1000 years of Edinburgh history in 101 objects

The bronze statue of Scottish philosopher David Hume in Edinburg. (AP Photo/Martin Cleaver)
The bronze statue of Scottish philosopher David Hume in Edinburg. (AP Photo/Martin Cleaver)
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From the Heart of Midlothian on the Royal Mile and the final resting place of the economist Adam Smith in the Canongate to Edinburgh Castle’s Mons Meg cannon and the painting of The Skating Minister, they will chart 1000 years of the Scottish capital

But the city’s latest marketing campaign is about to feature a host of lesser-known historical sites, figures and attractions alongside the Stone of Destiny, Dolly the Sheep, the Scott Monument, the Bay City Rollers and Trainspotting.

Scott Monument


. Image by: Malcolm McCurrach/TSPL

Scott Monument . Image by: Malcolm McCurrach/TSPL

Dozens of attractions have joined forces with tourism and heritage bodies for a 12-month drive to tell the story of Edinburgh in 101 objects.

Partly inspired by a British Museum exhibition charting a “history of the world in 100 objects,” the £90,000 campaign is believed to be the first in the UK to involve a city-wide trail rather than an exhibition under the one roof.

Developed by experts at Edinburgh World Heritage and divided into seven themes, the online guidebook is aimed at highlighting the city’s rich history as well persuading people to discover some of the city’s “less-visited corners.”

Visitors trying to notch up a century will be tasked with tracking down a golf ball used by Robert Louis Stevenson, a tribute to women persecuted for witchcraft, John Knox’s bible and a bed slept in by Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Highlights include an original Trainspotting screenplay signed by Ewan McGregor, the programme for the first Edinburgh International Festival in 1947, a drumstick dropped at an Edinburgh Castle parade in 1948 which was the forerunner to the Tattoo, and a fan photograph of the Bay City Rollers in their 1974 heyday.

Works of art include the Sherlock Holmes statue erected at the birthplace of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the academic “Golden Boy” that sits on the dome of an Edinburgh University building and a bust of the poet, songwriter and political activist Hamish Henderson.

The trail features a mix of heroes and villains, including a cabinet made by the notorious criminal Deacon Brodie, a pocketbook made from the skin of serial killer William Burke and the sign which hangs outside The Oxford Bar, the favourite pub of John Rebus, author Ian Rankin’s famous detective.

Miniature coffins found on Arthur’s Seat, a watchtower build to guard against graverobbers, a “flat pack guillotine” and a dagger which belonged to George IV are also featured in the campaign, which has seen a number of temporary displays set up across the city to showcase objects not normally available for the public to see.

The Scotsman newspaper, which celebrates its 200 anniversary this year, has inspired two entries – the Scotsman Steps, which were created in 1899 as part of a deal which saw its North Bridge offices built, and a scale model of a Victorian printing press.

More than 50 different institutions and attractions have joined forces to develop the project, which has been coordinated by Edinburgh World Heritage, the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group and Marketing Edinburgh.

Nicholas Hotham, head of external relations at Edinburgh World Heritage, said: “We’ve been working on this for the last three months and as far as we know, nowhere else in the world has done anything else like this before. The great thing about Edinburgh is there are so many places you can experience the city’s heritage - not just the New Town or the Old Town - so we’ve tried to cast the net wide.

“The only criteria was that each object had to be visible and have a ‘wow factor.’ We’re still looking for one more suggestion to add to the list, which we want the public to suggest.”

Robin Worsnop, chair of the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, said: “Through showcasing the breadth and depth of the city’s offer we aim to improve the quality of the visitor experience, enabling visitors to have a much richer and deeper experience and allowing them to engage with Edinburgh’s history in a new way.”

John Donnelly, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, said:

“It’s fascinating to see the depth of items that have helped shape Edinburgh into the world-class city it is today.”

Edinburgh’s 101 Objects

Further details on all objects and their locations can be found: www.edinburgh.org/101

Building a City

1/Heart of Midlothian, Old Tolbooth (1300) - Free

Before it was a football club. A heart-shaped mosaic, formed in coloured granite setts, built into the pavement near the West Door of St Giles.

2/ Flodden Wall, Greyfrairs Kirkyard (1560) - Free

A fragmented defence. 16th Century City Walls.

3/ The West-Bow Well, (1674) - Free

Piping cold water. Four-sided ornamented stone well structure, designed by Robert Milne.

