In pictures: New exhibition uncovers Comely Bank history

Comely bank Road, postcard circa 1912. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland
Comely bank Road, postcard circa 1912. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland
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THE history of an Edinburgh suburb has been revealed in a new exhibition spanning 200 years.

Never-before-seen images and documents of Comely Bank are on display at Stockbridge Library throughout September, showcasing the changing face of the neighbourhood during the 200 years of its history.

Picture: Contributed

Picture: Contributed

The exhibition, Comely Bank 1817 – 2017, has been curated by local residents from Comely Bank East Lane Association.

The history and development of Comely Bank by businessman and philanthropist, Sir William Fettes, in the 1800s will be highlighted, charting the area’s rise to the present day.

Association member, Hil Williamson, said the project started being formed almost two years ago, when neighbours got together to secure access to a path – and started asking questions about the area’s history.

She added: “We all had different interests so the work was split up.

Picture: Contributed

Picture: Contributed

“We hope the exhibition will stimulate conversation among current and former residents, and uncover further memories and information about the area.”

Sir William bought the Comely Bank Estate and House as a country retreat and rural getaway from the hustle and bustle of his Princess Street home – with the estate made up of meadows and fields. As the New Town spread northwards, Sir William devised a plan to produce a major architectural scheme in a quiet suburb – but the 
development was never finished. Mrs Williamson added: “It wasn’t until 1817 that Sir William decided to build his houses here.

“He actually had plans for eight rows and it was to be ‘palace-fronted’ – so quite spectacular. It was never completed as it seems there was a major financial panic in 1825 and 1826. It was the first major bank scare.

“We have also got items on the former Comely Bank Nursery which was near where Waitrose is now. Sir William’s son died at a young age. He became very rich and possibly wanted to assist less well-off boys.

Picture: Contributed

Picture: Contributed

“The most recent thing in the exhibition is the proposed ring-road that was going to carve its way through architectural gems and run along the back of the Comely Bank houses on a raised flyover during the 1960s, but the plans fell through.”

Famous Comely Bank residents include celebrated portrait artist Thomas Hodgetts and Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle, who also feature in the exhibition.

Mrs Williamson said: “We also look at the famous faces who once made this area their home – from Scottish philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle, who was a driving force behind the creation of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, to painter John Ewbank and the Faed family, famed for their artwork of orphans, beggars and street vendors.”

Picture: Contributed

Picture: Contributed

The Inner Ring Road. Picture: Contributed

The Inner Ring Road. Picture: Contributed

The unrealised plans. Picture: Contributed

The unrealised plans. Picture: Contributed

Fettes College. Picture: Contributed

Fettes College. Picture: Contributed