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By the 1750s the Old Town of Edinburgh was grossly overcrowded. Some 55,000 people were crammed within the city walls.  With no open space for building, Edinburgh climbed skywards. Daniel Defoe, who visited Edinburgh in 1725 was astonished to note tenements “which on the south side appear to be eleven or twelve stories high and inhabited to the very top.”  Other visitors were less complimentary. John Taylor complained that “Every street shows the nastiness of the inhabitants; the excrement lies in heaps.” Something had to be done.

It took the drive and determination of Lord Provost George Drummond to take forward his dream of what even then was called the New Town. Rather than hand over the open land to the north to developers, to his credit Drummond organized a competition won by the young Edinburgh architect James Craig. Drummond did not live to see work start on the first house in 1767, but his vision survives as the finest example of Georgian town planning in the UK.

Our virtual walk will consider the drivers for the change that transformed the city.  We will learn something of the most interesting building and the stories of some early residents.

Eric Melvin is our speaker. Eric graduated with First Class Honours in History and Political Thought from Edinburgh University in 1967. He qualified as a secondary teacher of History and Modern Studies at the then Moray House College of Education gaining a Dip. Ed. in the process and the Staff Prize. Eric later gained an M.Ed. from the University of Edinburgh. He retired from teaching in 2005, working latterly for the City of Edinburgh Council as Headteacher at Currie Community High School. Eric has had several books published on various aspects of Edinburgh’s rich history including books for young readers.


Free but booking is essential. 

All attendees will be sent joining instructions in advance of the event. Please check your junk/spam folder if you don't hear from us by an hour before.

The lecture will be on Microsoft Teams, so if you join us on a mobile device (mobile phone or tablet) you will need to download the app (free) from the App Store / Google Play Store beforehand.


Edinburgh is 900 Years Old!

In 1124 King David I introduced a new system of local government into Scotland by creating royal burghs as part of his efforts to reform the nation’s economic and political structures.

Edinburgh was one of his first royal burghs, along with Berwick, Dunfermline, Roxburgh and Stirling.

While there is no surviving founding Edinburgh charter, an 1127 Dunfermline Abbey royal charter refers to ‘my burgh of Edinburgh’. In 1128, Canongate Burgh was created for Holyrood Abbey.

After the Reformation, Edinburgh spent considerable effort acquiring the former abbey’s lands over the following 200 years. It acquired Canongate then created a new burgh for South Leith in 1636. The burghs of Broughton, Calton and Portsburgh were also acquired and run by Edinburgh. This complex system of governance was abolished in 1856 when all burghs under the management of Edinburgh were merged into a single burgh.

In 1833, Portobello and Leith were made independent parliamentary burghs under the Burgh Reform Act. They ran their own affairs until amalgamated into an expanded Edinburgh in 1896 and 1920, respectively. 1975 saw the last expansion of the city’s boundaries, including Queensferry, which had been made a royal burgh in 1636.

Edinburgh has selected 2024 to mark the start of the 900th anniversary of our city, and to tell the story of Edinburgh’s journey through the centuries from the 12th century City of David right up to the 21st century, the City of Diversity. Our talks at the City Art Centre will celebrate the 10 themes and will span a period of summer 2024 until August 2025.

Edinburgh 900

Edinburgh’s New Town