Looking back in time: New book shows famous streets and landscapes from days gone by

VESTS and longjohns, sheets and pillowcases and even the odd brassiere. . . the washing hanging from the windows gives the High Street a somewhat festive feel. Though as a picture postcard scene it doesn’t exactly make you wish you were there.

By Gina Davidson
Tuesday, 27th November 2012, 2:11 pm

Of course, the scene is 
supposed to capture the magnificence of John Knox’s House rather than the bedraggled clothing of the residents of ­Edinburgh’s most famous mile. But it’s just one of the unusual scenes of the Capital revealed in a new book, Edinburgh Through Time.

Photographer Liz Hanson has collected old postcards of city streets and landscapes and then taken pictures of the same place today for a book of ­comparisons.

A postcard of Saughton Park from 1908 commemorates the Scottish National Exhibition, a celebration of the bicentenary of the Treaty of Union, when the park was transformed into a wonderland of technology and entertainment.

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There was an enormous, ­ornate white building with two 125ft towers in which the new-fangled advances of the technological age were housed, a giant water chute, a helter-skelter and a Sengalese village, which became temporary home to a tribe of 70 French Senegal natives. 
Then there are pictures of Princes Street. The North Bridge Hotel with the Waverley Garden laid out before it, the old GPO building outside which the streets are strung with overhead cables for the tram cars.

There’s Portobello beach when the pier still existed, Summerhall in its pre-Dick Vet days when the Hope Street Church used to stand, and Swanston, when it was truly a rural place, miles from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

“Of course these days you can’t take a photograph at Swanston at the same angle without seeing the urban sprawl behind,” says 62-year-old Liz, who spent years living Balcarres Street when she worked as a pharmaceutical rep, before she turned her hobby into a job, producing photographic cards.

“When I first came to Edinburgh in 1968 people said how lovely Swanston was but to me it was a road of bungalows which I drove past to go to the Hunter’s Tryst. But then I discovered the real Swanston. It still feels rural, but you can’t help seeing the pylons and the housing developments which have got ever closer.”

Liz hunted for the old postcards at specialist sales, on eBay and by rooting through ephemera in antique and book shops. “You find the scenes you would expect like Princes Street, but then there are others like Fraser Avenue – I had to get a map out to find out where that was.

“Then there’s the image of Summerhall. I was so surprised that the church had gone.”

She adds: “It’s been a fascinating root through Edinburgh’s history. The pictures really do all the talking but I know I’ll never look at Edinburgh in the same way again.”

• Edinburgh Through Time by Liz Hanson is published by Amberley, priced £14.99