William Jameson – early Scottish brickmaker

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Also referred to in the Portobello Advertiser  dated 04/12/1896





Below – The Village of Figget ( Portobello) 1783

Village of Figget (Portobello) 1783

 William Baird’s Annals of Duddingston & Portobello (1898)

...About the year 1763, a new settlement began to be formed in the parish at 
the mouth of the Figgate Burn, consequent upon the finding of a 
valuable bed of clay, and the starting of brick and tile making on 
rather an extensive scale by Mr William Jameson, an eminent 
builder and architect of Edinburgh. Mr Jameson having purchased
forty acres of the Figgate lands, which at the time were a 
mere waste, covered for the most part with furze or whins, 
and commonly let to one of the Duddingston tenants for 200 merks, 
Scots — or £11 2s 2d sterling — began to build houses for himself 
and his workmen, and to sub-feu other parts of the groifnd for 
building purposes. The village of Brickfield or Figgate, as it was 
then called, grew with the progress of the various works, until by 
the end of the century there was a working class population of 
about 300, vnth a few families of the better class, who had commenced
to make it a summer residence, and had built several 
villas among the furze-covered sand hills....


The father of Portobello


....About the year 1763 Mr William Jameson — the son of a cele- 
brated Edinburgh builder, with a shrewd eye to the future 
possibilities of this barren uncultivated spot, began to look after it 
chiefly as a likely place for starting the manufacture of bricks. 
The estate of Figgate had been purchased a few years previous 
from Lord Milton by Lord Mure, one of the Barons of Exchequer, 
the whole seventy-five acres being got for £1600 ! Mr Jameson 
took off in feu about forty acres from the Baron at the rate of 
from £2 2s to £3 per acre per annum, and shortly afterwards 
(about 1765) found that underlying the deep drift of sand, which 
for the most part composed the soil of his property, there was a 
deep bed of excellent clay, most suitable for brick making. At the 
time referred to he was a young man about twenty-seven years of 
age, and had been associated with his father for nine or ten years 
in a number of important works then going on in connection with 
the extension and improvement of the city. The most important 
of these was the erection, in 1753, of the Royal Exchange, for 
which his father — Patrick Jameson — had the contract. At the 
laying of the foundation stone of this edifice by the then Lord 
Provost, George Drummond, there was a great Masonic demon- 
stration, and young Jameson being anxious to take part in it, 
although under the prescribed age of admission to the Masonic 
fraternity, was out of respect to his father, admitted an appren- 
tice In the Lodge of Edinburgh, St Mary's Chapel, and took part 
in the procession. 

In the extensive operations connected with the building of the 
new town, Patrick and William Jameson had a prominent part. 
Large quantities of brick were required, not only to meet the home 
but the foreign demand, and William set himself energetically to de- 
velop the resources of the lands of Figgate, hitherto so unproductive. 

According to the statement of Hugo Amot, the historian of 
Edinburgh, the "making of bricks in the vicinity of the city had 
begun about the year 1764 on a small scale, the number made 
annually not then exceeding 400,000." But it went on increasing 
rapidly until 1779, the year in which the history was published, 
when he says there were three brickfields in the neighbourhood, 
"the principal being at Brickfield or Portobello." These works 
at the latter date were producing no less than three millions of 
bricks annually, which were not only used by the builders in 
Edinburgh, but were exported to Norway, the West Indies, 
Gibraltar, and North America. 

Excavations were first made by William Jameson for clay 
where Pipe Street and Bridge Street are now situated, and after- 
wards he opened a pit in a field called Wallace Park, now form- 
ing the grounds of Mount Lodge, and had an extensive work in 
that locality. 

These works naturally led to the building of workmen's houses in 
the neighbourhood of the works, and so we find that the older 
parts of the town are to be seen near to Pipe Street, and on the 
High Street in the neighbourhood of the Blue Bell Inn. The 
houses, many of which still stand in these localities, were certainly 
of the commonest description, generally built of brick and 
roofed with tiles. 