4/ The Netherbow Bell, Scottish Storytelling Centre, High Street (1621) - Free

Old city ringer. Bell inscribed with Latin text and the City of Edinburgh coat of arms, made by Michael Burgerhuis, Middelburg, Holland.

5/ View of Edinburgh, City Arts Centre (1759) - Free

Waiting for Waverley. Oil painting, ‘View of Edinburgh 1759’ by William Delacour.

6/ The New Town Plan, Museum of Edinburgh, Old Town (1766) - Free

Stemming the brain drain. Plan by James Craig (1739 - 1795) for a New Town street layout.

7/Starred Dome of 36 St Andrew Square, RBS Building (1857) - Free

A palace of banking. A domed banking hall designed by Peddie & Kinnear.

8/St. Bernard’s Well, Dean Village, (1788) - Free

Edinburgh’s sacred source. An 18th century neo-classical temple over a mineral spring with highly decorative interior pump house.

9/New Town maps, before and after the Assembly Rooms (1780 & 1783) - Free

A new town with socialising at its centre. Two maps of Edinburgh and the New Town: one by map maker John Ainslie and the second by booksellers Thomas Brown and James Watson.

10/ North side palace-front at Charlotte Square (1789) - Free

The New Town’s grandest square. Robert Adam’s use of the palace-front on the north side of Charlotte Square.

11/ Princes Street with the Commencement of the Building of the Royal Institution, National Galleries of Scotland (1825) - Free

Connecting the Old town with the New. An 1825 landscape oil painting by Alexander Nasmyth.

12/ 1842 milepost for the Edinburgh - Glasgow line, Haymarket Station (1842) - Free

A milestone in rail travel. A distance marker from Scotland’s first intercity rail route.

13/ Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Sheriff Brae (1976) - Free

Officially appearing in the Faith & Nation category, Edinburgh’s only Guarwara, which houses the sacred scriptures, has special permission to be number 13, as it’s believed to be auspicious by the Sikh community.

14/ Sir Patrick Geddes bust, Trunk’s Close, High Street (2012) - Free

Saviour of the Old Town. Bronze bust of Sir Patrick Geddes by Kenny Hunter.

15/ Model of the North British “Atlantic”, Waverley Station (1921) - Free

The great train race. A model of “The Lord Provost” locomotive, scale: 1 1/16” to the foot.

16/ The Scotsman Steps, Market Street (2010) - Free

A walk through ascending Art Installation. 104 steps made of different marbles, by the artist Martin Creed.

Arts & Performance

17/ The Trinity Altarpiece, Scottish National Gallery, The Mound (1478) - Free

The resurrection of a gothic church. Four oil painted panels by Hugo van der Goes depicting James III and Queen Margaret of Denmark.

18/ Pastoral pipes, St Cecilia’s Hall, University of Edinburgh, Cowgate (1770s) - Free

Shepherd’s delight. A set of Pastoral Pipes, attributed to H Robertson, Edinburgh.

19/ “The Skating Minister”, Scottish National Gallery, The Mound (1784) - Free

A Reverend Irreverential. Oil painting, “Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch” by Henry Raeburn

20/ Broadwood Harpsichord, St Cecilia’s Hall, University of Edinburgh, Cowgate (1793) - Free

A fitting instrument. Single-manual harpsichord made by John Broadwood & Sons.

21/ Processional Frieze, Scottish National Portrait Gallery (late 1890s) - Free

The march of progress. Decorative murals by William Hole.

22/The first Edinburgh International Festival programme, The Hub, Castleview (1947) - Free

The Festival City. A printed souvenir programme of the 1947 International Festival of Music and Drama

23/The Tattoo Drumstick, Cockburn Street (1948) - Free

An indelible Tattoo story A drumstick from Edinburgh Castle’s 1948 military performance.

24/ Paolozzi’s Studio, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Modern Two (1949) – Free

Creativity at work. A recreation of the artist’s studio.

25/ The 1956 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Programme, High Street (1956) - Free

The biggest arts festival in the world. Edinburgh Festival Fringe Programme.

26/ Bay City Rollers Fan Photograph, Ocean Terminal, Leith (1970) – Free

Turning the world tartan. A 1974 photo of three fans with three members of the Bay City Rollers, (L to R: Stuart Wood, Alan Longmuir and Eric Faulkner).

27/ EIFF Women’s Film Festival 1972 Catalogue, Filmhouse, Lothian Road (1972) - Free

The world’s longest continually-running film festival. A catalogue describing the programme for the 1972 Edinburgh International Film Festival.

