Jane Stewart Smith, artist and writer

Jane Stewart Smith, undated photgraph, possibly taken by her husband, who was a leading figure in the Edinburgh Photographic Society for many years.
Jane Stewart Smith, undated photograph, possibly taken by her husband.

As soon as Jane Stewart Smith (c1839-1925) settled in Edinburgh, as a young woman, she started sketching the historic Old Town. More than fifty years later she said she wanted to “catch the reverberating echoes of the past as they linger around the old historic buildings”.[ref]Quote from Historic Stones. JSS “settled in Edinburgh after her marriage”, said the Evening News, 27 Aug. 1924.[/ref]

Edinburgh’s past had a hold on her imagination all her adult life, but there is nothing to show when this started. Very little is known about her before she married an Edinburgh picture framer and dealer, John Stewart Smith, in 1864. She was Jane Eliza James, a governess aged 24, who had been born in London to William Henry Spinks James, a corn merchant, and Eliza Burnet.[ref]Both Jane’s parents had died by 1864. Her father’s middle name varied between Sprinks and Spinks in different documents. Her mother’s last name appeared as Burnet(t) on both Jane’s and her sister Eleanor’s marriage records. When they died, information supplied by John Stewart Smith’s son-in-law (James Rae) said Cuthbertson was their mother’s surname. There is one reference book which says she was born in Edinburgh, but that book was compiled before digitisation of documents made it clear that she was born in England with a sister born in Clapham (censuses) and came from London (newspapers). [/ref] She had an older sister, Eleanor Mary, who was married to Edinburgh artist John D. Michie.

Edinburgh, old tiled houses 1860s
Old houses opposite South Gray’s Close, 1868,  Jane Stewart Smith

Her watercolours of Edinburgh’s Old Town were shown in an 1868 exhibition in Princes Street.[ref] At Hill’s Gallery, which was started by Alexander Hill, brother of David Octavius Hill. By 1868 Alexander’s son was running the gallery.[/ref] Even at the time these were seen as a valuable record of areas that might soon be demolished, and their importance was evident to later commentators who had seen many changes in the city centre. The pictures are full of architectural detail as well as atmosphere. While chimneys, stairs and stonework are carefully drawn, so too is life in the street, with closely observed “human” touches: bonnets, baskets, carters, traders, and washing hanging from upper windows.

Drawing and painting these scenes meant rising early to get started before there were many people around. A lady at work in the poorest, most cramped parts of town amongst “the denizens of the closes”[ref]Edinburgh Evening News, 27 August 1924, looking back to her work in the 1860s[/ref] was seen as unconventional, even daring. In one notorious spot she bought protection with sixpences given to “the biggest bully among the swarm of rough boys”.[ref]At Crombie’s Land, described in Historic Stones[/ref]  Her obituaries called her “an interesting personality”.[ref]Aberdeen Journal, 3 December 1925[/ref].

Mrs Stewart Smith was a lady of marked intelligence, and had a large circle of friends who took delight in hearing her discussing with a note of originality all the many topics in which she was interested.[ref]Scotsman, 2 Dec 1925[/ref]

Victorian Duddingston
Duddingston Loch and Church, undated, Jane Stewart Smith

Her landscape paintings were included in almost every Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) exhibition from 1865 to 1887. As well as scenes of Edinburgh past and present, she painted in Fife and East Lothian, and further afield in Scotland. Other RSA pictures of hers were of Shrewsbury, Chester, Rouen and Genoa. Some were bought by Baroness Burdett-Coutts, who also collected the work of much better-known artists.

A Dream and a Book

In 1891 Jane Stewart Smith twice experienced a dream-like series of historical figures appearing one after another in dramatic scenes “like the moving pictures in a camera-obscura”. The first time followed a visit to Grange House where she speculated the vision arose from “…memories floating in the palpitating air surrounding these old historic buildings”. She was inspired to write a book about the Dick Lauder family who had lived there: The Grange of St. Giles. She took photographs for it as well as drawing and painting illustrations.

Belfry Tower, Grange House, published 1898
Belfry Tower, Grange House, 1890s

This book is full of interest, but it needs to be said that Jane Stewart Smith was not an experienced researcher. She was an artist, not an academic. Her creativity and intelligence shine through her work, but here she left herself open to criticism. Romantic imagination sometimes drowned out historical accuracy.  Nor did she have the solid grounding in history needed for such a project. When The Grange of St. Giles was published in 1898 Edinburgh reviews were polite enough, but one in a Glasgow newspaper was not at all complimentary.

…We are sorry to have to point out these serious blunders, especially when they occur in the work of a lady, and we do so only because they disclose an evident incompetence to the task undertaken, the signs of which are nowadays becoming alarmingly common in amateur antiquarian and historical works. [ref]Glasgow Herald, 10 March 1898[/ref]

War and Peace

The First World War broke out when the Stewart Smiths had been married fifty years. They helped with fund-raising for the Belgian relief effort through the Edinburgh French Protestant church, with which they were both involved.[ref]John Stewart Smith took an interest in the French Protestant Church in Edinburgh from its beginnings (c1860?), and Jane took part in its social life. She and her husband offered hospitality to young French-speaking visitors to Edinburgh. When her sister Eleanor married in 1867 one of the witnesses was the daughter of the French-speaking congregation’s minister: Lea Sumichrast-Roussy, whose Swiss father Eugen taught French in Edinburgh as well as preaching etc.[/ref] In 1915 Jane Stewart Smith also arranged an exhibition to raise money for the Red Cross. In a room full of her pictures of Old Edinburgh, one wall was dedicated to a new “symbolic” painting, The Dawn of Peace. She explained that it represented:

…the Mystic roll call of the White Cross warriors who have volunteered from every nation and every clime to fight against the Antichrist – the Demon of Hate and Destruction, whose overthrow they are here being called up to witness…[ref]Edinburgh Evening News, 31 March 1915[/ref] 