The bed of clay at Portobello, discovered by Jameson, is usually 
denominated as ''brick clay." It receives this appellation because 
it is very suitable for the purpose of making bricks, in contradis- 
tinction to the boulder clay, which is itself a strong day, but 
greatly intermixed with stones, many of which are of very laige 
size, as may be seen from some lying on the beach towards Leith 
which have apparently come from a distance, as they present the 
polish and groovings caused by much friction, and are generally 
pointed out as characteristic of the glacial period. The 
brick clay itself is not entirely free from stones. They are, 
however, comparatively few in number, and are generally of 
small size, but being often very hard they give no little annoyance 
in the working of brick-making machinery. The brick clay at 
Portobello extends from Joppa on the one hand to Craigentinny 
Meadows on the other, and from the shore of the Firth of Forth a 
considerable distance towards Arthur Seat. The deposit of brick 
day has most likdy been formed in the course of ages by the 
sediment brought down by the streams from the west, lodging in 
the locality. Hugh Miller, during the latter years of his life, 
when he resided in Portobello, carefully surveyed the clay excava- 
tions. In one of his published lectures he has given a graphic 
picture of the mode in which he thinks the deposit of brick clay 
at Portobello was formed, from which we give a few extracts. 

What are known as the Portobello brick clays occupy a considerable 
tract of comparatively level country, which intervenes between the eastern 
slopes of the Arthur Seat group of hills and the sea. The covering of rich 
vegetable mould which forms the upper stratum of the tract — so valuable 
to the agriculturist, that it still lets for about £6 per acre— precludes any 
exact survey of their limits ; but we know from occasional excavations in 
the tract, and at least one natural section, that they extend over an area 
of at least a square mile. A well, sunk a few. years ago at Abercom Place, 
one hundred and ten yards on the upper or Edinburgh side of the first 
milestone from Portobello, passed through a stratum of the brick clays, 
six feet in thickness ; and several excavations made in the immediate neigh- 
bourhood, on the farm of Mr Scott of Northfield, laid open the continuous 
bed which they form at various points fully a mile distant from the sea, 
where they averaged in thickness from five to seven feet. In all proba- 
bility, judging from the general level, and their gradual thinning out, 
they termuiate in this direction about the middle of the field which ex- 
tends to the house of Willow Bank ; while more to the south they appear 
about sixty yards below the mill of Wester Duddingston, in the section 
formed by the Figgate Bum, whence they stretch eastwards to near Joppa 
Quarry. They acquire their greatest elevation at Stuart Street and its 
neighbourhood [at Piershill] where they rise about eighty feet over the high 
water line ; and attain to their greatest known depth in the town of Por- 
iobello at the paper works [Bridge Street], where at one point, immedi- 
ately beside the bum, they were perforated several years ago in sinking a 
well to the depth of not less than 100 feet. Their extent along the shore 
to the west has not been definitely traced, but from their eastern extre- 
mity near Joppa, to where they terminate beyond the brick works of Mr 
Ingram [Westbank], cannot greatly exceed a mile.

The boulder clay appears all around the edges of the area which they occupy, and forms I 
cannot doubt, the basin in which they rest. It appears in a characteristic 
section a little above Duddingston Mill, charged with its grooved and 
polished boulders ; it was cut through to a considerable depth by the ex- 
cavations for the North British Railway, in the vicinity of Stuart Street 
and Abercom Place, and there found underlying the brick days ; and it 
appears along the shore, accompanied by some of its most striking 
phenomena, both to the east and west of Portobello, a little beyond the 
limits of the basin. In short the Portobello brick days may be regarded 
as occupying a boulder clay basin or valley about a mile in length and 
breadth, not reckoning on their unknown portion, which seems to extend 
outwards under the sea ; and, thinning out all around the edges of the 
hoUow, they attain, where deepest in the lower edges of the Figgate 
Burn a thickness of at least a hundred feet. 

