Cockburn Association Chronological Timeline
Discover more about some of the Association’s campaigning activities over the last 150 years in this interactive timeline.
Hosted and broadcast “Whose Festival is it Anyway?” a free, day-long, online Cockburn Conference, with four different panels of arts and events industry professionals, academics and journalists chaired by theatre critic Joyce MacMillan and broadcaster Stephen Jardine. An open and collegiate forum that discussed the past, present and future of Edinburgh’s many festivals and answered questions from members of the public in attendance.
Cockburn hosted the “City for Sale” public summit, attended by 850 people and chaired by broadcaster Stephen Jardine, to discuss commodification of public spaces in Edinburgh. We also hosted our 30th Doors Open Days event, making it entirely digital for the first time. Scottish Ministers accepted the recommendation from the Department of Planning and Environmental Appeals to reject all the appeals and formally refuse planning and listed building consents to the Old Royal High School hotel proposals. Launched a “Keep off the Grass” initiative, urging the local authority to protect Edinburgh’s public greenspaces from private commercialisation.
The Cockburn expresses raises concerns with the Chief Planning Officer about the “space deck” being erected for the upcoming Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens. It emerged that the large structure covering most of East Princes Street Gardens north of the railway lines had no planning permission or building warrant.
The Cockburn Association presented evidence at the Public Inquiry to consider proposals to convert and extend Thomas Hamilton’s 1825 Royal High School. These would have swamped the careful composition of the Category A-listed former Royal High School buildings, and seriously affect the setting of not only this building, but of Calton Hill, one of the most important landscape features in the City.
We argued for far greater residential provision to a large development planned in Kings Stables road, suggesting that too much emphasis had been placed on student and hotel accommodation, and we sought greater council investment in the visibly deteriorating pavements in the Old and New Towns.
Cockburn Association delivered “a scathing critique” of the initial plans to convert the Old Royal High School into a luxury hotel.
Cockburn initially supports the replacement of the 1973 St James Centre with an ambitious new landmark commercial development. Subsequent amendments to the proposals however, including a much larger hotel that would intrude into the skyline, were viewed with alarm. Two housebuilding firms appealed a Council planning permission refusal for their 241 home development, complaining that the Cockburn’s live commentary on Twitter gave us an “unfair” advantage over them in persuading the council to reject their scheme! (Planning – 17 Jan 2014)
Cockburn supported proposals by Network Rail to improve the concourse in Waverley Station and restore the booking hall dome and supported proposals to list Heart of Midlothian’s stadium at Tynecastle. We also reiterated our serious concerns about a developer’s plans to demolish two prominent listed Victorian buildings in the Old Town as part of the “Caltongate” development and our fears about the Council’s plans to extend four city primary schools and the precedent being set by the plans to alter and partially demolish the B-listed Scottish Provident building in St Andrew Square.
Made a formal submission to the Scottish Parliament supporting some changes proposed and offering further suggestions for the reformation of the land registration processes in Scotland. Cockburn also added their voice to a growing grassroots campaign to protect green space around Craighouse from a large housing development and called for the pedestrian experience on the Royal Mile to be improved and more controls to be imposed over motorised traffic on the street.
Cockburn lambasted plans for the redevelopment of the former headquarters of the National Trust for Scotland in Charlotte Square as “unexceptional and bland” and voiced concerns about the likely coalescence of the communities of South Queensferry and Dalmeny as a result of proposals for mass housebuilding in the area. Also expressed concerns about the proposed partial demolition and alterations to the former Odeon Cinema in South Clerk Street, rejecting the developer’s assertion that there was no market for using the listed building in its original form.
Cockburn strongly criticised newly emerging plans to fill a gap site at Haymarket, requesting that architect and developer respect the heights of the nearby tenements. Also criticised aspects of the proposals for the redevelopment of Haymarket station itself, particularly its choice of “unsympathetic” materials and the “disjointed” nature of the overall scheme.
Launched the “Save our Skyline” campaign to prevent the construction of a 17 storey hotel at Haymarket. The building would have reached the height of battlements of Edinburgh Castle, setting a significant precedent that would undoubtedly have changed the city’s unique skyline forever. After “funding the largest and most expensive campaign in its 134-year history,” the resulting Public Inquiry agreed with the Cockburn and formally rejected the ill-conceived proposal.
Following a hard-fought campaign, Edinburgh Council approves plans for the Caltongate development, despite overwhelming local opposition and fears that the development could adversely affect the city’s UNESCO status.
The Association objected to the emerging “Caltongate” proposals, noting that that the planned buildings were “monolithic” in scale, and the demolition of the ellington Venture buildings and the proposed façade retention of other buildings was not keeping with the conservationist principles of a World Heritage Site.
The Cockburn expressed concerns about the “showy” plans for redevelopment of the former Scottish Provident HQ in St Andrew Square and continued to spearhead the ForthRight Alliance which was set up in the 1990s to challenge proposals for a second Forth Road Bridge – noting then emerging concerns about the condition of the existing (original) bridge.
The Cockburn highlights its concerns over the decline of traditional retail in the Old Town and its replacement with pub and restaurant businesses that were in danger of eroding the local provision of basic shopping needs for residents. Also hosted and chaired an important public debate with various expert speakers entitled “Conservation and Sustainability” looking to future action in these areas of activity in Edinburgh.
How high is too high? The City of Edinburgh Council’s current headquarters building received planning permission despite strong representations to the First Minister by EWHT, Historic Scotland and the Cockburn Association and our Director David MacDonald voiced the Cockburn’s support for the demolition of the St James Centre and the return of a public square to the area.
The Cockburn presents its comments on the redevelopment of the Royal Infirmary site on Lauriston Place to the Council’s planning committee. Whilst supporting the sensitive redevelopment of this major site, the Association was concerned with the loss of substantial amounts of historic fabric as well as the effect on the skyline of new office blocks. In the same year, the Cockburn supported the creation of a new Park and Ride rail station at Edinburgh Park and supported the plans for a Scottish National Photography Gallery to be housed in the Old Royal High School building.
Following the publication of “Greater, Greener Edinburgh” the previous year, the Cockburn hosted a number of meetings with community groups from around the edges of the city to discuss their concerns about ongoing developments, this resulted in the formation of the Edinburgh Green Belt Network. The Cockburn joined an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to save the architect Sydney Mitchell’s historic “Red House” at the centre of the Quarter Mile development from demolition.
The Association commissioned students from the School of Planning at the Edinburgh College of Art to undertake a review of the high buildings policy for Edinburgh. No such review had been undertaken since the Holford Report or the High Buildings Policy for Edinburgh was published in 1968. This year also saw us launch our first website and one of our working groups published two occasional papers, “Greater Greener Edinburgh” and “Edinburgh in its Setting.”
The Association gave evidence at a Parliamentary hearing convened to examine whether the then owners of Waverley Station could extend the height of the building higher than 42 feet above the rails. The Cockburn argued that no further upward extension should be allowed in order to ensure views of the visual continuity in the Waverley Valley is uninterrupted.
