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Portobello Beach
Portobello Police Station, built in 1878, but this is the new version as it has been modernised, as the Town Hall

Portobello is a beach resort located three miles (5 km) to the east of the city centre of Edinburgh, along the coast of the Firth of Forth, in Scotland. It is now a suburb of Edinburgh, with a promenade fronting on to the wide sand beach. For many years it was a popular resort with Glaswegians, particularly when the Glasgow Fair trade holiday signalled the start of a 2 week holiday for the west.

Contents

History

The area was originally known as Figgate Muir, an expanse of moorland through which the Figgate Burn flowed from Duddingston Loch to the sea, with a broad sandy beach on the Firth of Forth. The name Figgate was thought to come from the Saxon term for "cow's ditch", and the land was used as pasture by the monks of Holyrood Abbey. In 1296 William Wallace mustered forces on the moor in a campaign that led to the Battle of Dunbar, and in 1650 the moor was the supposed scene of a secret meeting between Oliver Cromwell and Scottish leaders. A report from 1661 describes a race in which twelve browster-wives ran from the Burn (recorded as the Thicket Burn) to the top of Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh.[1]

By the 18th century it had become a haunt of seamen and smugglers. In 1742 a cottage was built there by a seaman who had served under Admiral Edward Vernon during the 1739 capture of Porto Bello, Panama, and who named the cottage Portobello Hut in honour of that victory. By 1753 there were other houses around it, and the cottage itself remained intact until 1851, becoming a hostelry for foot-travellers and becoming known as the Shepherd's Ha'.[1]

In 1763, the lands known as the Figgate Whins were sold by Lord Milton to Baron Mure for about £1500, and afterwards feued out by the latter to a Mr. William Jameson at the rate of £3 per acre. Jameson discovered a valuable bed of clay near the burn, and built a brick and tile works beside the stream. He later built an earthenware pottery factory, and the local population grew so that Portobello became a thriving village.[1] Land values subsequently rose, and by the turn of the century some parts had been sold at a yearly feu-duty of £40 per annum for every acre.[2]

Portobello Sands were used at that time by the Edinburgh Light Horse for drill practice. Walter Scott was their quartermaster, and in 1802 while riding in a charge he was kicked by a horse, and was confined to his lodgings for three days. While recovering, he finished The Lay of the Last Minstrel.[1] The Scots Magazine in 1806 said the lands were "a perfect waste covered almost entirely with whins or furze." Portobello developed into a fashionable bathing resort, and in 1807 new salt-water baths were erected at a cost of £5000.[2] In 1822, the Visit of King George IV to Scotland, organised by Scott, included a review of troops and Highlanders held on the sands, with spectators crowding the sand dunes.[1]

During the 19th century Portobello also became an industrial town, manufacturing bottles, bricks, glass, lead, paper, pottery, soap, and mustard, as well as developing an oyster fishery.

In 1833 the town was made a burgh, then in 1896 it was incorporated into Edinburgh by Act of Parliament.[3] A formidable red-brick power station was built in 1934 at the west end of the beach and operated until 1977. It was demolished in the following 18 months.[4]

Between 1846 and 1964 a railway station provided ready access for visitors to the resort, whose facilities came to include a large open air heated swimming pool (where the actor Sean Connery had once worked as a life guard) which made use of the power station's spare heat. It was closed in 1984. There was also a lido (now closed) and a permanent fun-fair which closed in 2007. It is now demolished and is being redeveloped. Two amusement arcades remain (Fun City - Amusement Emporium) and (Tower Amusements). In 1901 Portobello baths were opened on The Promenade overlooking the beach. The baths, now known as Portobello Swim Centre, are still open today and are home to one of only 3[5] remaining turkish baths in Scotland. The turkish baths are open to the public.

The name Figgate is still used by Figgate Park, just outside of Portobello.[2] Portobello used to have traffic lights at the King's Road junction up until 1986, when they were replaced with a roundabout. The junction was converted back to a traffic light controlled T-junction in 2009.

Portobello gave its name to the town of Portobello in New Zealand, which lies close to the city of Dunedin (itself named for Edinburgh).

Portobello is situated next to Joppa, Edinburgh, another suburb of Edinburgh.

Notable people

Bridge Street, Portobello, was the birthplace of music hall entertainer Sir Harry Lauder[6] and the memorial garden beside the 'new' Town Hall (built between 1909 - 1912 by architect James A Williamson[7]) is named after him. The Celtic fiddle virtuoso Johnny Cunningham was also born in Portobello. TV presenter Gail Porter grew up in Portobello, attending Portobello High School[8][9].

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Grant, James. "14: Portobello". Old and New Edinburgh. V. London: Cassell & Company Limited. pp. 143–149. http://www.oldandnewedinburgh.co.uk/volume5/page154.html. Retrieved 2009-08-20.  
  2. ^ a b c Gilbert, W.M., editor, Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century, Edinburgh, 1901: 45
  3. ^ Gilbert, W.M., editor, Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century, Edinburgh, 1901: 176
  4. ^ Gifford, John; McWilliam, Colin; Walker, David; Wilson, Christopher, editors, The Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh, London, 1984: 650, ISBN 0-14-0710-68-X ,
  5. ^ http://www.victorianturkishbath.org/_6DIRECTORY/Lists/Scotland/ScotlandEng.htm
  6. ^ Lauder, Sir Harry, Roamin' in the Gloamin (autobiography) Hutchinson & Co., Ltd., London, 1928: 34
  7. ^ Gifford, John; McWilliam, Colin; Walker, David; Wilson, Christopher, editors, The Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh, London, 1984: 653, ISBN 0-14-0710-68-X ,
  8. ^ Porter G., Irish Independent, They told me I'd be crazy to go into TV, [1], 29 November 2007
  9. ^ BBC News website, Porter's star turn at old school, [2], 2 March 2007

External links

Coordinates: 55°57′9.68″N 3°6′51.53″W / 55.9526889°N 3.1143139°W / 55.9526889; -3.1143139

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