28/ Schools Fringe Festival Poster Competition, High Street (1980) - Free

A lesson in design. Original winner of the Fringe Schools Poster Competition by Sharon Watts.

29/ Trainspotting screenplay, National Museum of Scotland (1996) - Free

“Choose Life”. The screenplay for ‘Trainspotting’, signed by Ewan McGregor.

30/ Landform, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Modern One (2001) - Free

Modern galleries mirrored. Landscaping of lawn to create a stepped, serpentine mound with three crescent-shaped water pools, by Charles Jencks.

31/‘Still’ by Alison Watt, Old St Paul’s Church, Jeffery Street (2004) - Free

A vast contemporary painting in Edinburgh’s Oldest Episcopal Church’. A monumental painting in four parts by Alison Watt, commissioned by Ingleby Gallery.

Books, Words & Ideas

32/ The Golden Boy, University of Edinburgh, Old College, South Bridge (1888) - Free

An academic Adonis. A six-foot gilded bronze figure, John Hutchison.

33/ David Hume’s Lucky Toe, The Royal Mile (1995) - Free

There’s the rub. Bronze statue of David Hume by Alexander Stoddart.

34/ Burns Monument, Regent Terrace (1830) - Free

The classical bard. Pillared rotunda temple by Thomas Hamilton

35/ The Scott Monument, Princes Street (1840) – Free to look at, paid to visit

A towering literary figure. 61-metre-high monument to Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832), designed by George Meikle Kemp.36

36/ Sherlock Holmes statue, Picardy Place (1887) – Free

The world’s most famous detective. A bronze statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.

37/ The Scotsman printing press, working model, National Museum of Scotland (1888) - Free

A model newspaper. A Victorian scale model of a Foster stereo printing press.

38/ The Old Huntsman and other poems by Siegfried Sassoon, Napier University, Craiglockhat (1917) - Free

The great war pets meet. First edition copy, inscribed and owned by Wilfred Own.

39/ Blackwood’s Magazine, National Library of Scotland, George Forth Bridge (1918) - Free

Deadly literary criticism. A printed copy of Blackwood’s Magazine, MCCXXVII, published January 1918, paper damaged by bullet hole.

40/ Hamish Henderson Bust, Sandy Bell’s Pub, (2002) - Free

Father of the Scottish folk revival. A papier mâché bust of Hamish Henderson sculpted from the pages of his books (with bottle Lagavulin) by Jan Miller.

41/ The Book Sculptures, Scottish Poetry Library, Canongate (2011) - Free

Mystery literary gifts. A series of 10 highly detailed miniature paper sculptures made from books.

42/ Beachcomber, Rose Street (2013) - Free

A street strewn with poetry. A steel cut illustration by Astrid Jaekel of George MacKay Brown’s poem ‘Beachcomber’ commissioned by Essential Edinburgh.

43/ Napier’s Bones; Rabdologiae, Napier University, Merchiston (5th Century) - Free

A 400-year-old calculator. Carved ivory manual calculating device (replica).

City of Innovation

44/ Grave of Adam Smith, Cannongate Kirkyard, (1790) - Free

An intellectual graveyard. Grave of the economics philosopher Adam Smith, 1723 – 1790

45/ Hutton’s section, Arthur’s Seat, Arthur’s Seat (1785) - Free

The grandfather of geology. An outcrop of dolerite and sandstone.

46/ The Sabal Palm, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (Pre 1800) - Free

The world’s oldest palm? A 200 year old plant of the species Sabal bermudana

47/ Lighthouse model, Northern Lighthouse Board, George Street (early 1800s) - Free

The luminous Stevensons. Model of a lighthouse above entrance to the Northern Lighthouse Board, George Street.

48/ Statue of Prof. James Clerk Maxwell, George Street (1831) - Free

Magnetic man. Bronze statue of the Edinburgh physicist, modelled by Alexander Stoddart.

49/ Darwin Herbarium specimen, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (1835) - Free

Darwin original discovery. An original preserved plant specimen collected from the Galapagos Islands by Charles Darwin during the Voyage of the Beagle in 1835.

50/ The Fossil Tree, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (1835) - Free

Biggest fossil ever found in Britain. A 10.5-metre-long fossilised tree.

51/ Chloroform Inhaler, National Museum of Scotland (1847) – Free

A glass vessel designed by Edinburgh obstetrician, James Young Simpson, for the inhalation of chloroform.