The Cockburn led a broad coalition to challenge development proposals by City of Edinburgh Council’s development arm, Edinburgh Development and Investment (EDI) at a major Public Inquiry. The proposals involved the creation of an underground shopping mall under the length Princes Street, created by drilling out thousands of tons of bedrock, connecting into the basements of all (or most) of the shops and creating new routes into East and West Princes Street Gardens.
After the successful vote the year before for a Scottish Parliament to return to Edinburgh, the Cockburn expressed concerns at the Holyrood site eventually selected by Donald Dewar, believing the Old Royal High School presented a better option and that the former brewery site in the Canongate was too small for what was deemed necessary and presented serious security challenges.
The proposed excavation of Princes Street, one of the most famous streets in Europe, to create 200,000 square feet of retail space beneath, generated some serious debate among the Association’s working groups and extensive dialogue with the developers and planners.
The Association fully supported the National Trust for Scotland’s innovative and visionary approach to the purchase, restoration and occupation of 26-31 Charlotte Square showing that modern technology and historic buildings are not incompatible.
Speaking out against the overdevelopment of Charlotte Square, the Cockburn also argued this year against a re-emerging architectural trend that strongly favoured façadism:
”If we allow the rear gardens to be completely built over with substantial alterations to listed buildings, then it is easy to foresee a situation where a future developer will argue for the complete destruction of the buildings, retaining the façade only and incorporating massive roof extensions.”
Alarmed at the sustained and severe attack being made on Edinburgh’s greenbelt by developers, the Association expressed serious concerns with Lothian Regional Council’s Structure Plan Review, which completely failed to address the problem and protect the greenbelt from further onslaught.
The Association welcomed significant planned improvement to the previously ad hoc management arrangements in place for Holyrood Park, but submitted a six-page critique of the draft management plan relating to the poor quality of the analysis of the park’s archaeology, park usage and relationship with the rest of the city.
The Cockburn Conservation Trust’s restoration of the Glassite Meeting House wins the Tennent Caledonian Community Award. It was particularly appropriate that the award should go to a project that aimed to be exemplary in conservation terms.
Supporting the District Council in opposition to the Regional Council, the Cockburn argued that the Beechhill Nurseries and Beechmont House should be included in the greenbelt designation of Corstorphine Hill. This year the Cockburn also held its first ever Doors Open Days event, opening buildings across Edinburgh to visitors for the first time as part of a European Heritage Days initiative.
The Association moved to its present home in Trunks Close, in the two vaulted sixteenth century cellars under the north end of Moubray House, a building which the Cockburn had saved from demolition and owned since 1910.
It also published this year “The Writing on the Walls” by Elizabeth Barry, a guide to the inscriptions on Edinburgh buildings which commemorate famous citizens, visitors and events in the city and publicly raised its grave concerns over the care being taken by the owners of the 16th century Magdalene Chapel in the Cowgate and supported plans to build a contemporary office block on a vacant site in Advocates Close.
The Cockburn was involved in the most significant development proposals of the year, the redevelopment of the former Caledonian Rail Goods Yard into a major new International Conference Centre and associated commercial development. Commenting on the development competition, the Cockburn’s support fell firmly on Terry Farrell & Co Architects proposals for The Edinburgh Development Group – “much the best scheme, in terms of analyse of the site and its potential. Good scale with features to enrich the skyline; knitting together the surrounding area.”
The Cockburn’s transport interests were tested this year by two major proposals – the first being an extension to the M8 and the second the Dalkeith Bypass/A68 re-routing. In supporting the principle to both, the Cockburn objected to the alignment of each with the former intruding too greatly in the Green Belt and latter bisecting Dalkeith Country Park. We also published this year “The Walls of Edinburgh” by our former Chairman Lord Cullen, a short guide aimed at highlighting the history of Edinburgh’s various City Walls and the events which have taken place around them over the centuries.
May 1988 Newsletter opens with the frontispiece “Gardens of Shame” highlighting the particular mess of the Piazza Café and annual circus at the east end:
“While the latter is a deliberate affront by the Recreation Department that would be happier running a fun fair than a garden, the other eye-sores are probably the result of the lack of any coordinated management policy.”
Published proposals for the creation on a new rail line between Waverley Station and Dalkeith as a means of addressing the increased traffic congestion on the east side of the city. Using existing branch lines, and new station at Brunstane/Asda was proposed. Although supported by Scotrail spiritually (not financially), it was rejected at a Local Plan Inquiry as it necessitated changes to the Millerhill section of the City Bypass – approved but not yet built. In the April 1987 Newsletter, the Cockburn lamented, “foresight is not, perhaps, the most notable attribute of the Scottish Office.”
Launched a project to record all plaques to list memorials to people connected to buildings and sites. Member Elizabeth Berry was tasked to lead the work, which resulted in the publication The Writing on the Walls in 1990. Also raised vigorous opposition to Lothian Regional Council’s planned Western Relief Road and plans for a funicular railway and subterraneous restaurants and facilities being built on and under Edinburgh Castle Rock.
Concerned with the Health Board’s proposals to demolish a terrace of fine Georgian tenements on Lauriston Place, the Cockburn appeared at the formal hearing objecting to the scheme, which have produced an unnecessary gap site. To give weight to its position, it commissioned T M Gray & Associates Architects to prepare a feasibility study showing the potential for restoration. The case was subsequently won, and the building restored to provide social housing.
Objected strongly to detailed proposals for Lothian Regional Council’s Western Relief Road. Whilst not objecting to the principle of the road, it felt that the route selected would do significant damage to many communities and would only exacerbate traffic congestion in the city centre. In the same year, the Cockburn averted an aesthetic disaster in East Queen Street Gardens when it convinced Scottish Gas to adopt a more classical approach to its installation of a pressure-reducing station. The result is the Temple of Pluto that sits nestled in the trees today.
Among many other activities in another busy year the Cockburn voiced its serious concerns at a public conference held to discuss the sad plight of Edinburgh’s once magnificent, but now badly neglected and much vandalised 19th century cemeteries. Those buried within (or their heirs) had been charged sufficiently large sums for their lairs that a perpetuity fund had been created which should have ensured cemetery sites such as Warriston, Dalry and Newington were maintained for all time. Instead, the Association was forced to condemn these “avaricious property companies which have siphoned off the perpetuity funds, developed what land they could and neglected the rest.”
The lack of a Strategic Development plan meant the Cockburn was required to fight many battles in the Green Belt, usually in support of the District Council. The Cockburn fought appeals for proposed Green Belt developments at Royal Nurseries (Craigmillar Castle); Edmonstone Main’s (by Ferniehill); and Cammo Estate (land north of the bypass).
Presented case against the Council’s development proposals for Waverley Market, especially the plans to increase the height and therefore obscure the open views across Waverley Valley between the Old and New Towns. Thankfully, the Secretary State for Scotland agreed with the Cockburn’s position and vetoed the scheme designed by The Building Design Partnership.
