Early 19th C. villa housing, Blacket Place, Edinburgh
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Early 19th C. villa housing, Blacket Place, Edinburgh

The district of Newington lies 1¼ miles (2 km) south of central Edinburgh, between Dalkeith Road in the east and Causewayside / Mayfield Road in the west. The district of the Grange lies to the west, Prestonfield to the east and Liberton to the south. Newington lies on a south-facing slope and its character changes on either side of Salisbury Road / Place. To the north are shopping streets with Victorian flats above; to the south a leafy suburb, characterised by large villas and townhouses. Much of the area is protected through designation as a Conservation Area and Newington benefits from several strong community associations.

Development began when the noted Edinburgh surgeon, Dr Benjamin Bell (1749 - 1806), acquired the estates and built Newington House in 1805. This lay on the south side of Blacket Avenue and, between 1856 and 1886, was the home of Duncan McLaren (1800-86), who was Lord Provost of Edinburgh and a Member of Parliament. In 1907, it became home to John George Bartholomew (1860 - 1920) of the famous map-making firm and, from 1915, was used the Scottish National Institute for the War Blinded. Newington House fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1966, replaced by student flats owned by the University of Edinburgh.

After Benjamin Bell's death in 1806, with the city growing rapidly, his heirs fued much of the land around his house for development. Georgian town-houses were constructed and exclusivity was maintained by gates which were locked each evening. Streets were named after Bell's friends, for example Admiral Adam Duncan (1731 - 1804), or were transplanted from Middlebie parish in Dumfriesshire, including Blacket Tower, which was the ancestral home of the Bell family. Development continued until the late 1880s in the form of large Georgian and Victorian detached and semi-detached houses, many of which have been divided into flats in the later 20th Century.

West Newington House also dates from c.1805 but is now rather lost within a row of houses built next to it along Newington Road in the 1860s. It was once the home to publisher Thomas Nelson (1780 - 1861) and is now the base for another publisher, Birlinn. Along with Thomas Nelson and his sons William and Thomas, Newington was home to further publishers, namely Thomas Oliver (1775 - 1853), William Blackwood (1776 - 1834) and Rev. James Gall (1808-95), together with the infamous surgeon Dr. Robert Knox (1791 - 1862), photographer David Hill (1802-70) and explorer William Burn Murdoch (1862 - 1939).

The government heritage agency Historic Environment Scotland occupies Longmore House on Salisbury Place, which operated as Longmore Hospital between 1875 and 1991.

Newington once had a station, which opened in 1884 but closed in 1962, although the Southern District Railway continues as a goods line. Several schemes have been proposed for re-opening it to passenger traffic but have yet to come to fruition.

Newington Cemetery lies in the southeast corner of the district.

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