Redevelopment at Niddrie, Edinburgh
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Redevelopment at Niddrie, Edinburgh

A somewhat bleak public housing estate in SE Edinburgh, 3 miles (5 km) east southeast of the city centre. Linked to the equally bleak Craigmillar in the W and extending to the Fort Kinnaird retail park, which was previously the site of a colliery complex and brick-works, Niddrie was built to provide homes for families cleared from the slums in the eastern part of Edinburgh's Old Town. The estate was built in three phases. The first (1934) and second (1957) consist of three-storey blocks of flats, with the third (1960s) made up of smaller blocks and towers blocks at Greendykes to the south.

The old estate of Niddrie (also, in the past, Niddry) had been the property of the Wauchope family from 1390, when Gilbert Wauchope was granted the lands by King Robert III, until 1944, although they had sold land to the city authorities from the 1920s. Their seat, Niddrie Marischal House, was built around a 16th-century tower house in 1636. It was extended into a grand mansion but was reduced to a shell by fire in 1959 and eventually demolished in the 1960s. All that remains is the Wauchope Mausoleum which dates from 1735 and is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

A skirmish known as the Battle of Niddrie Edge took place nearby in 1594, with the renegade Francis Hepburn, 5th Earl of Bothwell (1562 - 1612), defeating Alexander, Lord Hume, and Edmonstone Wauchope, Commander of the King's Cavalry.

The Wauchopes exploited the coal measures which lay beneath their land. The Niddrie Coal Company merged with the Benhar Coal Company in 1874. By 1895, there were 15 pits forming the Niddrie Collieries, pressed against the eastern and southern margins of the parkland surrounding Niddrie Marischal House, but centred immediately to the east of The Wisp. In 2014, spoil heaps still remain, representing the most significant post-industrial mining landscape within the City of Edinburgh, and water needs to be pumped out from the old workings below on a regular basis. To the east was the Newcraighall Colliery, sunk by the Niddrie and Benhar Coal Company in 1897 and closed in 1968.

Two single rows of workers' cottages remain on Newcraighall Road, built of local brick c.1880; Quarry Cottages next to the former Niddrie Quarry, which produced sandstone until the 1850s, and Niddrie Cottages in front of what had been Niddrie No. 10 Pit. Opposite the latter is the former St. Andrew's Church, then as now in rather an incongruous situation, converted to become the home of the Craigmillar Community Arts Centre in 1977. A private housing estate at Cleikimin, between the public housing estate and Fort Kinnaird, was begun in the 1980s. With many of the older public-housing blocks having been linked with social problems, the area between Niddrie and Craigmillar (known as Niddrie Mains) was cleared in the late 1990s to make way for a mix of private and social housing developments. Scotland's first pedestrian-priority 'living street' built on Dutch 'homezone' principles was established on Moffat Way in 2008.

Niddrie Mill Public School (later Niddrie Mill Primary School) was constructed in local brick c.1895 but was abandoned after the £13-million Niddrie Mill and St. Francis Primary Schools Joint Campus was completed in 2008 - the centrepiece of the Wauchope Square development to the northwest. The old school was converted to private flats in 2015-16, but to the front remains a monument dedicated to Major General Andrew Gilbert Wauchope, who was killed on 8th December 1899 at the Battle at Magersfontein, South Africa.

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