Following representations from the Cockburn and other amenity bodies, the Regional Council eventually decided that an aqueduct should be built to carry the Union Canal over the new city bypass. Officials had recommended severing the canal by the construction of the road.
The launching of the Cockburn Conservation Trust is recognised as a milestone in the history of the Association. Work got well underway on the restoration of 46-54 Candlemaker Row and planned for the restoration of 16-18 Calton Hill, in partnership with the Viewpoint Housing Association.
The Association also appealed to the Secretary of State to intervene and refuse permission to demolish a B-Listed building in Gayfield Square which it argued had been neglected rather than restored by its owner to facilitate this demolition order. To acquiesce would, argued the Cockburn, set a dangerous precedent.
Following successful Cockburn opposition to the demolition of an supposedly “undistinguished” church in Hill Square, the Association was attacked in the January Newsletter of the Edinburgh Architectural Association for its principled conviction that consent to demolish buildings in conservation areas should not be granted until such time as suitable designs for replacement buildings are submitted.
The most exciting venture of the year was the proposal to establish the Cockburn Conservation Trust, a charitable, non-profit company whose purpose was to restore buildings in Edinburgh on a “revolving fund” basis. The Lord Provost instructed officials to investigate a suitable pilot restoration project for the new organisation.
The Cockburn also began to raise serious concerns about the future of the eight-hectare, former railway goods-yard behind Lothian Road that had lain empty since 1964. It organised a one-day symposium of invited experts and organisations entirely devoted to seeking a long-term solution for this important site.
While welcoming the Town Council’s decision to reconstruct the Waverley Market, transforming an underused eyesore, the Cockburn expressed concerns about views from Princes Street being curtailed and spoilt.
Subject to the safeguarding of its heritage interest, the Cockburn thought that the Old Royal High School, the noblest monument to the Scottish Greek Revival, would make a splendid home for the then planned Scottish Assembly.
The Association also celebrated its centenary this year. In addition to holding several public events at venues across the city throughout the year, the Association commissioned a new piece of music from the noted Scottish composer David Dorward titled “Rus in Urbe”, a quartet for clarinet, violin, cello and piano, and we published a new history of the organisation called Some Practical Good – The Cockburn Association 100 Year’ Participation in Planning by George Bruce.
Welcomed the introduction of new parking controls in the city centre and looked forward with anticipation to more attractive streets freed from indiscriminate parking and made safer to cross. Association also noted that residents now had a reasonable chance of parking by day near their own homes.
Worked on a plan to increase the use of public transport by residents and a reduced reliance on private cars for journeys into the city centre. Chartered a “Cockburn Train” that left Haymarket at 2.30pm on the 14th November 1973, carrying 550 passengers from Waverley to Livingston New Town along many of Edinburgh’s old suburban railway lines. The excursion was arranged “for the serious purpose of discussing the possibility of re-introducing passenger services” to many of these lines (Bruce 1975: 71).
Embarked upon a successful campaign to prevent erection of a 260ft high office block adjacent to Haymarket Station and a campaign to prevent the Corporation from demolishing a block of 49 historic houses in West Nicolson Street that it had purchased as part of an area improvement scheme. This year the Cockburn also took on its payroll its first ever salaried employee, having relied upon the goodwill of volunteer staff for almost a century.
The Cockburn published its first ever annual newsletter, containing news about developments in Edinburgh, planning advice and commentary pieces. Spent much of year continuing to raise serious concerns about the St James scheme:
“The vast scale of the St James Square redevelopment now provides a permanent reminder of the need to visualise clearly the effect on townscape of planning permissions too hastily granted”.
The Cockburn registered its “grave anxiety” at the nature of the buildings planned or taking shape around St James’s Square at the top of Leith Walk. It also sought that year to raise public awareness that the new Planning Act required official consent to be obtained before alterations could now be made to listed buildings.
The Cockburn vociferously objected and campaigned against and the proposed redevelopment of the Woolworths building in Princes Street, which would have resulted in the demolition of buildings on adjacent streets, including the Guildford Arms and the Café Royal.
Association also successfully resisted plans to demolish the group of 17th and 18th century buildings at the foot of West Bow, supporting plans for their restoration and rehabilitation for contemporary use.
In referencing the recently published Holford Report on High Buildings, the Cockburn articulated its concerns about a proposed high office block at Orchard Brae. The Architects’ Journal (Aug) used the Cockburn’s experience of having to raise over £7000 to fight the recent ring road proposals as official evidence at the Skeffington Committee Inquiry about the barriers to public participation in the planning process.
Prevented George Street tower block being built on the site of the George Hotel and continued to fight, lobby and organise against the Inner Ring Road Plans, including raising substantial sums of money to provide expert evidence against the proposal.
“Edinburgh in 1967 witnessed and unprecedented growth of public concern over the city’s planning proposals that the ignition of the flame required such an outrageous proposal as the Inner Ring road as the activating spark is a sad reflection on past apathy” Cockburn Annual Report 1967.
Cockburn expressed its regret that the Royal Scottish Museum had demolished fragments of the Flodden Wall. Plans for the proposed Inner Ring Road were finally published. A six-laned highway was proposed, cutting through the Meadows and numerous streets, cutting off neighbourhoods from easy access to adjacent streets, buildings and greenspace. The real fight began in earnest as the Cockburn joined forces with other organisations to lodge objections to the road with the Secretary of State for Scotland.
Highlighted the Council’s continued obfuscation over the proposed route of an Inner Ring Road that would plough its way through large chunks of the city. Sought answers (in vain) from councillors and city officials. Relationships with the city administration cooled considerably.
Raised some of the earliest concerns about what would replace the buildings then being cleared around St James’s Square and noted with alarm that there had been talk of an Inner Ring Road being proposed for the city for over a year, but its route had still not been made public. Provided extensive evidence against a hotel developer at a public inquiry appealing against the refusal of permission to build a tower block hotel in George Street.
The Cockburn organised successful opposition and lobbying against the City Council’s plans to erect a six-level multi-storey car park on Queen Street Gardens. However, it also remained cognisant of the changing travel demands being placed upon the city when its Town Planning Panel produced a report that “stressed the importance of establishing a comprehensive system of motor roads to deal with future traffic needs and outlined a suggested road network.” (Bruce 1975: 65)
Cockburn initiated a campaign to ensure the continued use of the historic St George’s Parish church on Charlotte Square after the congregation gave the building up. Our Historic Buildings Panel offered support for the proposals for the restoration of the historic 17th century “Castle o’ Clouts” building in St Leonards, which sadly proved unsuccessful and this important historic building was ultimately demolished.
Cockburn’s Historic Buildings Panel reviewed initial plans for the redevelopment of the St James Square area and for new buildings in Greenside produced by the City Architect. Fought plans to build a tower block replacement for the George Hotel in George Street.
In November, after a long campaign led by the Cockburn, the Secretary of State for Scotland rejected the Randolph Crescent traffic proposals. Association also continued to raise funds for the necessary repairs of the historic Magdalene Chapel in the Cowgate.
