and public buildings, where it could be given a very smooth surface and was also worked into delicate mouldings and other kinds of architectural decoration. The easily worked 'common' or Teak' rock (thinly bedded, greyish-white, silty sandstone) could also sometimes be used for the best building work. More often it was utilised in rubble work, foundations, stair steps, plats and paving. The stone characteristically has fine wispy cross-lamination, sometimes carbonaceous, with occasional brown clay ironstone concretions. The stone was described as 'well nigh imperishable' and was used extensively not only in Edinburgh but also in London, the United States and in Europe.' George Smith concluded in 1835, `Craigleith stands pre-eminently, not only as to extent, by constantly yielding an abundant supply of every variety of sizes at all times, but as to beauty of colour, and, above all, the durability of the stone'.
Hull (1872) records that the sandstone at Craigleith Quarry, occurred in beds varying from a few inches to 12 feet (4m), interrupted with shales and showing a vertical depth of about 250 feet (76m). Anderson, writing in 1938, noted that at one time the quarry face at Craigleith was said to have been 110m deep of which the bottom 104m was solid rock. The top 6m of 'fakes (siltstones) and sandstone bands' and top 15m of solid rock were apparently not used for building purposes.
The first records of the use of Craigleith stone are in the Accounts of the Masters of Works. In January 1615, quarriers were paid at the quarry which was then known as Innerleith or Enderleith, for producing 200 double arch stones for Edinburgh Castle (9). The stone was taken to the Castle in the King's own carts during this period of activity which lasted until 1619, but sometimes independent carriers were used. Thomas Young, the local farmer, was paid £17-6-8d Scots for damage to his ground and spoiling of his grass on various occasions up to September 1615 and again in 1616. Craigleith supplied stone of all kinds for the Castle and some for Holyrood Palace (146) in 1616. Besides ashlar, double arch, 'great lintels' and coping stones, a great stone Tor working the Kingis armes on' was won for the Castle in September 1616. Quarriers, who worked at Craigleith in this early phase of its operation, had to pay a toll or `gaitmair for their passage between the quarry and the High Street which was refunded to them.
The quarry produced both liver rock and common rock. From time to time, huge blocks of sandstone were excavated. For example, in 1791 stones were won for the six pillars at the main entrance of the Old College (28) (1789-1828), University of Edinburgh, South Bridge (Plate 4). Each pillar measures 6.8m (22 feet) in height and 0.98m (3 feet 3 inches) diameter at the base. Sixteen horses were required to haul each stone, placed on a special carriage. Considerable doubt was expressed as to whether the old North Bridge would stand up to each load, since each pillar weighed nine tons. In 1823, probably the biggest ever block was excavated. It measured 41.5m (136 feet) by 6.1m (20 feet) and its calculated weight was quoted as 1500 tons (1524 tonnes). It was conveyed in large blocks to the Calton Hill and forms the architrave of the unfinished National Monument (140) (see below). The remainder was sent by sea to Buckingham Palace.'
According to George Smith, 'it may be well said that the New Town of Edinburgh has been built from the material of Craigleith', and it was during its building that the quarry witnessed its maximum activity. The period 1817-1827 seems to have been especially busy as the quarry yielded £45,000 sterling in rent. Shepherd shows it as it was in 1829 in his engraving. By 1835 the quarry was rented by George Johnston who shortened and improved the access road. In that year 60 carts were each making an average of four journeys per day into the City from Craigleith and the shortening of the road by a mile enabled a fifth journey to be undertaken. Little gunpowder was used in this quarry, most of the stone being got out by wedges. Johnston also built a railway from the floor up the quarry bank and used two horses to lift 120 tons (122 tonnes) of quarry waste out each day. Only six men were required with this arrangement and it took only five minutes to draw up and empty a wagon at the top.'
In such a large quarry, it is likely that flooding was always a problem. In the early part of the 19th century the quarry was kept clear of water by a pump driven by a horse in a gin.' A water-colour painted by James Skene in 1837 shows part of the quarry flooded then. By 1849 a description of Craigleith mentions 'two or three cots, at various heights, with the beams of steam engines projecting'.' It seems, therefore, that by the mid-19th century, steam power was used to keep the quarry dry.
