History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. ~Winston Churchill

06 May, 2011

Old Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a truly wonderful city, not least for the constant sense of history you get walking its streets. The Old Town, built over a hill, still holds its medieval street plan of alleys and twisting streets, towered over by 17th and 18th century tenement buildings, spotted with medieval churches and overlooked by a sprawling castle. Across a stretch of gardens the planned New Town is an evocation of both Georgian architecture and Georgian ideals of progress. If you're ever fortunate enough to see Edinburgh in the mist, it feels at any moment you could step right through into an earlier era. 

Thus, I find these very old photographs of the city especially fascinating. It looks almost exactly the same today, which to me brings these photographs very close. It's as if a modern photographer took a photo yesterday, and the past showed through the negatives! The long exposures create many 'ghosts' of horses, carts, and people moving past, which does nothing to dissipate the illusion. 

And-- my goodness, what tremendous atmosphere these have! A real time capsule. 

Edinburgh from the Castle, c.1850. Source

A view up Prince's Street, with the Scott Monument and a distant, misty Carlton Hill. 1858. Source

Street (the Cowgate) in Old Edinburgh, 1868. So atmospheric, isn't it? Source

The Grassmarket, Old Town, c.1860. Source

The George IV Bridge crossing the Cowgate, Old Town, 1860. Source

St. Cuthbert's Church on Lothian Road, with the Castle behind. 1882. Source

The Scott Monument under construction... 1843! Source

The finished Scott Monument, 1845. Source

And, the opposite of the first photograph-- Edinburgh from Carlton hill, looking towards the Castle. The New Town is in the foreground and the Old Town on the hill. 1870s. Source


Just wondering said...

Very interesting photos but where are all the people??

Kandace said...

These pictures are awesome! You can really see how little Edinburgh has changed. I miss Edinburgh!

Anna said...

Just wondering -- these are taken with quite long exposure times, at least several minutes, so people passing by end up as washed out blurs... if you look closely on some of the pictures, especially the one of Prince's Street, you can see darkish blurs that are actually the only mark made by the people passing by!

Anna said...

And I miss Edinburgh too!! :)

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