New Town

Pedimented entrance in Queen Street
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Pedimented entrance in Queen Street

By the mid-18th Century Edinburgh had become overcrowded and dirty with the Old Town constrained by the Flodden Wall. In 1752, proposals were published by the Town Council, led by George Drummond (1687 - 1766), outlining how the city would develop over the next 80 years. Prominent in these proposals was a northwards expansion beyond the Nor' Loch, which had become a reservoir for disease and was therefore to be drained. A competition was held in 1766 which was won by James Craig (1744-95) with a patriotic plan of three parallel streets running between two grand squares. George Street, named in honour of King George III, with Queen Street to the north and Princes' Street (the King's first three sons born by 1766) to the south. These streets were the symbolic link between Scotland and England in the form of St. Andrew's Square and St. George's Square. The latter was renamed Charlotte Square in honour of the Queen and their first daughter before it was laid out by Robert Adam in 1791. Running across the scheme are Frederick Street, a name shared by the King and his father, Hanover Street after the royal family, and Castle Street, which approaches Edinburgh Castle. Craig made excellent use of the site; George Street runs along the ridge and only building along the north side of Princes Street and the south side of Queen Street to maximise the vista. Further symbolism was added later with Rose and Thistle Streets (1781).

The New Town continued to be developed until 1830, with the noted architect Robert Reid (1774 - 1856) developing the area around Drummond Place (named after the visionary Provost George Drummond), including Great King Street, and James Gillespie Graham (1776 - 1855) creating Melville Street to Moray Place from the Earl of Moray's 'Lands of Drumsheugh'.

Named a World Heritage Site (1995), the New Town remains an elegant and highly desirable residential area. Princes Street is recognised internationally for retailing, and George Street still retains an amount of Edinburgh's considerable financial sector, together with the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Other notable institutions, including the Royal College of Physicians are situated on Queen Street. The district gives its name to the film New Town Killers (2008) directed by Richard Jobson (b.1960) and starring Dougray Scott (b.1965). A golden pillar box on Hanover Street commemorates the gold medal wins by cyclist Sir Chris Hoy in the London Olympics of 2012.

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