At some stage during the 19th century, Craigleith Quarry was said to have been 110m (360 feet) deep. The quarry 'from its precipitous edges made you feel dizzy'.` Although activity declined after the 1850s the quarry was nevertheless recorded as 61m (200 feet) deep and covered 7 acres (2.8 hectares) in 1892.63
The true value of the Craigleith Quarry and its stone was not always appreciated. In the 1780s when the land containing the quarry changed hands, a large sum of money was returned to the purchaser for the lost space of ground occupied by the `useless hill at Craigleith'. Until the building boom of the 1820s, Craigleith Quarry cost only £50 sterling per year to rent. In 1805, when the feuers of Charlotte Square were building their houses they petitioned the Town Council to be allowed to use stone from Redhall Quarry. They stated that Craigleith or Ravelston stone, which was specified in the conditions of sale of feus, was not available in sufficient amounts for their extensive frontages and also indicated that 'it is well known to any person concerned in the building profession that Craigleith is a stone not of the most durable quality'. They suggested that the Old College (28), Register House (128) and even parts already built on the north side of Charlotte Square were already showing signs of weathering. The tacksmen of Craigleith were quick to protest and refute the charges made about the quality of their product!' Eventually, the Town Council supported them and instructed the feuers to carry on with their buildings 'in conformity to the Articles of Roup on which they purchased their building lots'.` After 1807, the Articles and Conditions of Roup and Sale of Charlotte Square allowed the houses in the recesses of intermediate spaces to be 'done in Redhall stone, polished or any of the above mentioned (Craigleith, Craigcrook or Ravelston) but the whole intermediate space, in each range, to be done with one kind of stone'. Thus only the north side of Charlotte Square (91) (1794-98) is entirely built of Craigleith stone (Figure 6.1g).
Craigleith was a hard and difficult stone to excavate and dress and its decline in use may be due to its hardness and the fact that the saw would not 'stand up' to it. As early as 1845, it was stated that `Craigleith stone is now seldom used in Edinburgh but for parts requiring extra hardness, the Binny stone having superseded it. The coloured lithograph by William Leitch (Plate 1) and the earliest photographs of the quarry (Figures 3.5 and 3.6) show how the quarry looked in the1850s. By 1866, according to Bremner, 'now little stone is being drawn from it, demand being met more cheaply by softer stone obtained from various quarters . . . it is still preferred for steps and plats in staircases:'
As early as Victorian times, doctors were drawing attention to the health hazards of working sandstone, particularly that from Craigleith. Dr Alison noted in 1852 that `an old Craigleith man was done at 30, died at 35:7' He recommended that the men should grow beards and moustaches which would act as respirators. In 1854 Dr Wilson (first Director of the Industrial Museum, later to become the Royal Museum of Scotland) was noting that the trouble lay in the fine irritating sandstone powder and not, as the stoneworkers believed, in the sulphur in the stone. He added that what was needed was some 'contrivance for blowing away the dust as they have in Manchester cotton-mills’72
According to Craig, writing of Craigleith stone in 1893, 'no houses are built entirely of it now, and it is used principally for steps, foundations and rubble'. The lower rock was then being used for monuments, grindstones and glass cutting. The last major project for which Craigleith building stone was used was construction work begun in about 1895 for Leith Docks. At that time, work was concentrated in a second quarry which lay immediately to the north-east of the main working. This quarry, which was separated from the main working by a fault, was worked intermittently during the first 40 years of the 20th century. Here, the liver rock was reached at just over 26m (85 feet) depth. In 1895 more than 90 men were employed but this number gradually fell. By 1900, 40 men were employed. By 1905 when working stopped, the number of workers was 25 and the stone was only used for rubble work and finally only for glass cutting.' During the First World War the deserted quarry was put to a new use. In 1915 demands for T.N.T. increased and because sulphuric acid was manufactured within the City, the production of the explosive could be accomplished comparatively easily. Consequently, the Lothian Chemical Company started to manufacture T.N.T. but because it was considered to be unsafe to prepare high explosive in a populated area a more remote site was chosen, namely the yards of Craigleith Quarry, on the outskirts of the City. Output of T.N.T. continued until the end of the War. The quality of the explosive reached a high standard, and towards the end of hostilities, the efficiency of the factory was the highest in the country.
