The Inch

A model public housing scheme at Nether Liberton in S Edinburgh, The Inch is located beyond Cameron Toll, bisected by Gilmerton Road, 2½ miles south southeast of the city centre. Inch House and its estate were bought by Edinburgh Corporation from the Gilmour family in 1946 for £66,000. The House still stands in Inch Park, with the housing scheme developed from 1949 immediately to the south. Unusually, the Corporation decided to engage private architects and arranged a competition, judged by Ebenezer MacRae, the City Architect, and Lady Mary Gilmour, formerly of Inch House. The competition was won by Englishman David Stratton Davis (1917 - 2000). Built on garden-city principles, the scheme makes use of the sloping site with vistas over the city to the north, the policies of Craigmillar Castle to the east, and Blackford Hill and the Pentland Hills to the west. Stratton Davis's design incorporated amenities such as shops, schools and churches, together with considerable areas of green space, many existing mature trees and much new planting. Housing was low-rise with a mix of smaller and larger houses and flatted-blocks for families, older people and single women. The buildings were cream-rendered and roofed in slate, pantiles or copper, with Regency flourishes which Stratton Davies copied from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. The last houses were occupied in 1953.

The Saltire Society gave The Inch an award in 1955 and described it as "the best designed local authority housing in Scotland". The quality of the scheme is such that the vast majority of properties have been bought under right-to-buy legislation.

There is a complex pattern of streets, laid out along the contours of the slopes and designed to make the most of the views, but with the consequence of preventing cars rat-running between Old Dalkeith Road and Gilmerton Road. The main road through the scheme is Walter Scott Avenue, and the names of all of the others relate to titles of Scott's Waverley Novels or characters therein. The only exception is the northwestern extension of the 1970s which lies around Robert Burns Drive, where names connected to the poet are used.

The area benefits from a parade of shops and a post office on Walter Scott Avenue. There are several schools; Liberton Primary School and Kingsinch Special School lie on the western edge of Inch Park. Glenvarloch Primary School closed in 1980 but the building was immediately re-occupied by St. John Vianney Roman Catholic Primary School. The Inch Secondary School on Walter Scott Avenue closed in the late 1980s and the site was redeveloped for private housing. Some of the green spaces have also been developed for additional housing. Also located here are the Roman Catholic Church of St. Gregory the Great, which was established on Walter Scott Avenue in 1972, occupying buildings formerly owned by the Church of Scotland, and Liberton Northfield Parish Church, located on the southern edge of the district on Gilmerton Road, was built as Gilmerton Free Church in 1869.

A pillar box installed in 1952 on Gilmerton Road, at the junction with Walter Scott Avenue, was one of the first in Scotland to bear the royal cypher ER II. This proved objectionable to some nationalist Scots, because the new Queen was the first Elizabeth in Scotland, not the second. The pillar box was subject to several attacks and was finally blown apart by gelignite on 12th February 1953, with loss of life narrowly avoided. It was replaced with an older box bearing the cypher of the former King George VI to prevent further incident.

The Inch provided one of the locations in the film adaptation of Ian Rankin's book Doors Open (2012).

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