52/ The Edinburgh Time Ball, Calton Hill (1852) – Free to look

A navigational aid on top of the Nelson Monument used to help navigate ships

53/ Forth Bridge paint mixer, National Museum of Scotland (1923) – Free

Hand cranked paint stirrer used to paint the bridge before paint was developed that lasts twenty years.

54/ Compass Binnacle, The Royal Yacht Britannia (1817) – Paid

Gold leaf painted mount for navigational instruments.

55/ Dolly the Sheep, National Museum of Scotland (1996) – Free

The world’s most famous sheep – the first sheep o be artificially produced

56/ The Rhubarb Plot, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – Free

Edible rhubarb patch at RGBE – Rhubarb was first introduced to Scotland in 1763 and used to treat digestive ailments.

57/ Brigadier Sie Nils Olav, RZSS Edinburgh Zoo – Paid

An honourable penguin - a black and white aptenodytes patagonicus.

Everyday Living

58/ Deacon’s Chair, The Magdalen Chapel, Cowgate (1708) – Free

A restored ornate ceremonial chair belonging to the Hammerman – a powerful trade guild for Edinburgh artisans

59/ Sedan Chair, Museum of Edinburgh, High Street – Free

The 18th century equivalent of a black cab – a wooden painted Sedan Chair used to chauffeur moneyed citizens

60/ Tea Table, The Georgian House, Charlotte Square (1795) – Paid (Free to NTS/NT/Art Fund members)

A mahogany parlour table made by Bruce and Burns of Edinburgh to prevent tea-leafing – an expensive commodity

61/ Open Fire Range, The Georgian House, Charlotte Square (Early 1800s) – Paid (free to NTS/NT/Art Fund members)

State of the Art Georgian Kitchen Aid – entertaining was important to the status of the New Town aristocrat.

62/ Usher’s Green Stripe whisky, The Scottish Whisky Experience, Royal Mile (Mid 1800s) – Paid

The first blended Scotch whisky

63/ Robert Louis Stevenson’s Golf Ball, Museum of Edinburgh, High Street (1800s) – Free

An inscribed 19th century golf ball made from gutty percha (Sapodilla tree latex)

64/ The Skittle Alley, Sheep Heid Inn, Duddingston (1882) – Free, £3pp per hour to play

Skittle alley in Scotland’s oldest pub.

65/ Baths Sign, Leith Victoria Swim Centre, Junction Place (1800s) – Free to view object, paid to swim

Red and white sign outside Leith Victoria Baths. First opened to public in 1899 and Irvine Welsh used to swim here.

66/ Inventors Tiles, Café Royal Oyster Bar, West Register Street (1863) – Free

Traces of the 1886 World Expo held in the Meadows were 9 framed commemorative tile paintings that now line the walls of Café Royal.

67/ Pickering’s Gin Tap, The Royal Dick Pub, Summerhall (2013) – Free

A bar tap serving draft gin from the micro distillery next door.

Faith & Nation

68/ National Shrine of St Andrews, St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral (First Century AD) – Free

Ancient fragments of a saint’s mortal remains, displayed in an ornate reliquary

69/ The Stone of Destiny, Edinburgh Castle (Ancient) – Paid

A crowning stone used in the inauguration of early Scottish kings before being seized by Edward 1 of England who had it built into a special throne at Westminster Abbey.

70/ Crown Jewels, Edinburgh Castle (1540) – Paid

The oldest regalia in the British Isles – The Crown Jewels includes a jewel encrusted crown, sword and sceptre.

71/ Mons Meg, Edinburgh Castle (1449) – Paid

A large cannon at Edinburgh Castle given as a gift to King James II – he died three years later when one of his cannon exploded during a siege.

72/ The Holyrood Ordinal, Palace of Holyroodhouse (Mid 1400s) – Paid

Holyrood’s holy book – originally written for use in the Augustinian Abbey of Holyrood. 73/

73/Glass Roundels, The Magdalen Chapel, Cowgate (1541) – Free

Scotland’s oldest surviving stained glass depicting four coats or arms

74/ The Penicuik Jewels, National Museum of Scotland (1500s) – Free

Necklace of beheaded Queen, Mary Queen of Scots

75/ The Geneva Bible, John Knox House, Hight Street (1572) – Paid

1557 translated version of the Bible into English

76/ The National Covenant, St Giles’ Cathedral (1638) – Free

A framed, handwritten and signed copy of the National Covenant that rejected the attempt by King Charles I and William Laud to force the Scottish church to conform to English practice.