Hugh Miller found in the Abercom Works a bed of shells of 
the Serobietdaria ptperata, which is chiefly to be found at the 
mouths of rivers or inlets, not remote from fresh water ; also at 
a lower stratum scattered specimens of the common periwinkle 
and a few much wasted valves of the crimson 
tellina. Beside these the trunks of trees — the 
oak, the Scotch fir, the birch, hawthorn, and alder — aloiig with 
reeds and water-flags. The place held by the brick clays of the 
entire Portobello deposit, in relation to the Arthur Seat group of 
hills, and their probable derivation from the boulder clays of the 
district, is not unworthy of being noted. Continuing, Hugh 
Miller says : — 
" The entire deposit furnishes us with two little bits of picture. We 
are first presented with a scene of islands — the hills which overlook the 
Scottish Metropolis, or on which it is built — half sunk in a glacial sea. 
A powerful current from the west, occasionally charged with icebergs, 
sweeps past them, turbid with the washings of the raw, recently-formed 
boulder clays of the great flat valley which stretches between the Firth of 
Forth and the Clyde ; and in the sheltered tract of sea to the east of the 
islets, amid slowly revolving eddies, the sediment is cast slowly down, 
and layer after layer, the brick clays are formed along the bottom. And 
then, in long posterior ages, after the land has risen — all save its last 
formed terrace - and the subartic rigour of its climate has softened, we 
mark a long withdrawing estuary running along what is now the valley of 
the Figgate Bum. It is skirted by the aboriginal trees of the country — 
oak, and birch, and alder, and the Scotch fir ; and, save where the slug- 
gish stream creeps through the midst, we see it thickly occupied by minia* 
ture forests of reeds and rushes, amid the intricacies of whose roots the 
mud-loving scrobicularia breed by thousands." • 

From these pictures of antedilavian times we return to a con- 
sideration of the application which human ingenuity has made of 
the materials so bountifully supplied by nature. To this splendid 
bed of clay Portobello is largely indebted for any manufacturing 
and commercial prosperity it has enjoyed. It was certainly the 
one industry — the converting of this clay into bricks, tiles, etc., 
which attracted to the Figgate Whins a gradually increasing popu- 
lation of workmen, and led to the starting of other industries, and 
at length to the formation of a community composed of all ranks 
and classes, from the Peer of the Bealm to the commonest hodman. 

Willam Jameson's works proved to be thoroughly successful. 
The demand for bricks was large, and being near to Edinburgh, 
where extensive building was then going on, these could be 
furnished by him at the lowest prices. After a few years the 
supply of clay in the neighbourhood of Pipe Street, though far 
from being exhausted, ceased to be wrought to the same extent. 
The Pipe Street work was then leased by Jameson to his clerk, 
Mr Morton, and the brickwork at Mount Lodge was opened. 
The roadway to the latter, now Windsor Place, was originally 
named Nicholson Street, after Mr Jameson's wife, who was a 
daughter of Sir William Nicholson of Tillicoultry and Jarvieswood. 
In all likehhood its name was changed to ''Windsor Place" in 
commemoration of the visit of George IV. to Portobello in 1822, 
as being more pleasing to the aristocratic families who resided in 
it then. 

In 1767 Mr Jameson built for himself what is described as a 
"handsome dwelling house" which he called Rosefield, still 
standing in Adelphi Place. At that time it faced the main road, 
or High Street, had a garden or shrubbery in front, with a 
carriage way to the street, and an extensive and beautiful park in 
the rear, through which flowed the pure waters of the Figgate. 
This he made his summer residence, his town house at that time 
being in Turk's Close ; but in the latter part of his life he resided 
entirely at Portobello. 

With a view to utilize the ground occupied by his first brick- 
work on the opposite side of the road for feuing purposes, he set 
about filling up the excavations there made, and a story is told of 
him that having got a large contract to construct the drains of the 
new town of Edinburgh, he determined to use the rubbish for this 
purpose. By the agreement into which he entered with the 
Town Council, he was to have the privilege of carting all the 
superfluous rubbish to Portobello without paying the usual toll- 
bar dues at Jock's Lodge. The tollkeeper, perhaps considering 
that the number of cart loads exceeded all reasonable bounds, one 
day closed his gate, and refused to allow the carts to pass without 
the usual toll. This was reported to Mr Jameson, ' Weel, weel," 
said he to the carters, "just coup your carts at the toll-bar." 
This was accordingly done, and caused so much annoyance to the 
tollkeeper and the public that no further interruption was made — 
the tollkeeper being only too glad to get rid of the nuisance.In 
this way Pipe Street was formed, and afterwards feued off to 
builders. It got its name from the fact that the water supply for 
the use of the inhabitants was brought thither from the burn 
where it was pure and uncontaminated above Mr Jameson's 
house, in several large pipes, which being carried underneath the 
High Street, discharged themselves into a large trough at the east 
end of the cross lane between Pipe Street and Bridge Street, or as 
it was then called "Tobago Street." The greater part of the 
buildings erected in this neighbourhood were chiefly for the work- 
men connected with the brickworks ; but after the erection of Mr 
Jameson's "handsome dwelling house " it seems to have occurred 
to some of the Edinburgh people that the locality was not without 
its attractions as a summer resort for their families. 