Although quarrying recommenced in 1922, work declined. By 1937, only 12 men were employed. All work is assumed to have stopped finally in 1941-2 which is the last date Craigleith appears in the Quarry List.' After the Second World War Craigleith quarry was gradually filled in. In 1992, Sainsbury's plc purchased the site and began work on a new superstore. The historical importance of the former Craigleith Quarry was brought to their attention and the upper, exposed section of strata has been proposed as a Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS).
The best example of building in Craigleith liver rock was said to be seen in the south front of Register House (128) at the east end of Princes Street. As a result of his tests on various sandstones for use in Register House, Robert Adam reported in 1773 in favour of the tender of Messrs John Wilson and David Henderson, the Edinburgh masons, who were to use Craigleith or Ravelston stone, sand from Leith links and Gilmerton lime. Ravelston stone was included because experience of its use in Heriot's Hospital, some of which had stood for almost 150 years, showed 'that it will neither blow nor waste, and that it is free of sulphur and brown spotts'. Work on Register House stopped during winter months, though stone was still being prepared, and the completed work was covered with straw. From 1778 work was stopped as the money ran out and the building stood empty and incomplete: 'the most magnificent pigeon house in Europe'. When work resumed on the dome in 1785 the passages were to be paved with stone from Hailes which was to be used in conjunction with Craigleith for the gallery of the dome. This stage of the building was complete by 1789. Additional storage space to the north was added in the 1820s, again using Craigleith and pavement stone from Craigleith, Hailes and Carmyllie quarries (the latter in the Lower Devonian Dundee Formation near Arbroath).' The lower part of the front of Register House, together with the whole of the rest of the walls are of broached ashlar. The upper parts of the front are of polished stone with the ground floor rusticated. Cleaning of the exterior of the building in 1969 has resulted in the development of an orange tinge in the surface of the stone produced by the migration of iron oxide. Thus the building, while largely constructed of sandstone from Craigleith, does not have the appearance it would have had when freshly quarried.
Another building which has not been cleaned but shows the use of Craigleith stone at its grandest is the incomplete National Monument 11.40) on Calton Hill construction of which began in 1826. Here, the 12 columns (detail shown in Figure 2.8), each consisting of 13 pieces of sandstone, 'all laid on their natural bed' and 'specimens of the best common rock from this quarry's are surmounted by an impressive architrave. The quality and colour of the best common rock was as good as liver rock. Poorer material from these regular strata which could be almost 3m (9 feet) thick was only fit for rubble work.
The Dean Bridge (77), completed in 1831, is a testament to the quality of Craigleith sandstone and the skills of the designer and masons. It is an elegant example of a 19th century masonry bridge which, without supplementary strengthening, carries the modern traffic of one of the main roads into the city. The bridge, designed by Thomas Telford, the first president of The Institution of Civil Engineers, comprises four arches, each of 27.4m (90 feet), rising to a maximum height of 32.3m (106 feet) over the bed of the Water of Leith. The hollow construction of the arches permits regular internal inspection. Weathered stones were replaced in 1964 using indents of Craigleith stone recovered from the demolished Waterloo Bridge, London.
According to James Gowans, writing in The Builder in 1881, the tenement at the northern corner of Randolph Cliff (76) (1849-9) was 'a notable example, not only of the stone, but of what I consider the best masonry in the city’ 81
Other good examples of the use of Craigleith stone include:
City Chambers (15) (1761), High Street
No. 8 Queens Street (172) (1770-1)
St Andrew's and St George's Parish Church (110) (1785), George Street. West Register House (90) (1812) Formerly St George's Church.
