A long history gives part of Leith special status

PILRIG comes under the spotlight as a group of dedicated community councillors in Leith actively prepare for a bid for conservation status for the area.

Guided by officials of City of Edinburgh Council’s (CEC)  Built Heritage, the group are gathering information about the architectural and historical significance of the area, and developing recommendations for a proposed boundary.

That boundary could include Pilrig Park (pictured below) , with Pilrig House (pictured above) as the key historical focus, Bonnington School, Rosebank Cemetery and Rosslyn Crescent.  The Shaws colonies, Spey Terrace, Pilrig Cottages and Balfour Street could also be included. Shrubhill Tram sheds would add an emphasis to the industrial heritage of the area as well.

With 49 listed buildings, some dating from 1638 onwards, Pilrig contains work by well-known nineteen century architects William Burns and Robert Rowand Anderson (later well known for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and other important Edinburgh buildings).  It’s layout also reflects a long history as a coherent unit since the proposed conservation area was originally mostly one estate owned by the Balfour family. Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather, Lewis Balfour was born in Pilrig House in 1777.  Stevenson mentions the house in two of his novels.

Pirrig Park, once the grounds of the Balfour estate

These and other interesting historical facts about Pilrig are included in a Character Appraisal being prepared about the area.  The document includes reference to recent archaeological excavations in Pilrig Park of an artillery fort constructed by the English besiegers of the French citadel in Leith in 1560. This was the remains of one of two major forts linked with trenches that encircled Leith.  In military terms, as the only 16th century seige works found in Britain, they could be some of the most important in Europe.

The group will encourage informal consultation with local people before making a formal application to the Planning Department of CEC, likely to take place in late autumn of this year.

In the meantime the group would welcome comments and relevant information from anyone in the community and would be particularly keen to hear from anyone with expertise in architectural history or natural heritage.

If the Planning Committee approves the proposal to designate Pilrig as conservation area, the proposal would then go out to public consultation;  this would probably involve an exhibition in MacDonald Road library.

If you think you could contribute to the Character Appraisal for Pilrig, please contact the convenor of the Leith Central Community Council (LCCC)  planning sub-committee, Annette O’Carroll at <aocarroll2006@yahoo.co.uk>  or secretary to LCCC Roland Reid at <randmreid@blueyonder.co.uk>