Searching Edinburgh Maps for Craigwell Brewery History

10 October 2007 – visited the Edinburgh Room at Edinburgh’s Central Library on George IV Bridge. Found a great collection of old maps of Edinburgh there, and searched through them for evidence of buildings on the site where Nether Craigwell now stands – EH8 8DR.

Notes made when consulting “An Atlas of Old Edinburgh” in the Edinburgh Room

(subsequent research 1544 Gordon of Rothiemay’s Map)

1647 – Map of Reverend James Gordon

  • Shows “Water Port” where “Watergate” is now at Holyrood.
  • Waverley Valley has stream running thr0ugh it – where Calton Road is now
  • Houses on the Canongate at the foot of the ‘Royal Mile’ have long gardens to the rear
  • Map shows Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood, St Giles, Greyfriars Kirk, Heriots (now school)
  • Calton Hill is called ‘North Craigs’ or ‘Neil’s Craigs’
  • Notes on this map state that it was first published in 1690 in “Theatrum Praecipuarum Totius Europae Urbium” c. 1690 by F de Wit

1742 Map of Edinburgh

  • show ‘Caltoun Crags’ and ‘Caltoun Burying Place’ – now Old Calton Cemetery
  • Calton Road is named ‘Back of Canongate’
  • in this map there are buildings at the foot of Abbeyhill and some on the north side of the North Back of Canongate
  • there appears to be a structure on the site of what will become Nether Craigwell – it looks like a well
  • Map refers to “76 (closes) in the Canongate”

1763 – John Laurie’s Map of Edinburgh

  • shows ‘Calton Hill’ (rather than Caltoun)

1780 – John Ainslie’s Map

  • shows two buildings opposite the bottom of Campbell’s Close and Reid’s Yard, with trees illustrated on the hill behind them
  • closes numbered at the foot of the Canongate between Reids Yard (25) and White Horse Close (34) are:-

(25) Reid’s Yard
(26) Campbell’s Close
(27) Sommerville’s Close
(28) Malloch’s Close
(29) Callendar’s Close
(30) Forsyth’s Close
(31) Galloway’s Close
(32) Ramsay’s Close
(33) Duncan’s Close
(34) White Horse Close

1778 Map which incorporates the design forEdinburgh’s New Town shows three built structures in the region of Nether Craigwell’s site – with the site for the New Calton Burial Ground being marked on the plan

(1816 Map in NLS shows proposal for the Edinburgh – Glasgow Canal running at right angles to the foot of the Canongate and North Back of Canongate – given the steepness of this area it’s no wonder the canal scheme was never realised! See this link to view the map.)

1817 Map shows “Queensbury House Barracks” – this is now part of the Scottish Parliament

1820 Map has the Calton New Burying Ground clearly marked and you can see the ‘North Back of Canongate’ with the Craigwell Buildings on it – the Burns Monument also now appears on this map

1829 – The Murderer William Hare escapes from Calton Jail

(Researching the subject subsequently on the internet brought up the Post Office Map of 1830/31, which has a good image where the buildings are visible, which can be found on the Edinburgh Photo Website)

1823 – Brown’s Map shows the brewery buildings under construction

1833 – Letter from Condemned Cell in Calton Jail

1840 – Post Office Map – need to take a further look at this as the copy in the book I was consulting had the Brewery site on a join in the pages

1842 – Queen Victoria Visits Scotland

(Subsequent research found an 1844 Map on the Edinburgh Photo Website: Link)

(Subsequent research found an 1870 Map on the Edinburgh Photo Website: Link – of interest here is that it looks like a Gas Tank is visible diagonally opposite the Brewery – this is the first sight of the Gas Works which was said to have polluted the face of the Burns Monuments, causing the artifacts stored therein to be removed to the National Gallery)

1894 – 1896 Ordnance Survey Maps first produced – points to note around Calton Hill:

  • “Her Majesty’s Prison” next to the Calton Old Burial Ground
  • Craigwell Brewery is marked, along with the Calton Hill Brewery next to it
  • The Burns Monument is clearly marked

Further research in the Edinburgh Room showed some sketches of 1818 by James Skene depicting areas around Calton Road

  • (12)pYDA2302 (1818) – Low Calton – ECL 223010.TIF
  • (1818) – Low Calton – ECL 223013.TIF
  • (1818) – Tower of the New Jail from the Low Calton ECL 223014.TIF

Also found a couple of books which might prove fruitful for further research:-

  1. E. Patricia Dennison (2005) – Holyrood and Canongate – A Thousand Years of History published by Birlinn (
  2. Ann Mitchell (1993) – The People of Calton Hill – published by Mercat Press

In (1) there is a quote on p134 “On 5 March 1870 The Scottish Standard reported that “the south back of the Canongate of Edinburgh is more famous for breweries than any street in the United Kingdom”

I also found a photograph in one of these books (?) of Rock House, Calton Hill which was the Home of Archibald Burns Photographer – photographed by Alexander Burns in 1874 – maybe it would be worth checking to see if any of his photographs feature the Brewery?

Susan McNaughton
11 October 2007

Anything to add?