The wild uncultivated sand downs, with their covering of golden 
furze and broom, began to be enclosed. Little farms, such as 
Rabbit Ha\ Middlefield, and Portobello Park, afterwards Park 
House, with their one-storied, red-tiled offices, sprang up at some 
distance from each other, surrounded with their little patched of 
grain and dairy pasture ; and the soil, if somewhat light, was 
found to be productive. The air of the place was fine, and if not 
so pleasant in spring during the prevalence of the east wind, it 
was bracing and wholesome during at least nine months of the 
year. Above all, the beautiful level sands, free from rocks, 
gravel, or shingle, and with no dangerous sandbanks or shoals, 
were recognised as most suitable for sea bathing. 

We accordingly find that between the years 1770 and 1780 a 
few superior residences were erected on the lands of Figgate, 
being sub-feued from Mr Jameson. These, in some cases, in- 
cluded several acres as parks or pleasure grounds, which were en- 
closed with high substantial walls, built for the most part of 
boulder stones, which were then plentiful all round, and topped 
with a few courses of brick. A few of these curiously built three- 
storied walls may still be seen amid the closely compacted modem 
buildings which now hem them round, as in Ramsay Lane, Rose- 
field Avenue, and at the top of Pipe Street. In all probability 
the lower or boulder-stone portion of these walls would be all 
that was at first required to fence the properties, the courses of 
brick being afterwards added to give more security or seclusion. 
Among these original villas (which for the most part were built 
of brick) may be mentioned Ramsay Lodge, Mount Charles, 
Shrub Mount, Jessfield, and the Tower, surrounding which were 
large orchards of fruit trees where, the Old Statistical Account tells 
us, ''the apple, pear, plum, and apricot flourished in great pro- 

Ramsay Lodge took its name from General Ramsay L'Amy, a 
West Indian veteran, who after having served in Jamaica for 
many years, came to reside there. It occupied the centre of a 
spacious park and garden. Originally its principal entrance was 
by a large iron gateway in Ramsay Lane, close behind the present 
Municipal Buildings. Long afterwards, when each side of the 
lane near the High Street got to be filled with mean cottages and 
other buildings, a new entrance was opened from Bath Street 
about 1831, having an avenue of trees, and a porter's lodge. At 
the beginning of the century Ramsay Lodge belonged to Mr 
Spottiswood, from whom it passed in 1830 into the hands of Mr 
James L'Amy, Sheriff of Forfar, until about 1848, when it became 
the property of the late Mr Bobert Mercer, W.S., since whose 
death in 1870 the garden and park have been feued and built 
upon, and the old brick house has fallen sadly into decay. 

