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Mary King's Close

Providing part of the foundations for the City Chambers on Edinburgh's Royal Mile is Mary King's Close. It is the remains of one of a large number of such Mediaeval passages (known as 'Closes' in Scotland) which extending on both sides of 'The Mile' providing entry to the shops and houses and above and behind the street. However, most of these have been redeveloped to a greater or lesser extent, yet Mary King's lies encapsulated in time, sealed since the 19th Century, although not, as is commonly believed, since it was the centre of a plague epidemic in 1645. The deaths at that time gave rise to the suggestion that the Close was haunted and unsurprisingly people were reluctant to make their homes there and thus it (and other closes) were built over by the construction of the Royal Exchange (now the City Chambers) some hundred years later. Access through the Close down to Cockburn Street was still possible until 1897, but entry to the business premises was at the level of the Royal Exchange.

The Close takes its name from the daughter of Alexander King, a wealthy advocate in the City, who owned several properties in the vicinity. Originally the Close would have continued down to the old Nor' Loch, but was truncated by the building of Cockburn Street (1853).


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