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The Wauchope family owned the majority of the area up to the 1930s. The family home Niddrie Marischal House was immediately west of the present day Jack Kane Centre sports complex in Hunters Hall Park. The Wauchopes eventually donated their lands to the city.
Immediately adjacent to the Barony of Craigmillar, and part of Edinburgh City's political ward Craigmillar/Portobello, it was also the home of the Craigmillar Festival Society, a community arts organisation, founded by local mother and "Woman Of Achievement" Helen Crummy.
The place name is believed to be of Brythonic origin, *nuada tref meaning "new settlement".
The Niddrie Mains estate is now almost completely demolished, with no attempts made to recondition the buildings. The land has been mostly designated for private housing. The land that occupied most of the social housing in the community is being regenerated.
The site is currently being developed by PARC, an ALMO or Arms Length Management Organisation, fully owned by the City of Edinburgh Council. The development includes a new primary school for the surrounding area, with the old Niddrie Mill primary school and St Francis primary school joining in a joint campus. The first, though unassociated, phase of redevelopment in the Niddrie Mains area was the Hays area, constructed around 2001 and consisting of two storey blocks with gardens and pedestrianised streets.
Social housing was built in Niddrie Mains by Edinburgh Corporation from 1927 until the mid 1930's, under the designs of City Architect Ebenezer MacRae. The new housing was linked to a major slum clearance scheme in the St Leonard's Ward of Edinburgh. Families from these cleared areas were housed together with local coal mining families from Niddrie.
In the 1980s and 1990s Niddrie suffered from a high crime rate. Antisocial behaviour is fairly common, though gang fights and knife crime are of a lesser degree than in the '80s and '90s. In the '80s, Niddrie was one of the most drug-riddled communities in Scotland, and still has problems with class A drug use today. For a number of years the area has had problems with joyriders and youngsters stealing cars and motorbikes. Nearby Greendykes and Niddrie Mains was ranked as the fourth most deprived area in Scotland in the 2006 Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation
- "Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation". Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics. 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2013.