Royal Scottish Academy (4) (1822-26), The Mound. With Cullalo stone.
National Gallery of Modern Art (156) (1825), Belford Road. Formerly John Watson's College.
Leith Town Hall (1827), Constitution Street.
St Stephen's Church (84) (1827-8), St.Vincent Street.
West of Craigleith Quarry, within a stone's throw, is the site of Maidencraig Quarry, also known as Gibb's Quarry, and also working the Craigleith Sandstone which produced a very similar stone. The Maidencraig Quarry is first recorded as providing stone for Edinburgh Castle (9) during the latter months of 1628. In June 1773 this quarry was providing stone for the North Bridge. By that date it was considered that enough stone had been quarried for work on the north abutment. Moreover, steps quarried for the stair up to the theatre which lay at the north end of the bridge were cluttering the quarry and getting in the way of the quarriers. By 1775, the City Chamberlain was being authorised to pay for damage done to the Maidencraig by the City's quarriers.
In the 'Articles and Conditions of Roup and Sale of the grounds of Drumsheugh' (1822), (i.e. Randolph Crescent, Ainslie Place and Moray Place) the Earl of Moray laid down what could be built in the 13 acres (5.3 hectares) which he feued. One of the quarries which he specified as providing suitable material was Maidencraig, (the others were Craigleith and Redhall), suggesting that it was working at that time. The first Ordnance Survey map of that part of Edinburgh, published in 1853, shows that Maidencraig quarry was flooded, so that it is likely to have been abandoned by then. The quarry became a refuse tip in 1926 and has been completely filled in and recently redeveloped.
The sandstone from this quarry is similar to that quarried at Craigleith just two miles (3km) to the east and was marketed as `Craigleith Stone' and seems to have been regarded as a substitute when Craigleith stone became scarce.
The quarry produced three types of stone. The lowest bed of grey stone, the so called `Craigleith', was used for building the Imperial Institute, London in 1880. Above this was the 'blue liver rock' a dark blue-grey stone used not only for building but also for polishing glass. The top bed was known as 'common rock', a light fawn coloured rock interspersed with dark carbonaceous markings. It was soft and the markings rendered it unsuitable for the 'second class structural work'. A black sandstone was reputedly also worked.'
This quarry is not shown on maps of Edinburgh up to and including the first Ordnance Survey map (1853). Neither is it listed in the Mineral Statistics of 1858 which give details of active quarries in that year. The first Quarries List (1895) notes that 18 men were working there. The work force rose to 30 in 1901 but although the quarry was still working in 1914, activity ceased before the end of the First World War. Unlike so many of Edinburgh's quarries the working at Barnton Park has not been infilled, perhaps because it lies in the middle of Bruntsfield Golf Course. Although flooded, it remains very much as it must have been in 1914.
There is no known record of specific Edinburgh buildings built of stone from the quarry. Presumably the stone was used for housing in the Davidson's Mains area.
The old Ravelston Quarry, situated north of Ravelston House, together with that at Craigcrook to the west, are considered to have worked the Craigleith Sandstone and therefore the same bed of stone as at Craigleith Quarry. It was very similar to that from Craigleith being greyish-white, very fine grained and almost as hard.
The earliest surviving record of quarrying is found in the Town Council Records for the years 1511-2. Before the Reformation, the land belonged to the collegiate church of St Giles and the quarrying was let on behalf of the clerical official or prebender, one John Rynde, to Robert Cunningham, quarrier. Cunningham was allowed the first year rent-free, as he was required to clear the quarry. Later he had to pay L3 Scots annual rent and 'yearly a cow's grass' as well as providing stone for the Kirk and Town's works. In the 1530s, Ravelston provided many loads of stone which were carried to Holyrood (146) for use in the construction of the Palace. The contemporary Accounts of the Masters of Works frequently mention payments for workmen 'putting down stones' for supplying ashlar, sill and lintel, great dressed stones for jambs of windows, flat stones, newels and pillar capitals. There were payments too, to blacksmiths who sharpened the quarrymen's picks. Finally Ravelston produced three great stones 'for sering of waiter to the kichingis and twa gutteris to the samyn'.