The exhibition got extra attention after a visit by Lord Rosebery, the ex-Prime Minister, who had been invited by the artist. He was “charmed with the drawings of Old Edinburgh”.[ref]Edinburgh Evening News, 19 April 1915[/ref]

Loss, a New Book and a Royal Visit

Bakehouse Close, 1870, Jane Stewart Smith
Bakehouse Close, 1870, Jane Stewart Smith

In 1921 John Stewart Smith died and then, six months later, Jane’s sister Eleanor. The three of them had been living together in Portobello along with a younger friend, Catherine Roberts.[ref]Retired dressmaker, born c1859[/ref] The twice-bereaved octogenarian widow decided to produce a new book filled with black-and-white versions of her “Old Edinburgh” watercolours and other illustrations. The text offered historical background, anecdotes and memories of her sketching visits. She dedicated it to “the memory of my dear husband John Stewart Smith in affectionate remembrance of our 59 years of happy wedded life”.

In 1924 Historic stones and stories of bygone Edinburgh was published by the author herself. Newspapers commented favourably on the quality and importance of the illustrations. Later that year Queen Mary visited Jane Stewart Smith’s modest suburban home called Fairyville.[ref]72 Argyle Crescent, Portobello[/ref] After a drive from Holyrood House she drank tea and admired her hostess’ art collection, taking a special interest in her views of 1860s Edinburgh.[ref]Edinburgh Evening News, 27 Aug 1824[/ref] The next year Jane died: on 1 December 1925.

A few years later Catherine Roberts gave 60 of Jane’s water-colours to the Huntly House Museum:

…a unique miniature picture gallery, which furnishes a record of Old Edinburgh … also a splendid and lasting memorial to the lady whose skill has revealed not only her artistry but a passionate love for the Scottish capital…[ref]Edinburgh Evening News, 17 June 1932[/ref]

Some of those pictures can be seen here .

There is a picture believed to be a self-portrait of Jane Stewart Smith here, but without a clear provenance. The company just has a description saying “Self-portrait of Jane Stewart Smith (1839-1925), Scottish painter who worked in Edinburgh“.


  • All pictures on this page are taken from Jane Stewart Smith’s books.
  • The title Old houses opposite South Gray’s Close comes from her 1924 book. On the Edinburgh Museums website it is called Antique buildings opposite Mint Close, Cowgate 
  • The date 1637 on the dormer window in the Belfry Tower picture was not an original feature of the house.


  • The Grange of St. Giles, the Bass: and the other homes of the Dick-Lauder family, written and illustrated with pen, pencil, and camera, Jane Stewart Smith, Edinburgh 1898
  • Historic stones and stories of bygone Edinburgh, Jane Stewart Smith, Edinburgh 1924
  • The Royal Scottish Academy exhibitors 1826-1990 : a dictionary of artists and their work in the annual exhibitions of the Royal Scottish Academy, Charles Baile de Laperriere, Hilmarton 1991.
  • Dictionary of Scottish art and architecture, Peter J.M. McEwan, Glengarden 2004
  • Birth, marriage, and death records, and censuses available at genealogy websites. (See ‘About’ page)
  • Will of John Stewart Smith, 1 July 1921
  • Street directories from NLS
  • Caledonian Mercury, Scotsman, Edinburgh Evening News and other newspapers
  • Marriage notice, Caledonian Mercury, 8 June 1864
  • Obituary, Scotsman, 2 Dec 1925

John Douglas Smith & John Stewart Smith

John D Smith's stamp used on the back of a picture frame.
John D. Smith’s stamp on the back of a painting. He was at 33 West Register Street from 1840-1866.

Look on the back of a painting framed in 19th century Edinburgh and you may see John Douglas Smith’s name. He (b. c1795) and his nephew, John Stewart Smith (b. c1832), were carvers, gilders, picture framers, restorers and dealers who also sold artists’ materials. They came from a family of craftsmen. John D. Smith’s father and elder brother were both marble cutters called Alexander Smith. His other brother, Robert, was a cabinet-maker. The younger Alexander was the father of John Stewart Smith, John Douglas’ assistant and, later, business partner.

In his seventies, John D. Smith made a will leaving his business and all its assets to his nephew. He had married twice but had no children. John Stewart had trained and worked with him, and in 1879 the older man wrote that everything business-related should be transferred…

…in favour of John Stewart Smith my Nephew,
presently a Partner with me in the business of Carver and Gilder carried on by me and the said John Stewart Smith at number twenty-one Frederick Street Edinburgh…”

Family genealogy lower down page

Shakespeare Square: The theatre took up most of the space, with taverns, shops and tenement flats tucked in behind and on the sides.
Shakespeare Square, Edinburgh: The Theatre Royal took up most of the square, with taverns, shops and tenement flats tucked in behind and on the sides.

Any story about the Smith family would have a scene set in Shakespeare Square. Most of the Smiths mentioned here lived or worked in the square at some point. John Smith, carver, gave it as his address in street directories for several years from 1827. His mother died there; his nephew lived there as a boy along with the rest of Alexander Smith the younger’s family. R. Smith, cabinetmaker, was there in 1833.[ref]When a number was given, e.g. in the 1841 census and some directories, it was often number 9 Shakespeare Square, but John D.. also seems to have worked at no. 13.[/ref]

1833, and John Smith's address is at 9 Shakespeare Square, the same address where is nephew's family were living in 1841.
1833 directory: John D. Smith’s address was 9 Shakespeare Square, where his nephew’s family were living in 1841.

Shakespeare Square was dominated by the Theatre Royal but it also had taverns, shops and tenement housing around the theatre, which faced outward onto the main street. Over time its reputation went downhill.  The southern and eastern sides were “alike mean in architecture and disreputable in character”, said a commentator after it had all been re-developed in the 1860s.[ref] Cassell’s Old and New Edinburgh, James Grant, Cassell 1881[/ref] Between the 1841 and 1851 censuses both John Smiths moved elsewhere.

