A view of Calton Hill with some of its many monuments taken from the Salisbury Crags
|Elevation||103 m (338 ft)|
|Prominence||46 m (151 ft)|
Calton Hill (archaically spelt Caltoun or Caldoun and also known as "the Calton Hill"), is a hill in central Edinburgh, Scotland, just to the east of Princes Street and is included in the city's UNESCO World Heritage Site. Views of, and from, the hill are often used in photographs and paintings of the city.
Calton Hill is the headquarters of the Scottish Government, which is based at St Andrew's House, on the steep southern slope of the hill; with the Scottish Parliament Building, and other notable buildings, for example Holyrood Palace, lying near the foot of the hill. The hill also includes several iconic monuments and buildings: the National Monument, the Nelson Monument, the Dugald Stewart Monument, the old Royal High School, the Robert Burns Monument, the Political Martyrs' Monument and the City Observatory.
In 1456, James II granted land to Edinburgh by charter wherein Calton Hill is referred to as "Cragingalt" from the Gaelic for "rock or hill of the hazel". This points to "calltuinn", the Gaelic for "hazel grove or copse" as being the derivation of Calton.The hill is referred to as Cragge Ingalt on the Petworth map of the Siege of Leith in 1560. Other, conjectured, derivations are "choille-dun" (forested hill) or "cauldh-dun" (black hill), both also from Gaelic. Mention is made of Caldtoun in the records of South Leith Parish Church in 1591 and this or similar spellings remained general until about 1800 with, for example, the Armstrongs' map of 1773 still using Caldtoun and Ainslie's maps changing from Caltoun in 1780 to Calton in 1804.
The anglicised derivation of Calton is "cold town".
By his charter of 1456, James II granted the community of Edinburgh the valley and the low ground between Calton Hill and Greenside for performing tournaments, sports and other warlike deeds. This was part of his policy of military preparedness that saw the Act of 1457 banning golf and football and ordering archery practise every Sunday. This natural amphitheatre was also used for open-air theatre and saw performances of the early Scots play "Ane Pleasant Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis" by Sir David Lyndsay. In May 1518 the Carmelite Friars (also known as White Friars and locally based at South Queensferry), were granted lands by charter from the city at Greenside and built a small monastery there. Monasteries were suppressed following the Scottish Reformation of 1560, and this stood empty before conversion in 1591 into a hospital for lepers, founded by John Robertson, a city merchant. So severe were the regulations that escape, or even the opening of the gate of the hospital between sunset and sunrise, would incur the penalty of death carried out on the gallows erected at the gate. The monastery would appear to have been located at the north-east end of Greenside Row and its site is shown there on the 1931 Ordnance Survey maps. Ten skeletons found in July 2009 during roadworks to create a new tramway in Leith Walk (since abandoned) are believed to have been connected with the hospital.
The Calton area was owned by the Logan family of Restalrig but their lands were forfeited in 1609 following the posthumous sentence of treason on Robert Logan. The lands of Restalrig and Calton, otherwise known as Easter and Wester Restalrig, passed to the Elphinstone family. Sir James Elphinstone was made Lord Balmerino in 1604 and in 1673 the lands of Restalrig and Calton were erected into a single barony. In 1725, Calton was disjoined and sold to the royal burgh of Edinburgh. Calton remained a burgh of barony (although it was not administered as such) until it was formally incorporated into Edinburgh by the Municipality Extension Act of 1856.
In 1631, the then Lord Balmerino granted a charter to The Society of the Incorporated Trades of Calton forming a society or corporation. This also gave the Society the exclusive right to trade within Calton and the right to tax others who wished to do so. Normally the trades of burghs were separately incorporated, for example in the Canongate there were eight incorporations, but the Incorporated Trades of Calton allowed any tradesman to become a member providing they were healthy and their work was of an acceptable standard. This lack of restrictive practices allowed a thriving trade to develop.
The village of Calton was situated at the bottom of the ravine at the western end of Calton Hill, hence its early name of Craigend. It was on the road from Leith Wynd in Edinburgh and North Back of Canongate to Leith Walk and also to Broughton and thence the Western Road to Leith. In the village, the street was variously known as St. Ninian's Row or Low Calton. Many of the old buildings here were demolished at the time of the Waterloo Place and Regent Bridge development, which bridged the ravine, from 1816. The remaining old village houses of the Low Calton were removed in the 1970s.
Calton was in South Leith Parish and Calton people went to church in Leith. The churchyard there was inconveniently situated for burials from Calton and, in 1718, the Society bought a half acre of land at a cost of £1013 from Lord Balmerino for use as a burial ground. This became known as Old Calton Burial Ground. Permission was granted for an access road, originally known as High Calton and now the street called Calton Hill, up the steep hill from the village to the burial ground. The group of 1760s houses near the top of this street are all that remain of the old village.