Ravelston quarries produced stones for the gutters of the roof of St Giles Kirk (18) in 1590.' The King's Master Mason, William Wallace, spent two days at Ravelston quarries in July 1625 at the winning of 'nine great stones for the king's badges' for the great hall in Stirling Castle.' By that time, the quarries were in the hands of the Foulis family. Three years later, the accounts of the Treasurer of Heriot's Hospital record the supply of double jambs and pillars at the commencement of building of the Hospital in Lauriston. In July 1632, the Town Council began to take stone from Ravelston for Parliament House (21), appointing John Ronald, who had been quarrying at the Burgh Muir, and who was to be the chief quarrier of fine stone, to go out to Ravelston. Ronald was discharged temporarily by the Town Council in June 1635 when he objected to additional workers being sent from Society Quarry to Ravelston, perhaps in an attempt to step up production there. Transport costs were an important item in the building of Parliament House. Both sledges and carts were used. A double ashlar cost 10/- Scots at the quarry in December 1632 and 15/- Scots for carriage. Only one double ashlar could be carried in a cart and a single one on a sledge for which 10/- Scots carriage was charged.' To the south and east, old quarry roads can still be seen in the woods. The Parliament House was refaced with ashlar from Craigleith in 1807-10. By 1795, the quarries were owned by Mr Alexander Keith of Ravelston.' It seems that the Ravelston quarries did not survive the decline in building activity after the great boom of the mid-1820s because in 1845 it is recorded that they had been out of use for twenty years.' By then, however, one of the quarries in the vicinity had been drained and a tenant was being sought. It was reputed that the quarry flooded overnight about the year 1820; the quarrymen having tapped a subterranean spring. In 1960, the quarry was drained and subsequently filled although there is still a considerable amount of sandstone exposed, particularly in the old part of the quarry immediately to the east.
Although building stone was quarried at Ravelston for hundreds of years there are few good examples of its use in central Edinburgh; the best being the older work on the north side of George Heriot's School (33) which faces the Castle. Building began in 1628 with the construction of the north-west tower. There, the polished ashlar is grey and shows little sign of weathering. The mason's marks cut in the early 17th century can still be clearly seen. The front of the building, on the north side, was faced with Ravelston stone. Rubble from Craigmillar was used to face the other three sides. These were re-faced with Craigleith ashlar in 1833 after the entrance was transferred to the south side in 1828. It has been observed that the 'work is so skilfully executed that the alteration can be detected only by contrasting the cold hue of the Craigleith stone then used with the golden colour of the original stone quarried at Ravelston'.
This quarry, also known as Well Craig, Old Kenny, or Stevenson's quarry, lies to the east of Ravelston Quarry. It was also opened up in the Craigleith Sandstone. It remained flooded for many years and is now infilled.
The Craigleith Sandstone was worked at the northern end of the Granton Dome in several quarries, notably Granton Sea Quarry and Granton Land Quarry. Stone from Granton was described as hard and cream coloured. The quarry at Granton Point was described as being second only in extent to Craigleith. The Mineral Statistics refer to Granton Point, Pennywell and Royston quarries.
Quarrying near Granton Point was undertaken at an early date. The earliest recorded use of stone is in the Accounts of the Master of Works in the work on Holyrood Palace (146) in 1532. Small boats ferried some of this stone to Leith Sands from whence it was carted to Holyrood. Most, however, was carted all the way. Granton supplied ashlar, sills and lintels, paving and guttering, turnpike stair newels and pillars for 'upholding the gallery'. This early work carried on until 1536.
A few years later, in 1552-53, the accounts of the City Treasurer for the stonework at Leith Bulwark show that stone was again being hewn and dressed at Granton and ferried to Leith. In 1553, half an ell of velvet was given to the Laird of Carrubber for permission to dig stones at Granton for one year. In July 1555, payment was again made to the Laird for 'quarry leave' but inflation had raised the price to one ell of black velvet.' Knowledge of further development of quarries at Granton during succeeding centuries is patchy.