Clearly John Douglas Smith built up a successful business. His own talents were essential, but £190 inherited from Robert in 1838 may have helped.[ref]On 12 October 1838 an inventory of Robert’s personal estate was “made up and given in by John Smith carver and gilder and Alexander Smith marble cutter both in Edinburgh brothers of the deceased.”[/ref] The next year, 1839, he was in a partnership called Smith & McFarlane.[ref]See National Portrait Gallery page on artists’ suppliers.[/ref] Five years later he was trading from his own shop in West Register Street. Five years after that he was appointed to wind up the affairs of Hamilton Wood and his Wood Carving Company. [ref]Caledonian Mercury23 November 1848 and 24 June 1850[/ref]

By 1871, in his seventies, he employed nine men and four boys. He was quite comfortably-off and owned rental property as well as his own home and workshop. He died on 15 May 1879, leaving his heirs various properties and nearly £1500 plus the same again in bills supposed to be repaid by a friend to whom he had lent money.[ref]The senior Mr Soutter of Soutter’s Bazaar, a souvenir, gift and craft shop in Princes Street which went bankrupt a few years later. Presumably a friend, since there seemed to be little hope of being repaid.[/ref] [ref]John Stewart, Alexander William and their sister Mary Jessie were the main beneficiaries.[/ref]

John Stewart Smith

21 frederick where John Douglas Smith ran his business with his nephew John Stuart Smith. The building is still there but with a later shopfront - now used by Barbour.
21 Frederick Street, Edinburgh, where John Douglas Smith ran his business with his nephew John Stewart Smith from c1867. The building is still there but with a later shopfront and attic extension. 1819 ‘plan and elevation’ with permission of NLS maps.

Mr Smith succeeded his uncle, and for many years carried on a business in Frederick Street as carver, gilder, and picture dealer.[ref]Scotsman, 23 May 1921[/ref]

John S. Smith kept his uncle’s name on for the business. It appeared in the Post Office Directory until 1885-6.

A little more is known about John Stewart Smith’s personal life than about his uncle’s. In 1864 he married Jane James, now known as Jane Stewart Smith, an artist, with whom he lived in southern Edinburgh before retiring to a house in Portobello called Fairyville. Jane’s sister Eleanor was the wife of Edinburgh artist John D. Michie.

John Stewart Smith was an active member of the Edinburgh Photographic Society, where he won prizes for his photographs and served on the committee. In later life he was one of its honorary presidents at the same time as the architect Hippolyte Blanc.

Another long-term interest of his was the French Protestant Church in Edinburgh. He chaired social and musical events associated with it, and he and his wife acted as hosts to French and Swiss students and visiting clergymen. His kindliness was remembered by the pastor after his death on 16 May 1921 at the age of 89. The pastor also spoke of his continuing “keen interest in his métier, which was art” and said that after his retirement he “still kept up his connection with art dealers, and was much sought after for his advice in art matters.”[ref]Scotsman, 23 May 1921[/ref]


Alexander Smith, mason in 1790, later ‘marble cutter (foreman)’ (On John S. Smith’s marriage record, and on son Alexander’s death certificate 1873, a “carver” on John D. Smith’s marriage record, died before 1827.) He married Janet Douglas(s) (called Janet on John D. Smith’s marriage record and son Alexander’s baptismal record, but Isabella on son’s death cert. 1873). She died  in 1827, aged 65, “relict of Alexander Smith from 17 Shakespeare Square”.

1. Alexander Smith born 26 Oct 1790 to Alexander Smith and Janet Douglass. He, marble cutter of Shakespeare Square, married Jane Stewart of same place on 5 March 1827. He died in 1873 at 31 Alva Place, address of his daughter Mary in 1881.

1 – Mary Jessie Smith b. c1828, milliner in 1851, died 1901
2 – Alexander William Smith b. c1830, wood carver in 1851, later a singing teacher, m. Isabella Carter 5 August 1863,

1. Alexander Smith b. 1866, became chemistry professor at  Columbia University, d. 1922
2. Isabella Carter Smith, b. 1869

3 – John Stewart Smith b. c1832, carver, gilder, called ‘picture dealer’ in 1911 and elsewhere, m. Jane Eliza James 1864, died 1921.
4 – Catherine Smith b. c1834

2. Robert Smith born c1792. On 23 April 1832, he, joiner in Shakespeare Square, married Margaret  Christie of Canal Street. Described as cabinet maker when his affairs were wound up after his death. He was buried January 1838, age 45, in a grave with his wife.

3. John Douglas Smith born c1795, carver, gilder, picture framer etc. He married in 1826 (1) Margaret McCallum, 9 Shakespeare Square, born 1803 Dunbartonshire, died 1863, and in 1864 (2) Margaret Dodds born 1799 Berwickshire. He died 15 May 1879.

Reference sources and pictures

  • Birth, marriage, and death records, and censuses available at genealogy websites, especially scotlandspeople.gov.uk. (See ‘About’ page)
  • Wills and inventories for Robert Smith (12 Oct 1838) and John Douglas Smith (28 Aug 1879), and valuation rolls.
  • Street directories from NLS
  • Caledonian Mercury and Scotsman newspapers
  • National Portrait Gallery artists’ suppliers page
  • Biographical Memoir of Alexander Smith 1866 -1922, by William A. Noyes, 12th memoir in Vol. XXI for National Academy of Sciences, 1923
  • Theatre Royal picture by John le Conte

John D. Michie, artist

JD Michie O whistle
Just whistle, and I’ll come to you, my lad, exhibited at the RSA in 1870, uses a Burns song for the title. Its “story” is set in a nostalgic past where even the smoking central hearth doesn’t interfere with the whiteness of the bonnet.