77/ Darnley Bed, Palace of Holyroodhouse – Paid

Ornate canopied bed used by Bonnie Prince Charlie

78/ Bank of Scotland Kist, Museum on the Mound (c. 1700) – Free

Lockable iron chest purchased by Bank of Scotland was used to protect valuable contents

79/ Royal Company of Archers’ uniform, National Museum of Scotland (1750) - Free

Tartan uniform of the Royal Company of Archers – the first military unit to adopt a tartan uniform

80/ National Monument, Calton Hill (1820) – Free

What appears to be a ruined ancient Greek temple is in fact an unfished project to create the Parthenon.

81/ The Entry of George IV into Edinburgh, City Art Centre (1822) – Free

Oil painting of John Wilson Ewbank – as Royal Scottish Academician who was commissioned to commemorate King George IV’s visit to Edinburgh

82/ George IV’s Highland Dirk, Palace of Holyroodhouse (1822) – Paid

A long ornamental dagger belonging to King George IV that he wore with a bright red tartan kilt when visiting Scotland – from this moment on, tartan became the official Scottish national dress.

83/ King’s Own Scottish Greyfriars Kirkyard, North Bridge (1906) - Free

War Memorial sculpture by Edinburgh born sculptor, William Birnie Rhind

84/ The Thistle Chapel Ceiling, St Giles’ Cathedral (1911) – Free

A tiny chapel crammed with detail including a stunning stained glass windowed ceiling, created by Lorimer who was knighted for his creation.

85/ Wojtek the bear, Princes Street Gardens (2015) – Free

Brown bear who was adopted by Polish soldiers during their Nazi escape helped carry ammunition at Italian Battle of Monte Cassino

86/ Parliament Cairn, Calton Hill (1998) – Free

Stone cairn topped with a brazier, erected by Democracy for Scotland

87/ Tian Tian’s paw print, Edinburgh Zoo - Free to visit paw print and shop

Part of the City of Innovation category, the print from the front paw of female giant panda, Tian Tian is number 88, China’s luckiest number.

88/ The Mace, The Scottish Parliament (1999) – Free

A silver and gold ceremonial Mace created for the 1999 opening of the Scottish Parliament

On the Dark Side

89/ The Maiden, National Museum of Scotland (1564) – Free

A flat pack guillotine used before the French Revolution to execute people.

90/ Witches Well, Edinburgh Castle Esplanade (1912) – Free

A small brass commemorative well to over 300 women, burned at the stake for suspected witchcraft.

91/ Tomb of John Bayne of Pitcarlie, Greyfriars Kirkyard (1681) – Free

Stone mausoleum built into the Grassmarket wall of Greyfriars Kirkyard

92/ Bloodstain of Rizzo, Palace of Holyroodhouse (1620) – Paid

A darkened area of floorboards from where Mary Queen of Scots secretary, David Rizzio was stabbed 56 times by Lord Darnley.

93/ Door from Prisons of War, Edinburgh Castle (1700s) – Paid

An original prison wood door that displays graffiti by French, American and Spanish prisoners captured during the American War of Independence.

94/ Deacon Brodie Cabinet, The Writer’s Museum, High Street (1770) – Free

An original case of Jekyll and Hyde – respected cabinet maker, William Brodie handmade this cabinet, however in 1788 it was discovered he’d been leading a double life as he became a burglar at night.

95/ Rangers Impartial List of Ladies, Edinburgh World Heritage, Canongate (1775) – Free

An anonymously published guide to the ladies of pleasure of Edinburgh which includes their addresses, age, appearance and ‘skills’

96/ The Watchtower, New Calton “Burying” Ground, New Calton Burial Ground (1820) – Free

Three storey castellated stone tower used to guard against grave robbers

97/ Pocketbook made from the skin of William Burke, Surgeons’ Hall Museums (1829) – Paid

A chilling momento of Edinburgh’s most notorious serial killers made from the skin of William Burke

98/ Arthur’s Seat Coffins, National Museum of Scotland (1836) – Free

Miniature coffins containing carved human effigies

100. Oxford Bar Sign, The Oxford Bar, Young Street – Free

Green street sign for an Edinburgh bar, but why Oxford in Edinburgh? Oxford University Press used to have a depot just along the road.

The People’s Choice

101. The public’s choice for Edinburgh’s 101st object is yet to be revealed…