Expressed growing concerns about the “gyratory traffic system” in Charlotte Square “but the concerns were not shared by the City Engineer’s Department” who wanted “to effect a faster and smoother flow of traffic.” Continued to object to and campaign against the University’s proposals to demolish more of the historic George Square.
We took the Council’s plans for a traffic roundabout at Randolph Crescent all the way to a costly public inquiry and won. Also spent a considerable part of the year articulating growing concerns about the conditions of some of the city’s open spaces and public walks. Poet, writer, broadcaster and noted conservationist John Betjeman gave a passionate speech at our Annual General Meeting, describing members of the Association and those of other similar emerging organisations as “a splendid collection of spies of all ages, who know what is going on and get in one leap ahead of the devil.”
The Randolph Crescent campaign was the first to which an “Appeal Fund” was established to pay the heavy legal fees at Public Inquiry. According to Cockburn historian George Bruce, “It meant the end, of course, of the mutual trust shared between the Cockburn Association and the Town Council” and “ also signalled a broadening gap between the governing body and the governed.” (Bruce 1975: 65)
Started the campaign against Council plans to create a roundabout in Randolph Crescent. This scheme would also have seen the removal of part of Ainslie Place Gardens, the infilling of several basement properties, the removal of many mature trees and substantial changes to the levels and surfacing of many adjacent streets in the historic New Town.
The Association also this year supported the City Council’s acquisition of Swanston Village, endorsing plans for the historic hamlet’s restoration and preservation. As the oldest amenity society in the country, two representatives from the Cockburn were invited to attend the inaugural meeting in London of the new British-wide national “Civic Trust.”
Welcomed proposals for the Napier Technical College which retained Merchiston Castle as an essential element of that scheme. We also objected to new concrete lampposts being erected in the city. A request made to the Secretary of State for Scotland to hold a public inquiry into the University’s expansion into George Square.
At the AGM this year, Cockburn Chair Lord Cameron offered some personal reflections on how the Association should determine what was worth saving in the Old Town:
“Most of us were brought up on the great “Royal Mile Racket” that the Royal Mile was a mile of medieval city, it is nothing of the kind. It is about twenty yards of medieval city… It was vitally important that all that was still left and was worth preserving of the old should be preserved.”
Organised a decisive city-wide campaign against a Provisional Order by the Town Council authorising a portion of East Princes Street Gardens into a car park. Council withdrew the scheme at the end of the year. Lord Cameron was chair and Peter Millar became Honorary Secretary and Treasurer and set about revitalising the membership and the workings of the Assoociation.
Hosted a large public meeting in George Street to discuss various amenity issues in the city. Principal speakers were Sir Stanley Cursiter, Dr Thomas Elder Dickson, vice principal of the college of Art, John Cameron QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and Sir Compton MacKenzie. Among other issues, the speakers hotly debated whether Edinburgh had fared better than other cities in recent years.
AGM was held, but no notes survive.
No AGM was held this year.
The Right Hon Earl of Rosebery presided over the AGM at which noted mathematician Prof Alexander Craig Aitken addressed the room, giving a talk “in Praise of Edinburgh.” The Cockburn also convened a public meeting “The Planners and the Planned” in Gladstone’s Land to further discuss and debate the recent Abercrombie Plan and its implications for the city and its residents.
Leslie Grahame-Thomson, president of the Edinburgh Architectural Association, addressed the AGM about his grave concerns about the recently published “Advisory Plan for Edinburgh” better known to by its proper name “A Civic Survey and Plan for Edinburgh” by Sir Patrick Abercrombie and Derek Plumstead. He drew particular attention to the proposals to drive a traffic lane through Princes St Gardens or a ring road through the Grassmarket and criticized the plans for the redevelopment of St James Square. He also felt the plan paid little or no attention to the built heritage of the city and made scant provision for the provision of churches.
On gaining assurance from the University of Edinburgh that it would now restrict its expansion plans in George Square to the north side alone, believing that the other three sides would now be safe from further development, the Cockburn offered no objection to the scheme when it came before the City Council. The Cockburn then turned its ire on the Corporation who were proposing to permanently remove one of the oldest statues in the city, Charles II in Parliament Square, demanding that it be repaired and returned to its long-held position.
The Earl of Selkirk presided over this year’s AGM and suggested that the Cockburn’s guiding purpose should move on from being: “the preservation and improvement of the amenity of Edinburgh and its neighbourhood” and become instead: “to bring joy and beauty into the lives of Edinburgh citizens.” (The Scotsman – 11 May 1948)
EJ Macrae, now former City Architect, also gave a well-received talk on his final report delivered to the City Council before his retirement “The Heritage of Greater Edinburgh.” It provided the Corporation with an up-to-date inventory of the important historic buildings across the city that Macrae believed were worth preserving.
In May, the Cockburn Association began to campaign in earnest against the University of Edinburgh’s radical plans to extend its campus into George Square, opposing all suggestion of demolitions of the buildings in the historic square and urging the institution to consider alternative sites. By the middle of the year it had even commissioned an alternative plan with its own scale clay model that it hoped the University authorities and the Town Council would positively engage with.
As plans began to emerge proposing to bring to Edinburgh in 1947 “a great Festival of Music” the Cockburn suggested to the Town Council that the time was right to begin to take more care of its public open spaces. It proposed that the most frequented informal paths created by residents in parks, following the removal of railings, should now be formalised with paving to reduce the muddy quagmires, that park rangers should be employed and many more chairs introduced. (The Scotsman 12 Feb 1946). The City Council also provoked the ire of some local citizens and the Cockburn this year when it retrofitted (in the middle of a single night) energy-saving lighting brackets to the central street lights in Princes Street. At the AGM, the University’s expansionist plans came up for discussion.
Lord Provost John I. Falconer was guest of honour at this year’s AGM and discussed the twin problems he believed presently faced the Cockburn – the preservation of the city’s aging and poorly maintained historic housing and the expansion of the city at its peripheries. He also presented the Association with a third quandary that would come to occupy much of its energy in the coming years, namely his desire to see the University consolidate its many buildings in a single, enlarged city centre campus. The influential architect Robert Hurd also addressed the meeting to discuss how the Association might positively engage in the planned redevelopment and redistribution of Edinburgh’s industries.
The Cockburn also hosted this year a public meeting at which the City Architect, Ebenezer MacRae, discussed his survey of, and plans for, the historic buildings on the Royal Mile.
The AGM this year was held in St John’s Church on Princes Street, but no record survives of the meeting nor does an annual report for the preceding year.
Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Sir William Y. Darling was the guest of honour at this year’s AGM. The meeting turned its eyes forward to what the city’s might look like after the war, with Darling expressing a firm desire that its boundaries should advance no further and that the green belt around Edinburgh should suffer no further encroachments. Somewhat bravely, in a room full of conservationists, he also suggested that the city should put in place a plan to “deal with” all of its buildings which were over 100 years old, rebuilding or replanning “until no building in the city – in its internal arrangements anyway – was more than 20 years old” (The Scotsman – 29 Jan 1943). The chair of the meeting, Sheriff Charles Milne KC, politely thanked the provost for sharing his vision for the city, but the true feelings of those present in the room are left unrecorded!