John Douglas Michie (c1828 – 1893) was an Edinburgh artist who exhibited and sold paintings for most of his adult life. At first he was known professionally as John Michie or John M. Michie, and later as John D. Michie.[ref]Comparing addresses from lists of exhibitors with addresses in genealogical records etc. proves this is one single person. In the 1840s/50s there may have been another John Michie painting around Kelso.[/ref]

He came from a modest background. His father Henry was an excise officer who had started out as a shoemaker, and died in 1833 when John was still very young. By 1841 John was an engraver’s apprentice, his brother a shoemaker’s apprentice, and one sister a milliner. His other two sisters became trimming makers. They all lived with their mother Elizabeth.[ref]Elizabeth Heriot, daughter of a nurseryman[/ref] Ten years later the census described John Michie as “Painter & Designer assist.”.[ref] In the same year, 1851, a John Michie, lithographer, won a prize at the Edinburgh School of Design for his design for a drawing-room.[/ref]

He called himself a figure painter. Sometimes his figures were part of a scene inspired by Walter Scott (Jeanie Deans), James Hogg (Kilmeny Glen) or other writers.[ref]Not always Scottish[/ref] The title might be a line from Robert Burns (Comin’ Thro’ the Rye) or from a song (Bide a Wee).

“Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” by Mr. J.D. Michie, is a pictorial representation of the song named, and the subject is treated in a most humorous fashion. The swain in the picture is evidently just about to steal the kiss alluded to in the poem, the only spectator being a very sagacious looking dog, who, it may be presumed, will not “tell”.[ref] Dundee Courier, 26 January 1888[/ref]

Many titles suggest a romantic Scottish past: not just the fictional subjects, but paintings of traditional domestic life too. It was, however, Michie’s paintings of Breton subjects which seem to have attracted the most praise in his lifetime.

Last year Mr. Michie made a hit in his Brittany picture … [This year’s] is very interesting…”Persecuted Breton Royalists celebrating the Mass at Sea in 1794.” … The subject as a whole is remarkably well expressed and the colour and distribution of the light natural and free from exaggeration...[Report of Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) Exhibition 1866][ref]Scotsman, 6 March 1866 —And in The Art Journal 1866: “Mr John Michie’s most ambitious work is a picture of ‘Persecuted Breton Royalists celebrating the Mass at Sea’. The artist deserves credit and encouragement for adventuring on a subject specially difficult, and which he has worked out with much ability. Garishness of colour used to be alleged against him, and in this picture he has gone to the other extreme, so that the general tone is a little black; but the drawing and composition are very clever, and the solemnity of the scene is fully impressed.”[/ref]

There is no record of his visit(s) to Brittany, but he painted Breton subjects over many years. After a Selkirk journalist met him on board the Scythia in 1879, bound for New York, Michie appeared at the end of a list of “celebrity” passengers:

John D. Michie Esq., Scottish Artist, whose sketches of life in Brittany are now so well known to frequenters of the “Exhibition of Paintings.”[ref]Southern Reporter, 26 June 1879[/ref]

In the 1870s he spent a few years living in West London with his wife Eleanor. During this time his work appeared in three exhibitions at the Royal Academy in London, which had also shown one of his paintings in 1864. Over Michie’s lifetime he exhibited dozens of works at the RSA, and often contributed to exhibitions elsewhere in central Scotland.

Eleanor’s brother-in-law was a successful Edinburgh picture dealer and framer, John Stewart Smith, and it would be interesting to know if this helped the Michies at all. In 1870 John D. Michie used Smith’s business address to submit paintings to the RSA.

His work was less popular at the end of his life than earlier. In 1893 Michie died suddenly. An obituary of this “very shy and retiring” man said he was well known to some of the “older painters” but not to the younger generation. His work was old-fashioned and “not of outstanding merit” but “invariably pleasing in subject and full of domestic sentiment”.[ref] Scotsman, 1 Sep 1893[/ref] A few months after his death a hundred paintings of his were put on sale and it was reported that “prices were low”. He apparently designed bookplates in his later years, perhaps using his engraver’s skills learnt young. A set for a John S. Martin by J.D. Michie showed a bust of Shakespeare on a pile of books with Edinburgh Castle in the background.[ref]Journal of the Ex Libris Society, Vol. 10. There is nothing but probability to link him to those bookplates or to the 1851 design prize mentioned in an earlier footnote.[/ref] He left £1000 for his widow Eleanor.

Eleanor Michie

Eleanor Mary James was born in Clapham in about 1836. Her parents, Eliza and William James, a merchant, had died before she, then a 31-year-old governess, married John Douglas Michie in Edinburgh in 1867. Her sister Jane had settled in Edinburgh three years earlier.

She painted watercolours of flowers and one of her works, Gladioli, was exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1878.

At some point after her husband died in 1893 she moved to London. In 1901 she was lodging in the same area where she had lived with him in the 1870s. By 1911 she owned a house in North Hanwell and it seems that her sister and brother-in-law spent some of their time with her there, though later she lived with them in Portobello, Edinburgh.[ref]On her 1911 census form this sentence has been struck out: “My sister and brother-in-law generally here – away in Scotland in present.”[/ref] She died in 1921 and her will left everything to “my dear sister Mrs Stewart Smith”.


  • The Royal Academy of Arts; a complete dictionary of contributors and their work from its foundation in 1769 to 1904, Algernon Graves, Graves and Bell 1905
  • The Royal Scottish Academy exhibitors 1826-1990 : a dictionary of artists and their work in the annual exhibitions of the Royal Scottish Academy, Charles Baile de Laperriere, Hilmarton 1991.
  • Dictionary of Scottish art and architecture, Peter J.M. McEwan, Glengarden 2004
  • Wills of John Douglas Michie, 19 October 1893, and Eleanor Mary Michie, 31 January 1922
  • Street directories from NLS
  • Caledonian Mercury and Scotsman newspapers
  • Birth, marriage, and death records, and censuses available at genealogy websites, especially scotlandspeople.gov.uk (see ‘About’ page). One of the documents that is helpful in tying things together is the record of John Douglas Michie’s marriage to Eleanor Mary James on 21 Dec 1867, giving names and occupations for them and their parents, plus an address for JDM that matches one in the RSA records for John M. Michie.