A strange story is told of General Ramsay L'Amy, its first 
owner, to the effect that when in Jamaica he was engaged to be 
married to a young lady residing there. During an epidemic then 
raging in the island, the young lady having taken yellow fever, he 
was horrified on calling for her one day to be told she was dead, 
and had been laid out in an upper room for burial. Desiring to 
be allowed to see her once more, he was strongly dissuaded from 
it in case of infection. He pressed the matter however, and was 
allowed to go upstairs, taking a small flask of brandy with him. 
The young lady, now quite black, had all the appearance of death, 
but on touching her cheek the General thought he discovered signs 
of life. He moistened her lips with the liquor. She made a motion 
of returning consciousness, opened her eyes, and finally sat up. 
Strange though it may seem, she speedily recovered, and was shortly 
afterwards married to the General, and came home to spend the 
evening of her days with him at Ramsay Lodge about the year 1780. 
Mount Charles, a quaint picturesque building, also of brick, 
standing within its own grounds, was built by Mr John Dickson, W.S., of 
Robbiewhat, Dumfriesshire. The greater part of the original building 
was removed some thirty six years ago to make room for the present eleg- 
ant mansion, and was long occupied by his son, Mr David J. Dickson, wood 
merchant in Fisherrow.He was Provost of the town from 1840 to 1843. 
Shrub Mount, many years after known as the The Tower residence 
of the lamented Hugh Miller, and the place where he 
ended his life, was probably built by Mr James Cunningham, W.8. ; 
it was long occupied by Mr Wm. Greelman, one of the first lessees 
of the Abercorn Brickworks. When it was built, about 1787, it had 
extensive grounds attached, including the whole area now occupied 
by Tower Street, and the houses on each side of it down to the sea. 
Within this area there was a hill of considerable height called the 
Bleaklaw, the highest point in the landscape, 
from which an extensive view of the surrounding country could 
be had. In Hugh Miller's time the top of this hill was adorned 
with a fine clump of trees, but since the grounds have been cut 
up for building purposes, much of the hill has disappeared, as 
well as the trees. It was situated immediately to the rear of 
the publishing premises of Messrs Thos.Adams & Sons. 
But perhaps the most extraordinary building of its day was 
the "Tower," erected in 1785, some say by Mr Jameson, some by Mr Cunning- 
ham, as a summer house on the shore, the probability being 
that it was built by Mr Jameson for Mr Cunningham. In 
its erection he displayed the most eccentric taste, the materials 
and the style adopted being original and fantastic. It was built 
partly of brick, octagonal in form, four stories high, and a mixture 
of every conceivable style of architecture. Stone and brick were 
used indiscriminately for ornament, but most of the mullions, 
cornices and other ornaments were old carved stones, some of 
which, it is said, belonged to the old Cross of Edinburgh, 
some to the Cathedral of St Andrews, and some, probably 
added afterwards, from the old College of Edinbuigh, which 
in 1789 was removed to make room for the present University 

A few years afterwards Mr Cunningham got into monetary 
difficulties, and in 1806 'the property was sequestrated and sold. 
The Tower was advertised for sale in the Edinburgh Oourani of 
11th April 1807 in the following terms : — " To be sold by private 
bargain, the Tower at Portobello, with the adjacent buildings. 
The Tower is situated on the shore at Portobello, and commands 
one of the finest views in the kingdom, and the sea beach is well 
known to be the finest in Scotland for cold bathing. About 100 
feet or more of ground on the west can be taken in from the sand 
at a very small expense, which would be exactly on a line vrith 
the other grounds lately taken from the sea, and the walls of the 
adjacent buildings are sufficiently strong to admit of other two 
stories being added, which might be made to communicate with 
the Tower and form two elegant and commodious dwelling 
houses, each having a proportion of the Tower." . . . ''The 
premises will be shown by Mr Turnbull at the Tower." We are 
not aware that it was purchased by anyone at this time ; we are 
rather inclined to think it was not. A daughter of Mr Tumbull 
was subsequently married to Mr Jameson's son, and through her 
the Tower became the property of the Jamesons. 

At the beginning of the century it was let to summer visitors, 
but after a time was allowed to fall into neglect, and ultimately it 
had become a complete ruin. In this condition it stood for many 
years — its roof fallen in, its windows broken, its joists and rafters 
rotten and lying in a broken heap on the ground floor, with its 
circular stone stair broken here and there, and impassable except 
to venturesome boys in search of jackdaws' nests— during which 
time it seems to have been in the hands of Jameson's heirs, whose 
property it was in 1834. Thus it stood till about 1864, when Mr 
Hugh Paton, the publisher of Eay^s Edinburgh Portraits, having 
purchased the property, built the present commodious mansion 
adjoining it, and completely restored the Tower to its original 
condition, making it a part of his residence. 