Buildings and structures
The Old Calton Burial Ground was the first substantial development on Calton Hill and lies on the south-western side of the hill. The philosopher David Hume is buried there. His tomb is engraved only with the year of his birth (1711) and death (1776), on the "simple Roman tomb" (a relatively large monument) which he prescribed. The Political Martyrs' Monument is also in the burial ground. This is in memory of five campaigners for political reform and universal suffrage who were convicted of sedition and sent in 1793 to Botany Bay, Australia.
On the West side of Calton Hill is the street named Calton Hill. Agnes Maclehose, better known as Robert Burns' Clarinda, lived at number 14 and died there in 1841. Burns, Scotland's national poet, sent Clarinda many verses over several years in unsuccessful (it is believed) attempts to seduce this beautiful married lady.
Calton Hill was the location of the notorious Calton Jail, a complex comprising a Debtors' Prison, the Bridewell (1791-96) by Robert Adam (later replaced) and a Felons' Prison of 1815-17 by Archibald Elliot. The prisons were replaced by Saughton Prison and demolished in 1930 providing a site for St. Andrew's House, home to Scotland's senior civil servants. The sole surviving building is the castellated and turreted Governors House by Elliot. The lower curtain walls of the prison are still visible on the south side of St. Andrew's House, above Calton Road.
The eastern end of the ornate Regent Bridge is built into the side of the hill, crossing a deep gorge (at the bottom of which the opening scene from Trainspotting was shot) to connect the hill with Princes Street, now Edinburgh's main shopping street. The engineer in charge of building Regent Bridge in 1815 was Robert Stevenson, grandfather of the author Robert Louis Stevenson.
The renowned Scottish architect William Henry Playfair was responsible for the elegant thoroughfare that encircles the hill on three sides. Comprising Royal Terrace, Carlton Terrace and Regent Terrace, the largest of the townhouses can be found on Royal Terrace. Playfair's plan is dated 1819 and the first house was built at what is now 40 Royal Terrace. The gardens that cover over one half of the summit of the hill are privately administered by the local Residents Association.
Most of the properties on the terraces are occupied as houses but on Royal Terrace there is a number of hotels by far the largest being the Royal Terrace Hotel while on Regent Terrace is located the United States Consulate. Royal Terrace with its fine views over the Firth of Forth was known affectionately in the 19th-century as Whisky Row. This is said to be a reference to the amount of Spirit merchants, who bought the new properties, and for their supposed abilities to see their ships return from trading trips. Another explanation is that it was so named because of the large number of wine merchants who used to live there. Louis-Antoine, Duke of Angoulême (the elder son of Charles X of France, last of the Bourbon kings) and his wife Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, (the daughter of Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette), moved into what is now 22 (then 21) Regent Terrace in 1830. Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Sicile, duchess de Berry, sister in law of the Duc d'Angoulême, also lived at what is now 12 (then 11) Regent Terrace at that time. Her young son, Henri, the Comte de Chambord, is said to have wept bitterly when his family left for Austria in 1932 as he had become very attached to Scotland. The painter Francis Cadell one of the Scottish Colourists lived in 30 Regent Terrace from 1930-1935. The Western end of Regent Terrace was closed in 2001 to traffic because of security concerns about the United States Consulate. The City of Edinburgh Council proposed closing the Royal Terrace/Blenheim Place entrance to the Calton Hill Terraces in 2010 because of the Edinburgh Trams Project.
Playfair was responsible for many of the monumental structures on the summit of the hill most notably the Scottish National Monument. This monument was intended to be another Parthenon and to commemorate Scottish Soldiers killed in the Napoleonic wars. Construction started in 1826 but work was stopped in 1829 when the building was only partially built due to lack of money. It has never been completed. For many years this failure to complete led to its being nicknamed "Scotland's Disgrace" but this name has waned given the time elapsed since the Napoleonic Wars and it is now accepted for what it is.
For a number of years, while the Royal High School was earmarked for the site of the future Scottish Assembly, and subsequently as a potential site for the Scottish Parliament, Calton Hill was the location of a permanent vigil for Scottish devolution. However, Donald Dewar, then Secretary of State for Scotland, considered the site a "nationalist shibboleth", and the nearby St Andrew's House buildings (which at that time were the base of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the former Scottish Office) to look "Nazi" like "Dresden" (sic). It was also the venue in October 2004 for the Declaration of Calton Hill which outlined the demands for a future Scottish republic.
Calton Hill is the venue for a number of events throughout the year. The largest of these is the Beltane Fire Festival held on 30 April each year, attended by over 12,000 people. The Dussehra Hindu Festival also takes place on Calton Hill near the beginning of October each year.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Calton Hill.|
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- Skeletons removed from Edinburgh street
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- The Royal Terrace Hotel Accessed 2009-08-06
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- Painting "30 Regent Terrace" by Frances Cadell (1934) Accessed 2009-08-06
- Edinburgh City Council Traffic Regulation Order to make temporary closure since 2001 permanent Accessed 2009-08-09
- Residents affected by planned banning of right hand turn from London Road to Blenheim Place/Royal Terrace Accessed 2010-04-30
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- Beltane festival
- McEwan, Allen, Festival is flaming marvellous, The Edinburgh Evening News, 2008-10-06, Accessed 2009-09-02