In the absence of a birth record it is not possible to give John D. Michie’s year of birth precisely. Various censuses and other documents give a range of possibilities from 1826 – 1831. 1828 fits the age recorded at the time of his marriage, and is just one year off the age given by his sister-in-law at the time of his death.

The Mackenzies of St. Ninian’s, Edinburgh and New Zealand

St. Ninian's nr. Stirling, 1740s
Weaver Row, St. Ninian’s, to the left of the church tower, sixty years before John Mackenzie’s birth there. Original picture.

John Mackenzie, an Edinburgh gardenerwas baptised on 15 July 1805 in St Ninian’s near Stirling. His parents were James Mackenzie, a weaver, and Christian Hosie, living in Weaver Row. He had brothers: Peter baptised 1802, Andrew baptised 1808, Robert baptised 1815, and David Stewart born 25 April 1817. David, the youngest of these, was the one who went to New Zealand.

In 1849 David Stewart Mackenzie was a gardener at Canaan House, Edinburgh. In January that year he married Rebecca Noble, daughter of a Lasswade candlemaker. They had James on 5 November 1949 at Canaan House, Marion on 23 January 1851 at Bradford Street, Stockbridge, and Thomas Noble Mackenzie at Trinity House, Leith, on 10 March 1853.

Trinity House - birthplace of Thomas Noble Mackenzie.
Trinity House – birthplace of Thomas Noble Mackenzie. Photo MJ Richardson, CC licence

These three children were all baptised together in May 1853 at the United Presbyterian Church in Duncan Street, Edinburgh, very close to their uncle John Mackenzie’s new house, Rose Cottage, Grange Loan. In May David Mackenzie was residing at Wardie Lodge. Two more children were born before his family went to New Zealand in 1858. Thomas was Prime Minister there, briefly.

John Mackenzie was the gardener at Drylaw House before he married Margaret McLaren. Both were from Cramond parish, Edinburgh (which included Drylaw) on 14 October 1838.
Margaret was the daughter of John McLaren, a boot and shoe maker from Edinburgh, and Charlotte (possibly Hodson?) of Hindley, Lancs., and was born on 24 June 1811 and baptised at St Paul’s Chapel, Wigan. (John McLaren was the son of Peter McLaren, a weaver in Thornybauk, Edinburgh, and Margaret Lockhart.) Margaret died on 25 October 1890, after John, who died on 24 December 1884.

John and Margaret’s children were:

  • Christian Hosie Mackenzie, born c1839 at Drylaw, near Edinburgh, in 1861 a dressmaker, in 1871 no profession. Her father’s will made special provision for her because her health made her less able than her siblings to earn her own livelihood. Died 27 December 1894.
  • Charlotte Hodson Mackenzie, born 1841 at Drylaw, near Edinburgh, in 1861 a dressmaker, married 14 January 1868 Alexander Wilson, son of James Wilson and Helen Davidson, born Symington Lanarkshire c. 1844, a commercial traveller, later a draper at 427 Lawnmarket, with 5 employees in 1881. In 1908 living at 60 Fountainhall Road. Died 1923.
  • Sarah Tudor Mackenzie, born c1843 in Riccarton, Ayrshire near Kilmarnock,  in 1861 and 1871 a dressmaker. Married on 23 October 1878 Richard Lothian Dickson Roddick, an accountant, born 1834, son of James Roddick, once minister at Gretna, and Mary Dickson. In 1891 living in Morningside Road, died 1926.
  • Magdalene Mackenzie, born c1845 in Riccarton, Ayrshire near Kilmarnock, in 1861 an apprentice dressmaker, in 1871 a shopwoman, in 1894 a housekeeper, married 30 December 1894 John Turner, paper mill manager and widower, of Tower Street, Portobello, 54 years old, son of John Turner, paper maker, and Isabella Bryson. She died in Morningside Road on 14 January 1928.
  • James Mackenzie, born c1847 in Riccarton, Ayrshire near Kilmarnock. Schoolboy in 1861. Named in father’s will written 1877. Not mentioned in mother’s will 1890.
  • John Mackenzie, born c1850 in Riccarton, Ayrshire near Kilmarnock, in 1871 a clerk (booksellers). Later a bookseller of 37 Paternoster Row, London EC, “traveller to Messrs. William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London”, then residing in Lauriston Place, Edinburgh.[ref]See his will and inventory, naming Charlotte Mackenzie or Wilson as executrix and sole heir.[/ref], died 12 May 1908 in Edinburgh, leaving £7000 to Charlotte.
  • Gordon Mackenzie, born c1855 in Edinburgh, in 1871 an apprentice draper, in 1881 a draper. In late 1890 he was living at 68 Findhorn Place, and “carrying on business” in Grange Loan, before going bankrupt that year. In 1891 visiting in Linlithgow, draper on census form.

More about John Mackenzie – click here

The birth dates of the seven Mackenzie children have had to be deduced from censuses, in the absence of other records. The Ayrshire birthplace shown on censuses tells us where the family were in the 1840s.


  • Censuses, birth, marriage and death certificates, street directories, from websites on ‘About’ Page.
  • John Mackenzie’s will of 1885.
  • John Mackenzie the younger’s will of 1908
  • Caledonian Mercury, Scotsman newspapers etc.