The Tower is the scene of rather a weird story, written some 
sixty years ago, called the "Wizard of the Tower." Some of its 
old carved stones are very curious, we give by way of illustration 
an interesting old sundial which originally stood at the west gate- 
way, fully ten feet high ; and a heterogeneous group of carv- 
ings in front of the building, where may be seen the figure of an 
angel minus the head,and several monograms.One stone bears the date 
1674. The Tower is now the property of Councillor Wm. Gray. 
Jessfield, Rosefield Cottage, and Williamfield, on the south side 
of the High Street, were all built towards the end of the century on 
ground sub-feued from Jameson's extensive park adjoining his own 
house; Rosefield Avenue being formed as a convenient access to these
houses, or more probably before their erection, for strangely enough
in Taylor & Skinner's Survey Map, 
published in 1776, Rosefield Avenue is the only street indicated in 
the locality. Though these detached dwellings, with smaller ones 
here and there, were dotted over the otherwise desolate scene, the 
place up to this time was practically only a scattered collection of 
dirty workmen's cottages ; clay holes and brick kilns being the 
principal features of the landscape in the neighbourhood of the bum. 
Jameson's property lay all to the east of the burn but the value of 
the clay-bed he had discovered speedily stimulated the proprietors, 
of the estates west of that boundary to open up their ground also. 

Mr Miller of Craigentinny accordingly offered facilities for 
brick-making on his property, on the north side of the highway, 
while the Marquis of Abercom gave a lease of a large field (called 
Adam's Laws) on the south side to a Mr Hamilton, by whom 
it was opened as the Abercom Brick and Tile Work. 
This extensive work, in the hands of the Creelmans, the 

and of late of Messrs Thornton & Co.,

has since been successfully carried on for over a hundred 
years. It is now in the hands of Messrs Turners, Limited.

Perhaps the earliest brick maker on the 
Craigentinny Estate was Anthony Hillcoat, a brick- 
layer from Newcastle. He got a lease of Westbank 
where he commenced to make bricks with what are 
called clamp kilns, i.e the bricks after being dried 
by exposure to the weather are set with alternate layers 
of small coals, and burnt until they are quite hard. He 
built the older part of Westbank House (since demolished) as his 

Adjoining his works two brothers had acquired a lease of 
ninety-nine years of Rosebank, where they started a red paint or 
"keel" work, and a brick work. An atmosphere of suspicion 
seems to have hung for long over these men among the older in- 
habitants of the place, which has been even handed down to our 
day, some strange stories being whispered of the conduct of the 
brothers, Edward and Alexander Colston, "the bloody Neds." In 
1781 the Colstons erected a house adjoining Westbank on the east 
side of the " Private Lane," which their mother kept as an inn. 
As the story goes, though we will not vouch for its accuracy, this 
seems to have been an infamous nest of desperadoes. For though 
the brothers professed to make bricks and paint, it was commonly 
believed that their real occupation was that of highway robbers, 
and suspicion rested pretty strongly upon them for various daring 
acts of robbery, and even murder. At all events, Sandy Colston 
and " Bloody Ned " were for long a terror to the neighbourhood. 
Whether the designation " bloody " was attached to Ned from a 
suspicion of his being implicated in foul play, or from the fact of 
his hands and clothes being discoloured with the red paint, we 
cannot say, but the locality of their "works " bore anything but 
a favourable reputation, and few persons of respectability would 
risk passing the vicinity of the Portobello " keelies " after nightfall 
without an escort. One old man, since dead, used to tell that when 
he was a lad running about the hillocks, with which the neighbour- 
hood then abounded, jumping down from the top of these one day he 
was horrified to strike upon the body of a man, buried only a little 
beneath the surface of the sand. It was supposed to have been, 
rightly or wrongly, that of some unfortunate traveller who had 
fallen a victim to ''Bloody Ned." Notwithstanding all the 
suspicion that hung about his character and conduct, Ned Colston 
lived to be an old man, and his son, who was a capital singer, 
became afterwards the precentor in the Chapel of Ease, built in 

