Royal High School pupils release balloons from Calton Hill for the Freedom From Hunger Campaign in July 1963.
Royal High School pupils release balloons from Calton Hill for the Freedom From Hunger Campaign in July 1963.

Edinburgh's Calton Hill: 21 pictures from the 1950s and 1960s showing what life was like on the Capital landmark

It’s one of the seven hills of Edinburgh and has a fascinating history – and there was certainly plenty going on around Calton Hill more than half a centry ago.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 10:50 am

There is evidence of human activity on Calton Hill dating back thousands of years, with historians believing that it was the location of a prehistoric hillfort.

In 1456 James II granted the community of Edinburgh the land surrounding the hill for tournaments, sport, theatre and military training – though not football or golf that were both banned.

Then in May 1518 a Carmelite Monastery was built, later used by a hospital for lepers after the Scottish Reformation of 1560.

The Logan family owned much of the land in the Calton area in the 16th century but forfeited their rights to the Elphinstone family after Robert Logan was found guilty of treason.

By 1725, the western side of Calton Hill was sold to the Royal Burgh of Edinburgh, while the eastern end was owned by the Heriot's Trust charity.

The village of Calton at the foot of the hill, originally known as Craigend, remained an independent Burgh of Barony within South Leith Parish until it was incorporated into Edinburgh in 1856.

Today, Calton Hill is a popular viewpoint, tourist attraction, and home to a number of notable buildings.

The Old Calton Burial Ground, on the south-western side of the hill, is the oldest development, containing the 1776 grave of philosopher David Hume and the Political Martyrs' Monument, dedicated to five political reform campaigners who were convicted of sedition and sent in to Botany Bay in 1793.

Calton Jail was a notorious prison complex built where St Andrew's House – the headquarters of Scotland's senior civil servants – now stands, with the turreted Governor's House and partial prison walls the only parts remaining.

Scottish architect William Henry Playfair was responsible for the elegant roads of Royal Terrace, Carlton Terrace and Regent Terrace that surround the hill and was also responsible for many of the momuments that still sit atop the landmark.

The Scottish National Monument, intended to be another Parthenon to commemorate Scottish Soldiers killed in the Napoleonic wars, started construction in 1826 but was never completed due to a lack of cash.

In 1829 the Royal High School was built on the southern slopes of the hill and has lain derelict in recent years, before a plan was approved to transform it into a National Centre of Music.

Here are 21 pictures to take you back to the Calton Hill of the 1950s and 1960s.

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