West Port, Edinburgh

(The) West Port is a street in Edinburgh's Old Town, Scotland, located just south of the Edinburgh Castle. It runs from Main Point (the junction of Bread Street, Lauriston Street, East Fountainbridge and High Riggs) down to the south west corner of the Grassmarket. Its name derives from the fact it led to the "West Port," which was the only westwards exit from the city when the city walls stood, [ [http://www.electricscotland.com/history/edinburgh/chap9.htm Edinburgh and The Lothians - Chapter IX - In and Near the Grassmarket ] ] allowing one to pass through the Flodden Wall. The port (gate) itself was demolished in 1786.

The history of the street

Historic names for the street and area

Wester Portsburgh, as the West Port was formerly known, was the main street through the western part of the burgh of Portsburgh [cite book |title='Portree - Pulteney Town', A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland
year=1846|publisher= |accessdate=2008-05-17 |url=http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=43472 |pages= 388-396
] - a burgh of barony from 1649 [ [http://www.rps.ac.uk/search.php?action=fetch_chunk_frame&fn=charlesii_trans&id=id16183&query=&type=trans&variants=&fragment=t1661_1_143_d6_trans Parliamentary register of Portsburgh being declared a burgh in 1649] ] to 1856. [ [http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/relationships.jsp?u_id=10361643 Portsburgh Burgh Edinburgh through time | Administrative history of Scottish Burgh: hierarchies, boundaries] ]

The name "West Port" originally just referred to the gate itself, but can be seen referring to the entire length of the current-day street in maps from around 1837 onwards. [ [http://www.nls.uk/maps/early/towns.cfm?id=421 Map of "The City of Edinburgh", published in 1837] ] "Wester Portsburgh" was still used on maps as the name for the same street as late as 1831. [ [http://www.nls.uk/maps/early/towns.cfm?id=341 Plan of the City of Edinburgh, including all the latest and intended improvements, 1831 imprint] ]

"Portsburgh" can also be seen as the name for the same street in a map from 1836, [ [http://www.nls.uk/maps/early/towns.cfm?id=420 Kay's plan of Edinburgh, 1836 imprint] ] however this does not serve to distinguish it from the eastern part of Portsburgh (Easter Portsburgh), which was still part of the same burgh at that date, the two parts of Portsburgh having their own administrative systems and baillies. [ [Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Saturday November 17 1885, Issue 20636] ]

Historic events and famous residents

* "In 1650, when an English invasion was expected, many houses in Potterrow, as well as the West Port, were demolished by order of the magistrates, that the guns of the castle, and those on the city wall might have free action to play upon the enemy" [ [http://www.oldandnewedinburgh.co.uk/volume4/page150.html Ch 38: Bristo and the Potterrow - Old and New Edinburgh by James Grant - Volume IV] ] .
* Robert The Bruce came into the city via the West Port
* James Hogg says in "Confessions of a Justified Sinner" that he had lodgings in Portsburgh [ [http://infomotions.com/etexts/gutenberg/dirs/etext00/pmfjs10.htm The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner / Hogg, James, 1770-1835] ] .
* Porteous riots started with a mob at Portsburgh.
* The West Port murders were so named as many of the victims were tempted back to Hare's lodgings in Tanner's Close, off the West Port, to be murdered. [cite book |author=Coghill, Hamish |title=Lost Edinburgh |publisher=Birlinn Ltd |location= |year=2004 |pages= |isbn=1-84158-309-X |oclc= |doi= |accessdate=]
* The ""West Port Experiment"" was a model for parochial engagement, conceived by Thomas Chalmers, with a church/school built on the south side of the street to facilitate this. [ [http://www.newble.co.uk/chalmers/godlycommon7.html The West Port Experiment] , Newble.co.uk]

Recent history and the modern-day street

* Portsburgh Church is on a buildings at risk register. [ [http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/edinburgh/Trust-targets-six-derelict-properties.3814684.jp Trust targets six derelict properties it wants to see brought back to life - Edinburgh Evening News] ]

Notable buildings still in existence

Buildings built in the 21st Century buildings and before

The Art Nouveau Salvation Army Women's Hostel at the corner of the Grassmarket, The Vennel [ [http://www.romero.co.uk/BPRA/photos.html Photos and history of The Vennel] ] and the West Port was built in 1910 and is C Listed. [ [http://www.codexgeo.co.uk/dsa/architect_full.php?id=M001065 Details of the architectural history of the Salvation Army Women's Hostel] ] Edinburgh College of Art, purchased and used the Hostel, in addition to the next-door Portsburgh Church, entered via the Vennel. Planning permission was granted in October 2007 for the two buildings to be changed to serviced apartments. [ [http://citydev-portal.edinburgh.gov.uk/WAM/showCaseFile.do?appType=DC&appNumber=07/02905/LBC Permission granted for change of us for the Salvation Army Women's Hostel to serviced apartments] ]

Portsburgh Square [ [http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/0_street_p/0_street_views_-_portsburgh_square_028164.htm An old photo of Portsburgh Square] ] is on the North side of West Port, close to the Grassmarket and still bears reference to the old 'Portsburgh' and 'Western Portsburgh' names of the area.

21st Century developments

Evolution House, the newest building of the Edinburgh College of Art is on the south east corner of West Port and Lady Lawson Street. [ [http://www.edinburgharchitecture.co.uk/westport.htm Details of Evolution House, built on the corner of West Port and Lady Lawson Street] ]

Plans have been unveiled for a new building to be constructed on the West Port side of the block between Lady Lawson Street and Lauriston Street, to be called Westport 102. [ [http://business.scotsman.com/industry/-New-vision-for-post.4050565.jp New vision for post office HQ is unveiled - Scotsman.com Business] ] This would be built on the same site as the old Post Office headquarters, which famously collapsed during demolition, leading to several roads being closed in the area for an extended period of time. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/6696217.stm BBC NEWS | Scotland | Edinburgh and East | Roads closed by building collapse] ]

Edinburgh's Soho

The road is also notable for the large number of second hand book shops (seven) which line the street. These shops have recently clubbed together to celebrate this sometimes neglected street by launching a new book festival, called the West Port Book Festival, who have christened the area as Edinburgh's Soho [ [http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/sos-review/August-attractions.4328617.jp Scotland on Sunday 26th July 2008] ] [ [http://www.westportbookfestival.org West Port Book Festival] ] .

ee also

*Grassmarket
*Tollcross, Edinburgh

References


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