John Mackenzie, gardener at Drylaw House and Grange Loan

Glass houses and frames in the Mackenzies' garden, shown by cross-hatching. From 1893 map after JM's death when his son was running the business. Their original cottage is colourd blue. They rented out the later house next door.
Glass houses and frames in the Mackenzies’ garden; glass shown by cross-hatching. This 1893 map was published after John’s death but there is earlier evidence of the glass houses. The Mackenzies’ original cottage is coloured blue. They rented out the next door house, built later. Map detail reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

When John Mackenzie, an experienced gardener, bought a patch of land in the Grange, Edinburgh in 1852 he was choosing an area which would soon fill with potential customers. Mr. Mackenzie planned to cultivate seedlings and flowers, so he put glasshouses on his south-sloping plot. Here he could grow bedding plants for the bright displays that were part of Victorian garden style. All around the neighbourhood new villas with gardens were being built. These houses were bigger than John Mackenzie’s, and their occupants could afford his services.

Drylaw House today, 180 years after John Mackenzie was gardener there.
Drylaw House today, nearly two centuries after John Mackenzie was gardener there.

Born into a Stirlingshire weaver’s family in 1805, John Mackenzie worked as gardener at Drylaw House, a mansion-house with extensive grounds on the fringes of Edinburgh, owned by Mrs. Agnes Baillie.[ref]Mrs. Baillie was born Agnes Ramsay, daughter of William Ramsay of Barnton. Matthew Baillie (later lieutenant-general) and Agnes married in 1792, but were divorced in 1802. (See Appendix to The Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie, 1637-1662 and the National Records of Scotland catalogue.She took an interest in many good causes to which she gave money.[/ref] In his thirties he was living in the gardener’s cottage on the Drylaw estate with his wife Margaret and two babies.[ref]1841 census[/ref] He had probably started his career as a boy apprentice, as most gardeners then did, and it is likely he was at Drylaw well before his marriage in 1838.

Two most superb and tastefully arranged bouquets of cut flowers ornamented the smaller tent on the lawn. Premiums were awarded for both; the highest for one which included a vast profusion of the blossoms of rare exotics, from the never failing garden of Balcarres; the other to Mr John Mackenzie, gardener to Mrs Baillie, Drylaw. (Horticultural Society Show, Inverleith, June 1838.) [ref]Caledonian Mercury[/ref]

By the time he set up independently in the Grange, as a man approaching 50, John Mackenzie must have had many years of gardening experience. [ref]He spent a few years in Ayrshire in the 1840s, but there are hardly any written traces of this period.[/ref] He also had £20 left to him in Mrs. Baillie’s will of 1842, which would have been helpful in buying his “176 decimal parts of an acre” ten years later. The purchase went through in 1852, while the family were living in Causewayside. A few weeks later Mr. Mackenzie borrowed £275 which presumably funded the modest cottage built on his plot.[ref]Lot number 46 on the Grange feuing plan, says the legal record in the Register of Sasines.[/ref]

Rose Cottage

John Mackenzie gardener and florist Rose Cottage
First appearance in the Edinburgh Post Office Directory in 1854-5.

By 1854 he had his own house, Rose Cottage, at the corner of Grange Loan and Findhorn Place.[ref]This appears in the 1855 valuation rolls as Pennywell Cottage.[/ref] His name was in the Post Office Directory: “John Mackenzie, gardener and florist”. Forget current ideas of a florist who designs wedding bouquets and Mother’s Day arrangements using flowers grown far away. At that time ‘florist’ meant an expert grower who sold bedding plants and flowers he had cultivated. As a gardener, Mackenzie could do the planting out in customers’ flower-beds himself. Garden owners who followed the advice in 19th century magazines would have wanted three different displays of flowers in the same bed between spring and autumn. 

Florist – One who cultivates flowers; one skilled in knowledge of flowering plants; also, one who raises flowers for sale, or who deals in flowers. [1897 Oxford English Dictionary definition]

John Mackenzie’s small business was not the kind that leaves many written records behind, but an executors’ inventory gives an impression of his customers. The majority lived very close by. Of those customers whose bills were unsettled at the time of Mackenzie’s death, nineteen lived in Findhorn Place alone. Most of the others lived within half a mile of Rose Cottage and owed one or two pounds. [ref]Another, smaller group of customers had debts “considered doubtful”. Their debts were bigger and several of them lived further away.[/ref]

The 1861 census shows the single-storey Mackenzie cottage crammed full by today’s standards. Living with John and Margaret Mackenzie were their four dressmaker daughters, three schoolboy sons and Margaret’s 76-year-old father, a retired bootmaker. At least one of the sons took over some of John’s work as he aged. His will spelled out in great detail exactly how the business and home were to be passed on after his death in 1884. Overall he left nearly £1000 in savings, furnishings etc. as well as the houses, garden and business. In the end it was Gordon, the youngest child, who continued trading from the Grange Loan garden, but he went bankrupt in 1890.[ref]Dundee Advertiser15 November 1890 [/ref]

More details of the family – click here.

Prize for a Petunia

Modern white petunias.
Modern white petunias.

After acquiring a brand-new cottage and garden, and building up his own business, in his seventies John Mackenzie achieved something more. He won an award from the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society for cultivating a unique new variety of petunia, along with a prize for his “much-admired” display table of “hand-bouquets and seedling petunias”at their show.[ref]Edinburgh Evening News, 7 July 1880[/ref]   The new petunia was white and named Countess of Rosebery. If he wanted public recognition for his skills, here it was, with his success reported in print.[ref]Scotsman, 8 July 1880, and Journal of Horticulture and Practical Gardening, 1881.[/ref]

Religious Views

The record of John’s baptism looks odd at first. None of the other newborns on that page had the words “Burgher Stirling” squashed into the narrow column where their names were written. It suggests his family belonged to one of the secessionist Presbyterian church groups using the name burgher.

This is not the only sign of a family interest in non-conformist religion. Margaret, John’s wife, was christened in the “independent” St Paul’s Chapel, Wigan. Their daughter Charlotte was married “according to the forms of the U.S. Church” – United Secession Church – and her wedding was celebrated in the St. Andrew’s Temperance (no alcohol) Hotel, Edinburgh. One of John Mackenzie’s friends was a City Missionary, James Gray, who lived a few minutes walk away.[ref]He was one of his executors.[/ref] Mr. Gray’s mission job was explicitly about getting people to stop drinking and live a sober, god-fearing life.

