Source 3 : ‘Proposals for carrying on certain works in the City of Edinburgh’, 1752
Printed pamphlet (NLS shelfmark: H.38.d.9 (1))
In 1751, part of a six-storey tenement collapsed in the Old Town, killing a young man.
As a direct result, a survey was carried out by the Town Council, and several other unstable buildings were demolished. It was clear that Edinburgh was feeling the consequences of a lack of investment over a long period of time.
Proposals for improvement
George Drummond, in his third term of office as Lord Provost, was keen to improve the city and to build a new district on the empty fields to the north. To gain support for his plans, a pamphlet outlining proposals for improvement, was circulated throughout Scotland. The pamphlet was published anonymously, but was probably written by Sir Gilbert Elliot of Minto.These proposals provided part of the impetus for the creation of the New Town in the late 1760s.
Extending the city boundaries
In this extract, the author proposes extending the ‘royalty’, or boundaries of the city of Edinburgh. Despite some opposition from landowners, this extension was finally approved by an Act of Parliament in 1767.
THE extending the royalty, and enlargement of the town, make no doubt the most important article. So necessary and so considerable an improvement of the capital cannot fail to have the greatest influence on the general prosperity of the nation. It is a vulgar mistake, that the greatest part of our principal families chuse to reside at LONDON. This indeed is true with regard to a few of our members of parliament, and some particular families who were settled there before the union. The rest go only occasionally; and if their stay be long, and their expence by consequence greater than this country can well bear, it must be entirely imputed to the present form and situation of EDINBURGH. Were these in any tolerable degree remedied, our people of rank would hardly prefer an obscure life at LONDON, to the splendor and influence with which they might reside at home. An uninterrupted country-life, is what they will never be brought to submit to. Attention to the forming an interest, the pleasures of retirement, or a taste for agriculture, may induce them possibly to pass some part of their time at their country-seats; more cannot reasonably be expected. It might indeed be otherwise in ancient times, when the feudal customs prevailed, with their large dependencies and extensive jurisdiction. The institution of our government
is now different: our manner must be different also. A nation cannot at this day be considerable, unless it be opulent. Wealth is only to be obtained by trade and commerce, and these are only carried on to advantage in populous cities. There also we find the chief objects of pleasure and ambition, and there consequently all those will flock whose circumstances can afford it. But can we expect, that persons of fortune in SCOTLAND will exchange the handsome seats they generally possess in the country, for the scanty lodging, and paltry accommodations they must put up with in EDINBURGH? It is not choice, but necessity, which obliges them to go so frequently to LONDON. Let us improve and enlarge this city, and possibly the superior pleasures of LONDON, which is at a distance, will be compensated, at least in some measure, by the moderate pleasures of EDINBURGH, which is at home.
- What arguments does the author give for extending the city boundaries and creating a new district to the north?
- What will be the purpose of the ‘new town’, and what kind of person will it attract?
- Who do you think is the intended readership?