The Cockburn’s long-serving and energetic chairman Lord Salveson died this year, leaving in his will the sum of £500 to kick-start the cleaning of soot and grime from the surfaces of buildings in Princes Street.
At the AGM this year, members discussed the future restriction of polluting industrial factories in the city, the preference for reconditioning of older housing stock rather than wholesale clearance and displacement and a proposal for a walk way along the Water of Leith at Canonmills.
With the war preying heavily on local citizens’ minds this year, at the AGM this year members urged the speedy removal of all unnecessary local iron railings for use in the war effort. Park railings were seen as an obvious choice, but so too were those that surrounded the vast majority of private residences, with hedges suggested as replacements. At a meeting of the Saltire Society Norman Wilson, chair of the Edinburgh Film Guild, warmly entreated the Cockburn Association to:
“Produce a film which would preserve for all time a record of the life and appearance of the city. This is an interesting proposal and one which, if Edinburgh is the victim of a heavy raid, might well be shown up as a lost opportunity.” The Scotsman 18 Feb 1941
Strong words of support and encouragement were offered this year for the Corporation’s restoration work at the historic Merchiston Castle and for their purchase of Craigentinny House. Much internal debate was also had about the pros and cons of the retention of the Governor’s House on Calton Hill, a last remnant of the old prison, which now seemed to some members at odds architecturally with the adjacent, recently-built St Andrew’s House.
The Cockburn published this year Old Edinburgh in 1939 by the young architect Iain G Lindsay, an inventory of the city’s ancient and historic buildings, showing how well they integrate into a modern city. The Association continued to voice opposition to the proposals to raise the height of Waverley Market, recommending that a temporary skeletal framework be erected so that the true visual impact of the proposed building could be assessed. It also offered tentative support for an early proposal to build an outer ring road around the city to ease traffic congestion, albeit offering one simple caveat:
“This road when made will be very useful from a traffic point of view but the Council will watch over developments to secure that the amenities of the districts through which it passes are preserved.”
Local environmental concerns were raised at the AGM, particularly about the growing “smoke nuisance” in the city centre. Cockburn Chair Lord Salveson also initiated a campaign for more trees and a playground for children in the vicinity of the Dean Hospital. The Scottish Motor Traction Company purchased grounds in the east of St Andrews Square near Elder Street, for a new bus station and the Cockburn supported this proposal, so long as its frontage onto the Square was harmonious with the adjacent buildings. Alarm was also raised this year about plans to raise the height of Waverley Market, with concerns that the view from Princes Street might be “curtailed or spoilt, if the roof is raised to an appreciable height.”
Alerted to proposals for a new “central stance for omnibuses” the Cockburn called for a central bus station that would not add to the increasing traffic congestion in the city. At he AGM this year the Chairman Lord Salveson and other members lamented the lack of care being taken of trees in some of the city’s parks and commented upon the sooty and dirty appearance of many buildings on Princes Street.
A deputation from the Cockburn lobbied the Secretary of State for Scotland to ask the Treasury to change its subsidy policies to support the reconditioning and modernising of existing housing stock rather than only support new building. Discussion was also beginning to emerge this year about the “haphazard bungalow development” and “stark rows of tenements” that were being built in many of the city’s suburbs.
The Cockburn published a tree pamphlet by Prof Francis Gibson Baily to assist “town planners and suburban householders in the judicious selection of trees suitable for towns in Scotland” and the amenity provision in new Corporation housing schemes was also much discussed throughout the year.
Despite the quick success of the public campaign to save Acheson House from demolition the Cockburn was increasingly concerned by the danger so many buildings were currently in. The Association requested a change in public subsidies that rewarded new builds but not the rehabilitation of existing stock and hosted a public conference of organisations and individuals with the view of establishing a trust that could acquire old Edinburgh buildings that were threatened with demolition, restore them and then hand them over to the care of the nation in the hands of the National Trust for Scotland. At the AGM that year, Lord Salveson explained his fears:
“Unless demolition is stopped, the old historic Mile will cease to have any semblance of its old face and we shall find it a deserted pace, used possibly as warehouses.”
Supported the removal of iron railings in East Princes Street Gardens to facilitate better access and opposed the removal of the statue of the Duke of Wellington outside Register House for a road widening scheme. Began to raise public awareness of the Council’s plans to demolish significant historic properties in the Old Town including – Acheson’s House, Gladstone’s Land, Bible Land and several buildings in Playhouse Close. Made a strong case for rehabilitating properties for modern use inside rather than demolishing. Also continued to campaign for the City Council to improve the civic amenity in its new housing scheme in Craigmillar and Niddrie.
“The Council note with regret the unsatisfactory nature of this Housing Scheme with its poverty of design in the houses, and its lack of varied and attractive planning in the lay out. They would strongly urge that merely making provision for the fresh air and sunlight, however desirable these are in themselves, does not alone secure a satisfactory housing scheme, and that the amenities of life including other things besides the satisfaction of a population’s material requirements. In these days, when so much thought is given to the problem of education and such value attached to it, it seems a pity that the aesthetic side should be neglected, and that provisions should not be made for it in the first element in a child’s education the immediate surroundings in which it grows up.” Cockburn Council. minutes of 1934 AGM
Began public awareness campaign to save the historic 17th century Tailor’s Hall in the Cowgate from demolition and raised a chorus of objections to a scheme to widen the roadway in Princes Street that would have necessitated the demolition of a substantial portion of the portico and columns at the front of the Royal Scottish Academy building. Also began investigating and raising early concerns about the lack of civic amenity being provided for residents in the new massive housing scheme being built in Craigmillar and Niddrie.
Having been thwarted in its attempts to preserve the old Sheriff Court building, the Cockburn this year became heavily involved in the deliberations about the refreshed design and plan of the Government’s proposed building-work on Calton Hill. This new design would centralise the various scattered governmental buildings in one location, becoming known as St Andrew’s House.
Taking no time to celebrate its pivotal role in thwarting the Government’s plans to “build a sort of super-factory on the Calton Hill” the Association began another strenuous campaign to save the Victorian Sheriff Court on George IV Bridge from being demolished to make way for the new National Library of Scotland building. A vigorous lobbying campaign followed and another large public conference was organised to object to the demolition. Funds were raised to take the massed organisational opposition all the way to judge-led official inquiry. The matter ended up being debated and decided at Westminster, where Parliament eventually ruled that the Sheriff Court should go and be replaced with a new National Library building.
Gifted to the Signet Library the four original manuscripts of Lord Henry Cockburn’s Circuit Journeys. These volumes were passed on with the permission of Cockburn’s four surviving grandchildren who had given them to the Association. The row over planned government buildings on the Calton Hill jail site rumbled on. It resulted in lots of campaigning activity, including organising a “Scottish National Committee” of notable individuals and organisations to actively oppose the scheme and hosting a mass public summit to test public opinion on what should happen to the site and organise protests against the imposition of architectural designs from official agencies based outside the city. Ended year by opposing the demolition of the old Sheriff Court building on George IV Bridge.