John Mackenzie seems to have been a very capable man who worked and saved until he was independent of landlords and employers. He had brothers who started out as gardeners too. One left Edinburgh for New Zealand: his son Thomas Noble Mackenzie, John’s nephew, went on to become Prime Minister there.

For more about the Mackenzie family click here.

Read about the Penny Well drinking fountain installed in the wall of the Mackenzie garden.

References and Pictures

  • Censuses, birth, marriage and death certificates, street directories, from websites on ‘About’ Page.
  • John Mackenzie’s will and inventories of 1885.
  • Instrument of sasine in favour of John Mackenzie, 24 November 1852
  • Bond – John McKenzie to the Trustees of the Scottish Property Investment Company, 12 January 1853
  • Will of Agnes Baillie, 17 February 1842
  • Drylaw House by Stephen C. Dickson, CC licence
  • White petunias by Dennis Jarvis, CC licence.
  • Caledonian Mercury, Scotsman newspapers etc.

Boozy hunt dinner leads to trial for laird of Grange

Star and Garter Hotel
The Star and Garter Hotel where the Hunt Dinner was held in 1850. (Photographed in 1910.)

Members of the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt who liked a good day out on horseback also enjoyed meeting up at hunt dinners. After an evening’s drinking and eating at a Linlithgow hotel a few of the diners rounded things off with some window-smashing fun. Two of them ended up in court.  Sir William Henry Don faced charges in a Linlithgow court of malicious mischief and breach of the peace at the station there and on a train to Edinburgh.

The other case was a bit of an Edinburgh sensation, with Sir John Dick Lauder of Grange accused of assaulting a railway guard who challenged him about damage to a carriage. The trial was reported in great detail. The jury must “shut out entirely from their minds any rumours they might have heard” ordered the Edinburgh sheriff, while at Linlithgow the jury were warned against “being influenced to the slightest degree by the reports they might have heard out of doors regarding this matter” as some had been “exaggerated even beyond what the Crown [had accused Sir William of]”

Broxburn Inn hunt dinner
Members of the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt at a dinner in Broxburn, painted in 1840 by Benjamin Crombie.

The story was obviously good for plenty of gossip, all across the country. One version not mentioned in court was carried by the John O’ Groats Journal:

A Couple of Larking Baronets

… it is said … they pitched the waiter out of the window, and when remonstrated with by the landlord, told him to put the waiter “on the bill”, which was done, and no injury set down at £50, and promptly paid.

The Master of the Hunt, William Ramsay of Barnton, pictured in 1830. He died before the trial but his pre-trial evidence was used.

That headline makes it clear the story is not just about drunken vandalism after a hunt dinner. It is also about class and Victorian attitudes to the gentry. When dealing with “larking baronets”, some journalists, witnesses and lawyers tended to emphasise the “frolic” and  “light-hearted” side of the men’s “pranks”. The Edinburgh station-master suggested, via a messenger, that staff might take the “gentleman’s card”, and at first the police were also reluctant to get involved.

The Linlithgow jury found the case against Sir William “not proven” even after evidence from two of his fellow diners that he had pulled down notices at the station, turned off gas-lights and “rattled” the station-master’s hat with a cane. On the train he had torn down green silk curtains, brass curtain rods and hat-straps, thrown a bell out of the window and climbed on the roof. And that was just the evidence from other members of the Hunt, including its Master, who might have been expected to tone down anything incriminating.

Sir William Don
Sir William Henry Don,  date unknown.

Other witnesses said the wining and dining at the Star and Garter Hotel had ended with smashed windows, and with stolen potatoes later used to break glass at the station. A railway bell was taken away and found the next day a few miles along the track. There was “strutting”, a “good deal of singing” and “humorous” aggression towards the station staff. The defence thought it was natural for the gents to be “hearty”, and there had been no breach of the peace. Nor was there proof of any crime being committed within the county of Linlithgow, they said. The charge of “malicious mischief” was more appropriate for men who “having an ill-will towards their masters, burned their mills, or killed and strangled their cattle”. The sheriff said the not proven verdict “relieved him of what might naturally be expected to be very painful to himself” as well as “the party at the bar”.

The Edinburgh sheriff,[ref]Mr. Sheriff Gordon[/ref] however, was placed in the “painful position” of having to pass sentence after Sir John was found guilty of “simple assault”.

There are a hundred recollections and associations stretching back even to the playful companionship of infancy, which make the task imposed upon me a very bitter one.

Sir John Dick Lauder

Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway uniform
Guard in uniform of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Company c1860.

The vandalism to the train carriage with its “cut cushions”, missing foot-rug and cracked lamp was a prelude to the main incident discussed in the Edinburgh court: an assault on a railway guard, William Jesse Basset. He had dared ask John Dick Lauder about the damage when he came back looking for his hat, with his friends already gone. There were different stories about whether Sir John gave the guard “two or three rapid pushes”, several blows with a clenched fist, or blows plus a kick in the belly.

Donald Monro, [a] policeman, stated that … Sir John said, “Let me have a kick at him.” Witness told him there was no kicking allowed. The gentleman then called out, “My name is Sir John Dick Lauder.” … [He was] working through the effects of drink.

The policeman had seen kicks attempted, but did not know whether they landed. He was facing the wrong way to see clearly, he said.

Before the trial Sir John had apologised to Basset and sent him a letter and £5. This was honourable and “conceived in a good spirit”, said the sheriff. The jury found Sir John not guilty of the kick or of injury to the person. For “simple” assault he was fined £10 or 30 days imprisonment.

This fine was immediately paid, and Sir John accompanied by his friends then left the court, which was crowded during the whole trial, which lasted from eleven till four o’clock.