In 1835 a quarry, later known as Granton Sea Quarry, was opened to provide stone for Granton Harbour - the Duke of Buccleuch's 'magnificent enterprise'. Victoria Jetty was opened three years later. By 1855 the west breakwater was complete and the east breakwater was nearly finished to make a 'capacious tidal harbour'.
By then, the quarry had expanded to 8 acres (3.2 hectares) and was 24m (80 feet) deep and 'only second in extent to the great quarry of Craigleith'.11 It formed a headland with the north and west sides exposed to the waves. Although the supply of stone was nearly exhausted and a new quarry site nearby was being considered, work continued despite fears that the sea might break through. Between 3 and 4 am on the stormy morning of Friday 26th October 1855, near the high tide, a section of the west side of the quarry, 61m (200 feet) long by 24m (80 feet), collapsed allowing the sea to rush in, filling the quarry basin in 10 minutes. Fortunately because the collapse happened in the hours of darkness, none of the quarry's workforce of 50 to 60 men was present, but the foreman, Robert Muir, had a lucky escape as his house collapsed over 'the fatal precipice that yawned beneath'. One of the children had kept the family awake so that, when the front of the house began to topple, they were able to make a rapid escape by the back window. Almost all of the Muir family's belongings went into the sea along with a pumping engine and other valuable equipment. Much effort was unsuccessfully expended during 1856 to try to recover the quarry plant. Enough stone had been accumulated on the landward side of the quarry to satisfy immediate needs at the breakwater. Work on moving this stone had a tragic consequence when on 28th December 1855, a chain broke killing one of the workmen in the quarry.'5
Quarrying on a modest scale continued during the latter part of the 19th century and into the 20th century. A quarry called Pennywell Parks, inland of Granton Point, was operational in 1895. It employed 18 men in 1900, but by 1904, it was not regularly used. Latterly, quarrying activity in the area is recorded only in 1925 when 12 men were employed in a quarry in the Royston area.' According to Craig, Granton stone was 'once extensively used for building' and possessed a good weathering property.'
These sandstone quarries were situated in Bearford's Parks which lay on the north side of the Nor Loch (site of today's Princes Street Gardens) and worked the Craigleith Sandstone. Bearford's Parks occupied ground stretching from near the West End of Princes Street to the present position of the Balmoral Hotel. Before the Reformation this land was part of the endowment of the Abbey of Holyrood.
The earliest mention of the quarries was in 1462, when stones were obtained to build Trinity College Church (133) at the instigation of Mary of Guelders, widow of James II of Scotland. The church was erected on the north side of what is now Waverley Station and, to judge from old engravings, it must have been a very imposing edifice.' It was considered to be, with the exception of Holyrood Abbey, the finest ecclesiastical building in Edinburgh at the time. When the North British Railway Company acquired the land, the church was destined for demolition and, despite strong objections, it was agreed in 1848 to raze the building. Many of the stones were preserved and numbered with a view to re-erection at some suitable location. The stones lay on the southern slopes of the Calton Hill for about 30 years, before a decision was taken to rebuild the church in Jeffrey Street. Unfortunately many of the stones had disappeared and only the apse and adjoining part of the choir of the original building could be completed and incorporated in the new church which was finally opened in 1877. This new church was partly demolished in 1964. Examination of the present structure in Chalmers Close will reveal that the stones are not in numerical order and some of the numbers are inverted! The building was closed in 1977 but had previously been used as a reading room annex to the Central Library, George IV Bridge.
At the beginning of the 18th century, Robert Hepburn of the Bearford estate (just west of Haddington, East Lothian), acquired 30 acres of green fields which lay between the Nor Loch (the site of today's East Princes Street Gardens) and a road called 'Lang Gait' or 'Lang Dykes'. The road, so-named because it was enclosed by two drystane dykes, was probably in line with the present Rose Street. The fields, stretching the whole length of the loch, became known as Lochbank or the Bearford's Parks, corrupted to Barefoots Parks. Hepburn appears to have been a difficult person. In December 1701 he got into trouble with the Town Council over 'encroachments' upon the Nor Loch. He was accused of throwing the rubbish from his quarry into the loch 'upon the other side of the North Loch, near the head thereof, opposite the Castle'. This indicates that quarrying had then extended some way westwards along the loch's north side.' In 1717 the Town Council bought the Parks from Hepburn.'