Organised opposition and lobbied against the proposed civil service designs for new government buildings on Calton Hill on the site of the former jail, even writing to the Prime Minister at one point. Also revealed the results of recent surveys, members had carried out, of the conditions of roads and footpaths into the city. Among other actions, It was strongly recommended refuse bins should be provided at all tram stops for the disposal of tickets and other litter.
This year the Cockburn failed in its attempts to prevent the destruction of the historic Sheriff Court buildings on George IV Bridge, performed a public audit of memorial tablets to individuals on buildings across the city, appealed for public help with this and campaigned about the state of the poor surfaces of pavements in parts of the city, especially in Charlotte Square. Duke of Atholl confirmed at the AGM that year just how vital the Cockburn was to Edinburgh life “to cope with the barbarian crudities of modern life.” His ire was drawn principally to the proliferation of street advertising and encroaching modernity as he prophetically warned:
“The petrol pump rears its head at intervals along our roads, and there is some danger that the most recondite information about local antiquities will some day be blazoned on signboards for the hurrying motorist to read. The passion for advertisment has invaded other spheres than commerce, and it is not usually tempered by aesthetic considerations… Edinburgh must be preserved not only against ugliness, but also against too rapid transformation. In time – who knows? Even the petrol pump may become an ancient landmark.” The Scotsman 26 Apr 1928
After many years of public complaints about the fine stone exteriors of buildings in the town being overpainted, the Cockburn took public action against a private firm who had purchased a house in Queen Street and were in the process of painting “the fine old Craigleith stone” a single shade of grey. The Association also pursued its long-running campaign against “ugly signposts and road advertisements, which breed like rabbits.”
Publication of “Scotia’s Darling Seat” by Rosaline Masson, an account of the Association’s activities since its foundation in 1875 written by Rosaline Masson. The Cockburn also that year gave evidence at the Court of Session against demands for more advertising sites in the city and intensified its environmental campaign to protect the beaches around Granton and Cramond from the industrial waste being dumped from Granton Gas Works.
“No one who has seen the crowded beach on a find Saturday afternoon in summer can have failed to recognise the pathos of the city’s children contentedly wallowing in the grime, after trudging all the way from their stifling closes and alleys to seek the only seaside available to them, and being given a dreary waste of dust and ashes in which to dig, in place of the rightful and cleanly sand. It is a wrong which falls to be righted without delay.” Acting Chair of Cockburn Council, (The Scotsman – 27 Feb 1926)
Objected to a proposal to erect a large structure in the Cowgate that would obscure views from South Bridge and supported efforts to repair and restore the Scott Monument. Commissioned noted author, equality campaigner and Cockburn Council member Rosaline Masson to write a book about the Association’s first fifty years to be illustrated by fellow Council members James Paterson RSA.
The Cockburn Association and the Old Edinburgh Club joined forces to start a long-running campaign to save the historic Acheson House in the Canongate. Its Parkways Sub-Committee presented an ambitious plan for a network of green paths across the city that would follow the routes of significant waterways, providing numerous new rural walkways for the urban citizens of Edinburgh. The Cockburn renewed its fight against urban interventions required by the Tramworks by standing firm against the Tramwork builder’s proposal to remove the statues of George IV, William Pitt and Dr Chalmers on George Street. The City Council voted to remove them but the plan did not come to fruition in the face of public protests led by the Cockburn.
Raised the funds necessary for the repair and restoration of the historic Huntly House by Sir Frank Mears, a Cockburn Council member. Supported the Town Council’s creation of a “consultative council”, along the lines the Cockburn had suggested the previous year, and the early efforts to plan a walkway along the Water of Leith, something the Cockburn had advocated for many years. The Cockburn formed its own Parkways Sub-Committee to examine the extent of the city’s green and civic open spaces and investigate ways of improving them and growing their numbers.
Much of this year was occupied by leading the fight against the controversial Tramway electrification scheme, a fight the Cockburn lost as the electrification of Princes Street and other parts of the city went ahead. Undeterred by the defeat, the Cockburn Council again considered the establishment of a Civic Advisory Committee that would advise the Corporation on questions of amenity. Holding no executive power, this civic forum would provide a space for residents, politicians and representatives of local organisations to meet and exchange ideas.
“The subjects which would fall to be considered by this Council would be various, ranging from the whole question of town planning and development of the city generally to such lesser matters as sights [sic] for statues and the height of buildings. The Council of the Cockburn Association feel that it would not only strengthen the Dean of Guild Court and the City Father generally to have such a body, but that it would be immensely for the improvement of the city and the benefit of the citizens.” The Scotsman 5 Dec 1922
Took an interest in the plans to erect a National War Memorial at the Castle and proposed a standing advisory committee should be established to work with the town council on the many urban improvement schemes that were on the horizon in the city. The AGM that year debated a recurring dilemma faced by the Cockburn from its founding to this day:
“The problem was to reconcile utility with amenity, to preserve the essential features and character of the city without retarding enterprise and progress. Such a question was bound at times to provoke controversy and discussion…” The Scotsman 25 Feb 1921
Ratified at their annual general meeting the decision made the previous year to elect female members of the Cockburn Council. The first four women elected to join were Lady Findlay of Aberlour, Mrs T.J. Millar, Miss M. R. Macleod and Miss Rosaline Masson. Other activities that year included: forming a new sub-committee to fight the overhead electrification of the city streets; raising objections to the heights of new buildings being erected in Princes Street; campaigning against the environmental damage being caused to the foreshore around the Granton Gas Works by industrial ashes being tipped into the Forth; and starting to take a serious interest in the Council’s road-building activities in the city.
Worked with other organisations to prevent emerging plans for the opening of Middle Meadow Walk to motorised traffic and objected to the proposed significant upward extension to the Caledonian Hotel on Princes Street and joined a general committee that was to offer advice on war memorials across the country. A decision made at the Cockburn Council to elect women members to the Council for the first time.
Raised objections and a public petition and worked with other organisations campaigning against an extension of the city Tramway to Queensferry, eventually defeating the proposal.
Vociferously campaigned against the proposals for overhead wires to be installed across Edinburgh to facilitate the electrification of the city’s tramways, eventually preparing a public petition to the Town Council on the matter. Granted a long restoring lease of Moubray House to a private gentleman who sub-let it as student accommodation to the Women’s Missionary College of the United Free Church.
The Association devised a scheme to replace the stained glass windows in the 12th century St Margaret’s Chapel on Castle Hill. It raised the necessary funds and employed the noted artist Douglas Strachan to design and install the new windows. Strachan asked that his entire fee be donated instead to national war funds. Work continued to restore Moubray House and raise sufficient funds to purchase Huntly House.
Continued to object to a memorial to the late King Edward and the Winter Garden scheme, began a vigorous campaign to prevent the destruction of Murrayfield House by the Town Council in a modernisation scheme and erected seats on Corstorphine Hill at the “Rest and be Thankful” beauty spot. The Cockburn Council also publicly deplored the “destruction of monuments of the past in Belgium and France” and noted that recent attacks on sites in England had proved just how fragile historic sites were and vulnerable to the depredations of war.
