An aerial view of Granton Harbour in 1962.
An aerial view of Granton Harbour in 1962.

Edinburgh's Granton: 27 pictures from the 1950s and 1960s show what life was like in the Capital's waterfront district

Now part of a huge regeneration project, Granton has a fascinating industrial history that revolves around the harbour at its heart.

Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 9:19 am

The first mention of Granton, thought to mean either Grant’s Town or Grant’s Hill, dates back to maps of the 17th century with mentions of Granton Castle, Granton Burn and Granton Beach.

The castle dated back to the 15th century, when it was owned by John Melville of Carnbee and his descendents, before being bought by Lord Advocate Sir Thomas Hope in 1619 who altered, renamed and extended the building.

It fell into disrepair in the 18th century, before being all-but destroyed by quarrying in the early 20th century, meaning only fragments remain today.

The area’s industrial glory days were heralded when it was decided in 1834 that Edinburgh needed a new harbour, with Granton being chosen as the location and work beginning in 1837.

The central pier was opened on the same day as the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838 and the monarch would later land at the harbour during her first official visit to Edinburgh in 1842.

Granton Harbour became key port for the export of coal and the import of the raw materials to make paper, while a growing fishing industry meant that by World War II there were more than 80 trawlers based there.

It was also the location of the world’s first ‘ferry-train’, with a paddle steamer carrying locomotives over the estuary from 1850 until the Forth Bridge was completed in 1890.

During World War I Granton Harbour was used as a base for minesweeping ships, while from 1942-1946 is was home to HMS Lochinvar – a minesweeping training facility.

Other industries that have thrived in the area over the years include Granton Quarry, which provided stone for parts of Holyrood Palace, and the Madelvic Motor Carriage Company, established in 1898, which held the title of Britain’s oldest surviving car factory before it was demolished just five years ago.

Granton Gasworks was also a familiar sight to Edinburgh residents and one of the three huge gasometers is now a listed building that can be seen from as far away as Fife.

From 1932, Granton was developed as a residential area by the council, with over 1,500 homes being created by City Architect Ebenezer MacRae – many of which remain in use today.

Much of West Granton was demolished in the 1990s and the area is now part of ambitious redevelopment plans that also include nearby Leith.

The former gasworks site wil be redeveloped as ‘the ForthQuarter’, with housing, offices, local services, a park, and a new campus for Edinburgh College.

Here are 27 pictures to take you back to the Granton of the 1950s and 1960s.

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