Pictures and maps of the mid 18th century show that extensive quarrying had, by then, been carried on over the east end of the Bearford's Parks (the present Waverley Market).' The first North Bridge was begun in 1763, and after many mishaps, was completed in 1772, thus opening the way for development of the New Town. It used stone quarried in the Bearford's Parks, supplemented with sandstone from Maidencraig Quarry. It seems likely that Bearford's quarries were worked for the first buildings in the New Town. William Jameson, mason, petitioned the Town Council to be allowed to quarry as much stone as he needed from the westernmost of the Bearford's Parks for a new house he was about to build in St Andrew Square in September 1770.' It appears likely that the oldest houses at the west end of the north side of St Andrew Square (115) are built of stone from Bearford's Parks. By 1786, it was apparent to the Superintendent of Public Works that further quarrying at the western part of Bearford's Parks was likely to interfere with the projected building in Princes Street, its cross streets and squares. He considered it necessary for the lines of the buildings to be set out so that any further quarrying could be confined to the street lines or to the clear ground on the south side of Princes Street.' It is not known whether any further quarrying did take place there after 1786.
As the line of Princes Street became established the workings disappeared under the upcast from the foundations of the buildings there and the creation of the Gardens. One of the quarries, 12m (40 feet) deep was rediscovered in the 1840s when the foundations for Sir Walter Scott's Monument were being laid. Consequently piles had to be driven to support the monument.' Excavations in1984 for the Waverley Market shopping complex re-exposed a yellowish white sandstone beneath quarry fill.
Upper Quarry Holes (London Road Quarries) and Lower (Nether) Quarry Holes
East of the Bearford's Parks, the Cra0eith Sandstone was quarried from the earliest times in Upper Quarry Holes (London Road quarries) between the eastern end of Calton Hill and the northern end of Easter Road. To the north of these workings lay the Lower or Nether Quarry Holes (which probably worked the stratigraphically higher Ravelston Sandstone). Traces of the quarries of Upper Quarry Holes can be seen in the Royal Terrace Gardens, where there are mounds to which excavations from the construction of the houses in Royal Terrace, begun in 1821, may have contributed.
Situated in a lowly position outside the city walls, the Quarry Holes became a favourite location for duels and remained so until the mid 18th century. The quarries had often provided a convenient place for private discussion as was the case in 1557 when the earls of Arran and Huntly, with certain others of high rank, met to consider the activities of Mary of Guise, the Queen Regent, mother of Mary, Queen of Scots.'
During the civil war between the supporters of the boy-king James VI and those of his mother Mary Queen of Scots, a skirmish took place in June 1571, midway between Hawkhill and the Upper Quarry Holes. This day became known as 'Black Saturday' or Drury's Peace'. The Earl of Morton, one of the King's men, held Leith and marched to Hawkhill, provoking the Earl of Huntly and his men, who supported the Queen, to march from the Castle to meet him. Morton halted at the Quarry Holes and the English Ambassador, Sir William Drury, who had been with Morton on the previous night, went to the Quarry Holes and suggested to Huntly that a peaceful settlement was possible. Unfortunately, a fight broke out which was blamed on Drury who had to be protected from the Scottish mob.' Many years later, in 1650, guns were placed in the Quarry Holes, in an attempt to stem Oliver Cromwell's advance on Edinburgh.'