“The contents of palace and cottage, the treasures of prince and peasant, have been consumed in flames and ruins. We in this country, who so far have enjoyed practically complete immunity from this sort of loss, should more fixedly determine to conserve for future generations all that remains to us of what the art and industry of our forefathers created. Even if we appraise as of limited intrinsic value such things as the three-gabled cottage of Lucky Spence and the mansion-house of Murrayfield, we should remember that, once removed, whether by the bombs of the enemy or by the native house-wrecker, these things can never be restored, and we, who allow the destruction, lay ourselves open to the contempt of future generations, who will condemn us as either too weak to preserve, and to and on to them things which they have come to mourn as treasures of priceless worth.” Report of the Cockburn Council, Scotsman 13 March 1915
The proposed Princes Street Winter Gardens proposals grumbled on and opposition from the Cockburn and members of the public intensified. The Cockburn came out strongly against the army’s plan to demolish a prominent barrack block on the Castle Rock. New chair Prof Baldwin Brown resolved to increase membership, draft in further expert members to join the Cockburn Council and “establish a more satisfactory relation between the Association and the Civic Authorities. The latter aim he felt was justified by “a feeling of antagonism” that he felt had developed between the Cockburn and the Council in recent years. (The Scotsman – 7 Feb 1914)
Cockburn Council were pleased with the establishment of a “the new Zoological Garden at Corstorphine” but were initially divided in opinion over the newly submitted proposals to erect a large, covered winter garden in Princes Street Gardens next to St Cuthbert’s Church. Eventually, the majority decided against the proposal and drew the Town Council’s attention to an obscure clause in an Act of George III that limited the building activities in the Gardens. Also that year, the Cockburn worked with new owners of Cannonball House to secure recently discovered internal features for the city museum and submitted an offer of £1200 for Huntly House with its Australian owner, which was rejected.
Campaigned “to prevent the destruction of the design of Royal Terrace” as a new property owner there made drastic alterations to their home and supported the erection of higher walls on Dean Bridge to reduce the numbers of suicides from that spot. Also continued their strenuous campaign against “the disfigurement of Edinburgh” caused by the erection of numerous inappropriate advertising hoardings and obtained assurances from the new purchasers of Cannonball House that would secure the building’s survival as a school.
Made a renewed public appeal for a further £500 to repair Moubray House. Having opened the ground and first floor to the public along with the neighbouring John Knox House, and having exhausted their original funds, this new appeal was made to fund conservation work in the upper floors “to put the whole house in a condition to be shown to the public for whom it had been acquired.” The Scotsman 18 May 1912
The Scotsman announced in early January that the Cockburn had successfully raised from 220 subscribers the £1150 necessary for the purchase of Moubray House and its repairs. Cockburn members given initial trusteeship over the historic house were Lord Guthrie, Prof Baldwin Brown, Cllr Dobie, Walter B. Blaikie and Helen Kerr.
The purchase reinvigorated the Association as they involved themselves in a host of other activities that year, including commenting against a proposed memorial to the late King Edward, getting involved in planning an extension to the Dean Cemetery, campaigning all the way to Westminster to protect and improve the public paths in Holyrood Park, lobbying for more robust legislation against advertising hoardings and assisting Prof Patrick Geddes in putting on an extensive public exhibition and conference in the RSA explaining the principles of modern Town Planning and civic amenity.
An emergency meeting was held in February in the Outlook Tower, attended by local worthies such as Prof Baldwin Brown, Prof Patrick Geddes, Victor Paton and Lord Kingsburgh, to discuss what steps should be taken for the “preservation of old Edinburgh” now that the Cockburn Association was “on the eve of being dissolved.” Prof Geddes suggested a public exhibition on old and new Edinburgh to be held in the Outlook Tower. Despite its troubles, the Cockburn still advised the city authorities on developments in Atholl Crescent and began a public appeal to raise funds to purchase, repair and restore the historic Moubray House on the High Street. The public were slow to respond, with only £325 raised by the beginning of December, mostly from Cockburn members.
Voiced opposition to the erection of a riding school in the Dean Valley and erection of advertising hoardings in the area, successfully lobbied against the proposal to build of the Usher Hall on the slope of Princes Street Gardens, between Castle Rock and Ramsay Gardens. They also sought to attend to the growing litter problem in the town caused by discarded tram tickets by encouraging the tram companies to provide boxes in their carriages for their disposal. Despite concerns about the parlous state of the Association’s finance, the Cockburn Council also began discussions about purchasing the historic Cannonball House on the High Street while considering what form the Association would take in the future if a new injection of funding could not be found.
Apparently our financial situation was so dire that London’s Athenaeum magazine of 11 Sept 1909 even erroneously pronounced our demise:
“The Cockburn Association of that city was created to guard the beauty of the Modern Athens against barbarian attack by builders, railway companies, and others whom the Muse abhors. It spoke sternly in the gate with such enemies for many years, but has now, we believe, ceased to stand in anybody’s way.”
The Cockburn Council commended the work of the Board of Works screening a prominent new gasometer on the Castle Rock and offered its support for possible national legislation that might regulate the growth of cities and the appointment of a Royal Commission to make an inventory of the condition and stock of ancient monuments in Scotland. Also announced intention to purchase, restore and preserve the historic Huntly House in the Canongate.
Began to agitate against proposals to erect overhead electric cables along the route of Edinburgh’s tramlines and objected again to renewed proposals to erect a large glass house in West Princes Street Gardens.
Contacted the Town Council to suggest they instruct the owner of a disused chimney in New Street be removed and considered various developments across the city, including objecting to plans for a major new promenade constructed through Princes Street Gardens.
Objected to proposals to convert the Royal High School into a new Scottish Art Gallery and sought to moderate the suggested designs and location of the Usher Hall. Also spent considerable part of the year raising awareness of certain features of the Old Town that were endangered by new developments. To this end, the Cockburn published and circulated a pamphlet by prominent member Prof Gerard Baldwin Brown called “the Care of Historical Cities” and looked abroad to see how other cities conserved their historic buildings. Laid down first tentative objection to early suggestion of overhead wires that would accompany an electrification of Edinburgh’s tram network.
Published (with the Antiquaries’ Club) a pamphlet on The Care of Historical Cities. An international manifesto laying out suggestions for the care and protection of buildings, artworks and antiquities during times of destructive conflict and war.
Recommended to the Town Council that it purchase land adjacent to Roseburn Park to extend the public space and prevent tenements being built there and joined forces with the Edinburgh Architectural Association and the Scottish Arts Club to carefully consider and make suggestions on the army’s planned alterations to Edinburgh Castle.
During a discussion about recent developments in the city at this year’s AGM, chairman of the meeting David Scott-Moncrieff WS lamented the “good deal of apathy among the present generation” of Edinburgh citizens that allowed such constructions to take place.