Other works beside those for the manufacture of bricks and 
tiles now sprung up, for the brick clay was found capable of be- 
ing manipulated with finer imported clays in the construction of 
brown pottery and whitestone ware. About the year 1786 two 
potteries for the manufacture of earthenware and porcelain were 
built, one by William Jameson and the other by Anthony Hill- 
cote, near to the mouth of the burn at the foot of Pipe Street and 
Tobago Street. In the former, now the property of Messrs Alex. 
Gray & Sons, a firm of the name of Scott Brothers started an 
extensive work for the manufacture of earthenware. Their 
dinner and dessert services were said to be of very superior work- 
manship, being ornamented with yellow designs, leaves, and even 
grotesque figures painted on a chocolate ground. They also made 
mantelpiece ornaments — figures of fishwomen, dockstands, candle- 
sticks, etc. This ware is, we believe, still highly prized by con- 
noisseurs, chiefly no doubt on account of its scarcity, and brings 
a high price in the market. Some specimens are to be found in 
the collection of Lord Mansfield, and some at Dalkeith Palace in 
the possession of the Duke of Buccleuch. It did not, however, 
prove a financial success, and after six or seven years its mana- 
facture was discontinued. In 1795 the work was taken up by 
Messrs Cockson & Jardine for at least some fifteen years, and 
was afterwards continued by Mr Yule and then by Mr Samuel 

To meet the requirements of the growing trade of the place, 
and with an enterprise truly commendable, betokening his entire 
confidence in its ultimate success, Mr Jameson, about the year 
1787-88, projected the erection of a harbour at the mouth of the 
Figgate Burn. The import of coals and white ware clay 
from Cornwall for the potteries, and other commodities, was now considerable, 
while the export of bricks, tiles, etc., was also increasing, so that the prospects of 
a harbour being needful and likely to pay the outlay 
necessary for its completion were not unreasonable. Hitherto sloops, brigs, and 
other small craft, bringing or taking away goods, had to be beached in order to 
receive or discharge their cargoes, which on an unprotected shore was not always 
possible or safe. Accordingly on the spot made memorable by 
the landing of the English fleet in 1560, with their ''great 
artailzerie and ordinance " for the seige of Leith, Mr Jameson 
resolved to erect a harbour. The contractor employed by him was 
Mr Alexander Robertson, the lessee of Joppa Quarry, who under- 
took to cart to the harbour a thousand loads of boulder stones, in 
addition to the large squared stones necessary for facing the pier 
and harbour walls, but the work appears to have been carried on 
under his own immediate supervision. According to a statement 
by Dr D. M. Moir in his Roman Antiquities of Inveresk, the 
boulder stones for the harbour were taken from the old Boman 
Boad between Magdalene Bridge and Joppa. The pier, with a 
rough kind of breakwater in front of it on the east side of 
the harbour, was carried out in a northerly direction 
directly from the foot of Pipe Street. The entrance to the 
harbour was narrow and the basin small, and certainly it would 
not accommodate more than three or four small vessel at a time. 
On the east was the ' harbour green," which did duty as a dock- 
yard. On the west side the sea wall took a turn from facing the 
north inwards towards the burn, and was built in a substantial 
manner ; but years of neglect, and repeated inroads of the sea, 
soon told upon the work. 

Some forty years ago a great part of the harbour was in exist- 
ence. The pier was in ruins, but the harbour walls were still 
entire, though the basin was almost silted up with sand, only 
sufficient water being left to make it a favourite resort of school 
boys for sailing their toy boats. The remains of the pier and 
eastern bulwark may still be traced among the heap of stones 
scattered on the beach, but not a vestige remains of the harbour. 
It has entirely disappeared. Even the very site can with diffi- 
culty be traced, as the greater part of Messrs A. W. Buchan and 
Coy.'s pottery is now built over what was the old harbour basin. 
Amid the rains may still be found stones that have done duty 
elsewhere, old steps, mullions, and pediments of doors or win- 
dows, and even pieces of broken Gothic pillars. These are 
supposed to have formed part of the old college of Edinburgh and 
other buildings near the South Bridge, which were demolished in 
1789 to make way for the present University buildings. 

At the time the harbour was built there were several other 
works in its neighbourhood besides the potteries referred to. In 
Tobago Street a flax mill had been opened, and further down a 
soap work. The motive power for these mills was supplied by a 
lade from the burn, which ran down the east side of the street in an 
open mill race, till it reached the foot, where it crossed through the 
''Trows "(now the Slaughter-houses) into what was called ''Tibbie's 
Hole," then into the harbour. In its course to the harbour it 
drove several water wheels for the flax mills and potteries.........

Below – 24/05/1790 – Caledonian Mercury – Advert for Brickfield, Figget Bridge – William Jameson.

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