Towards the mid 17th century the land and quarries became the responsibility of Trinity Hospital. By 1700 they had become dangerous and several people had fallen into them with fatal results. The Treasurer of the Hospital was ordered to fill up the hollow ground in 1677.'2 However, he clearly failed to do so because it is recorded that an Englishman, Lt. Byron was drowned at the Nether Quarry Holes in 1691.'2' Further records indicate that the holes were left open until well into the 18th century. Robert Irvine was arrested and tried in the Broughton Tolbooth for a murder committed in April 1717. He was found guilty and condemned to be hanged on a piece of ground called 'the Green-side' in the vicinity of the quarries, after which his body was to be interred in the 'Quarry-hole near to the Tup Well'.' In 1736, James Colquhoun, merchant, and William Adam, architect, petitioned the Town Council to be allowed to quarry stone at the Nether Quarry Holes to build on two of their feus nearby.' It seems that the quarries were not filled in until 1766 when the City Treasurer was authorised `to pay the Town's proportion of filling up the quarry at Nether Quarryholes'.'2 On the Calton Hill, William Jameson asked permission in 1761 to rent the quarry there for a few years.' The Town Council agreed to his working on the south side near to where he was building at the back of the Canongate. Daniel Murray and others got into trouble the same year for taking stone from the Calton Hill without permission from the Town Council.`' Quarrying was still in progress as late as 1765 when a building for the Methodists near the head of Leith Street used Calton Hill stone.' It is not certain when these quarries finally closed.
The same sandstone was also quarried less than 400m (1/4 mile) to the east at Abbeyhill. Robert Milne, master mason, was ordered to fence his quarry next to the highway there in March 1692.1
Quarries in the West End of the New Town
Around the West End of the New Town Craigleith Sandstone has been extensively quarried though no trace remains of this activity. Some of the earliest work there began in 1616 when 'the new Erie querrell be vest Sanct Cuthbertis' supplied stone for work on the Palace Block in Edinburgh Castle (9) and the Chapel in the south range of Holyrood Palace (146). The Accounts of the Royal Master of Works refer to payments then for sharpening quarriers' tools and for water scoops, suggesting that this quarry was prone to flooding.
Some quarries have been opened in strange places. In 1691, Henry Nisbet, one of the Nisbets of Dean, was allowed by the Kirk Session of St Cuthbert's Church to build a vault in the churchyard. Nisbet also sought permission to open a quarry there to provide the necessary stone. This was granted on condition that the quarry was filled in after completion of the building and that he paid a gratuity to the poor. Eventually a donation of £39 10/- Scots was extracted from Nisbet who was not only reprimanded for failing to fill in his quarry but was also reproved by the Kirk Session for drinking during divine service!'3
In the late 17th century, a quarry was dug near the Bakers' House which belonged to the Incorporation of Bakers on the south side of the Water of Leith, near the site of the present-day Miller Row at the Dean Bridge. The quarrying began to damage the road, so that it was 'impossible for ather man or horse to pass therby without the hazard of ther lyff'.13' Frances Lowrie, a baillie of Portsburgh had to tidy rubbish dumped on the highway to the Water of Leith and level it up before he was to be allowed to quarry wall stones there.13' In 1687 John Byers of Coats was in dispute over L400 Scots damages due to him by the Town Council and Incorporation of Bakers for their encroachment on his land in quarrying and building.' Not far away stone from the quarry at Drumsheugh only cost 2d cartage 'to neighbours and burgesses' but others paid 6d in October 1700.'
In November 1800, William Mutter was paid for damage caused to the land he was farming by quarrying on the lands of Coates near the West End of Princes Street.' This quarry is probably the one near Rothesay Place on Kirkwood's 1817 map.13f' Quarries in this area were still visible when the first Ordnance Survey map was published in 1853, although they were rapidly disappearing under new housing development.'
In 1730 a number of Huguenot refugees came to Edinburgh from France, having fled the religious persecution which followed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. These people, mainly silk weavers, were settled in a village, specially built for them in the area bounded approximately by the present Picardy Place, Broughton Street and parts of Forth Street, Hart Street and Union Street. The village which was built of stones from the Broughton quarries was called 'Picardie' after the French district from which most of the refugees came.' There is uncertainty about the nature of the stone from the Broughton quarries. Although this district is considered to be underlain by the Craigleith Sandstone the strata are cut by a thick dolerite dyke which was also worked.'
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