Persuaded by the continuous campaigning by the Cockburn Association on this matter, Edinburgh Council enacted local bylaws to partially regulate public advertisements, becoming one of the first cities in the country to do so.
Organised a campaign that successfully persuaded Bovril Ltd not to affix to an Old Town property that overlooked the Mound and Princes Street an illuminated, electric advertising board to ply their famed beef extract.
Successfully persuaded the War Office not to erect a large block of buildings on the green slopes beneath the Castle, above Johnston Terrace.
The Cockburn Association considered the 40 sites proposed for the Usher Town Hall and concluded that the Canal Basin, or Chambers Street would be acceptable sites (Edinburgh Evening News – 12 August 1896)
After pressure from the Cockburn, the North British Railway Company agreed not to erect massive advertising hoardings on Waverley Bridge, facing East Princes Street Gardens and members of the Association began advocating for “the formation of a walk for citizens along the Water of Leith from Coltbridge to St Bernard’s Well.” Scotsman 18 May 1895
Following the loss of multiple ancient buildings in the area, the Association established a sub-committee “to watch all alterations, actual or projected, in connection with the City improvements in the Old Town” (Bruce 1975: 60). Professor Patrick Geddes also became a member of the Cockburn Council this year, a position he retained for twenty years.
Agitated against the North British Railway Company’s proposal to remove the North Bridge and replace with another structure to better facilitate their railway operations beneath.
The Cockburn Association requested to Council that they make the ground to the east of the National Monument on the Calton Hill fully and freely accessible to the public.
Continued to campaign against the North British Railway Company’s plans to encroach into Princes Street Gardens, sending a deputation to the Town Council and reaching out to other bodies, such as the Royal Scottish Academy, the Art Congress and the Architectural Association, to join forces against this possible loss of public amenity.
Letter Protesting about the railway plans and quoting Lord Cockburns comments about the railways and Princes’ St in his ‘Letter to Lord Provost’ 40 years before The Scotsman Oct 22
The Association offered to coordinate protests about the Caledonian Railway’s plans for Princes Street Gardens , also campaigned against “the practice of advertising by means of huge and glaring placards or sign boards” and continued to voice concerns about the increasing destruction of what we would now call the “green belt” that formed the fringes of the ever-enlarging Victorian city. The Cockburn urged the city’s many builder and property speculators to incorporate “the natural features of the ground, trees and grass” into their plans.
Cockburn Council member William Nelson repaired and restored St Bernard’s Well, on the Water of Leith. The Association was finally successful in forcing a withdrawal of the plans to create a massive covered rockery in West Princes Street Gardens. The Cockburn Council commented on this victory “Nature has there supplied a Rock Garden so grand and so imposing beside which anything artificial must sink into insignificance…” (Bruce 1975: 59)
Suggested that the Town Council should take a lease of Craiglockhart Hill and turn it into a public recreational space.
Examined plans for the restoration of St Margaret’s Chapel in the Castle and drew the City Council’s attention to the damage caused to the many of the city’s oldest and valued buildings by some owners painting over external stonework.
Began a vociferous and long-lasting campaign against the as-yet unregulated “erection of large advertisement hoardings in various parts of the city.”
Class Warfare. Edinburgh Trades Council accuses the Cockburn Association of being against the working classes Edinburgh Evening News July 18
Campaigned for the repair and restoration of the Old Parliament Hall within Edinburgh Castle, then being used as a hospital for the army garrison, beginning a long fight with the Government and War Office about their lack care of this historic building complex.
Campaigned for more public greenspaces in the city, one site in particular they worked towards was the site of the Old Royal Infirmary:
“The great advantage of having open spaces wherever practicable, in large towns, is becoming more apparent every day, and nowhere in Edinburgh could a spot be found where a garden would be more serviceable.” (Bruce 1975: 37)
Raised concerns about the detriment to air quality caused by the introduction of steam trams in Princes Street and neighbouring streets.
Began campaigning in earnest against the removal of trees by private builders, who were hard at work expanding the boundaries of the city, and raising concerns about the environment, principally campaigning against the nuisance of smoke and smog in the city.
Pursued the City Council to replace the trees it was cutting down in public greenspaces.
Annual reports record satisfaction that a three year campaign organised and supported by members of the Association to protect the trees on Bruntsfield Links had been successfully concluded and the risk of their removal had at last been averted.
Lobbied to improve the amenity in West Princes Street Gardens and the safety of visitors to this well-used public park and began an eleven year campaign to prevent a massive rock garden being built on the site as part of the Ross bequest.
Initiated a campaign for improved public access to West Princes Street Gardens and attempted to influence members of the Town Council and local landowners to prevent the destruction of a number of mature trees in the Warrender area.
William Mitchell SSC writes a letter to The Scotsman (17 March) outlining the intention by several local citizens to form a “Cockburn Club”, spurred on by the rapid expansion of the city and the recent publication of Cockburn’s Journals.
Intended to be “a popular association for preserving the attractions of the city and its neighbourhood,” Mitchell was keen to point out it would be “no clique or junta” open to “every respectable citizen” of Edinburgh with “entry-money and subscription being so trifling as to form a barrier to none.”
He listed the Club’s many initial aims and purposes, which included creating publicly accessible greenspaces for recreation, reducing air and water pollution, regulating and improving building standards, protecting and preserving the best of the city’s existing architectural treasures. A list that would be recognisable to any contemporary conservation group almost a century and a half later.
In an address entitled “Requisition by Citizens of Edinburgh” sent to the city’s Lord Provost, Sir James Falshaw, the new Association made the intended function of this “Cockburn Council” clear:
“The Council will be expected to use their influence with the City Authorities, and builders and others, by whom the objects of the Association can be practically promoted.”
Formation of Cockburn Association
A well-attended public meeting was held in George Street on the 15th June 1875 to launch the Cockburn Association. Presided over by Lord Moncrieff of Tulibole, the event was mentioned in The Scotsman a few days later under the headline ‘The Beautifying of Edinburgh’ The Scotsman. Annual subscription 25 shillings or life membership for £3 3 shillings, its council to be elected annually and made up of “twenty-five gentlemen resident in Edinburgh or its neighbourhood.”
In its original constitution, primary among its core objectives was listed “…to secure the existence of a general and intelligent attachment to what is essential to the city.”
Publication of the Journal of Henry Cockburn covering the years 1831-1851. One of this volume’s appendices was a copy of his now (in)famous Letter to the Lord Provost on the best ways of spoiling the beauty of Edinburgh.
A monument to Lord Cockburn was erected in the Dean Cemetery.
The new “Lord Cockburn Street” designs are completed.
Lord Henry Cockburn died on the 26 April 1854, the first proposal for a public memorial commemorating his memory appear in the Scotsman in June.
Having been a Commissioner since 1828 and heavily involved since then in the planning and growth of Princes Street, prominent local judge Lord Cockburn publishes pamphlet “A letter to the Lord Provost on the best way of Destroying the beauty of Edinburgh” in which he expresses concerns about Princes Street and the intrusion of the Railways into the Gardens.