References and Pictures

  • Caledonian Mercury, 15 April, 1850
  • Scotsman, 30 March, 1850
  • The History of the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt, 1775-1910, James Rutherfurd, Blackwood 1911

Scottish farmhouse furnishings in 1789: Grange Mains

When James Ferrier, Farmer at Grange, died in 1789, there was a detailed inventory made of his household goods.[ref]James Ferrier: Testament Dative and Inventory,  2nd December 1789, with Eik dated 20 Oct 1790[/ref] He and his wife Margaret, or Peggy, Paxton were tenants on the “lands of Grange”, just to the south of Edinburgh.[ref]In the last few years of his life, Ferrier and his landlord, Andrew Lauder Dick, had an ongoing legal dispute about payment of rent.[/ref]

James started at Grange Farm c1762, and in that year subscribed to a book on double-entry book-keeping: one of the few things recorded in print about him.[ref]Book-keeping by double entry reduced in its theory to one simple rule, etc by William Stevenson (Teacher of Book-keeping), Edinburgh 1762[/ref]  He and Peggy married in 1769. Neither came from a poor family: both James and Peggy’s father were described as “portioners”.[ref]St. Cuthbert’s Parish record of their marriage in March 1769.[/ref] The list below, transcribed with original spelling, shows what they had twenty years later.

The Kitchen

girdle for oatcakes
Iron girdle (griddle) hanging over the fire, for making oatcakes etc.
    • a Grate Fender and Tongs
    • a Girdle Salt Backet and Cleeks
    • a Jack Spit and Raxes
    • a Brander and Frying pan
    • two Brass pans
    • a Brass pot
    • a Copper pot and Cover
    • an old fowling piece
    • a Copper Boiler
    • a yettling kettle and pan
    • a yetlen pot kettle and Laddle
    • a Copper Sauce pan
    • two Copper Goblets
    • a Copper tea kettle
    • a Copper Coffee Pot
    • Two Brass Mugs
    • a Brass Morter
    • four Brass candlesticks
    • three Spirit measures
    • two pair of Snuffers holders
    • a Dutch oven
    • three large pewther plates
    • Twenty Stone and Delf plates
    • Twenty two China plates Some of them cracked
    • a parcel of old iron
    • a Coffee Mill
    • Six Cannisters
    • a Copper ladle
    • a footman Flesh fork Minching knife and Collop tongs
    • three Smoothing Irons heater and rester [a stand for the iron?]
    • a Toaster pepper box and Cleaver
    • three Stone bottles
    • a pewther Bason Six pewther Spoons and a Dividing Spoon
besom broom
A besom
  • two knife Boxes
  • Six Stools
  • kitchen table and a small table old
  • a Small Looking Glass
  • An old press
  • two Besoms and Rubber
  • three pair of Scotch Blankits
  • a Chaff bed and Bolster
  • a Bell

Milk house

  • Two Churns three Boyens one Langlen [langle?]
  • two washing tubs
  • Eight Bicker
  • three milk measures and a drudge Box
  • a Milk Sieve and Barrow
  • a Bawk and boards
  • a Meal Ark
  • Two Screens and a flesh basket
  • a Flour Shade [flour spade?]

Low Parlour

Sugar nippers
Sugar nippers, for cutting lumps off a sugar loaf.
  • A Grate Fender, poker and tongs
  • Twelve Elm Chairs
  • A Scotch Carpet
  • a Square Mahogany table
  • An old wainscoat table
  • a Mahogany Cupboard
  • a looking Glass
  • a Mahogany Desk and Drawers
  • a weather Glass
  • two old Maps
  • seven punch bowels
  • Three China Mugs
  • four wine Glasses a wine Decanter and Carriff two Christal Salts and two Cruets
  • a Mahogany knife box Eight knives and Eight forks
  • Sugar nipers and punch laddle
  • a Stone decanter and Servor
  • a Mahogany tea board
  • a parcel of Books about fourty in number
  • a Mahogany Standard

Bed Closet off the Low Parlour

  • a Desk Bed and Smale feather Bed
  • a Wainscoat table
  • a Bed Stead and Curtains
  • three pair of Scotch Blankets and Bed Cover
  • a feather Bed and Bolster
  • an old horn and an old Carpet
  • a foot Stool

Dining Room

  • Grate Fender tongs and poker
  • a Scotch Carpet and piece
  • Two Elbow and Eight Small Mahogany Chairs
  • a large oval Dinning Table Mahogany
  • a round Mahogany table
  • a Mahogany tea table
  • two tea trays and a hand board
  • a Mahogany tea chest
  • a fire Screen
  • a pair of Mahogany Candlesticks
  • a Chimney Glass and Sconce Glass
  • thirteen prints and a Map
  • a Dial plate

Bed Closet of the Dining Room

  • Five Small Mahogany and an Elbow Chair
  • a Grate
  • a Bason Stand Bason and Bottle
  • a fly table
  • a bed Stead and Curtains
  • a feather bed Bolster and pillow
  • a Small Dressing Glass
  • Six pair of Scotch Blankets
  • a Manchester Bed Cover
  • a printed Ditto

China in the Dining Room

  • A Set of Tea China much broke and three Mugs
  • The Set of China consists of a Tea Pot and Flat Cream pot Cannister Slap bowl Sugar box Six cups and Seven Saucers Eleven Coffee Cups Spoons holder and Butter dish Eleven Cups Six Saucers of coloured china Butter plate Bread plate tea pot Milk pot Sugar box Slap bowl Cream pot Cannister and Six Coffee Cups much cracked a punch bowl and porter Mug Silver tea Spoons and tea tongs Six cups and five Saucers
  • Grotto/Grollo[??]

The Lobby

  • An Eight day Clock
  • four maps and a painting

a Closet of the Lobby

  • An old Oak press
  • old drawers

Bed Room up Stairs

  • A Grate Fender poker and tongs
  • A Small Chimney Glass
  • an Easy Chair
  • three Small Chairs
  • a Craddle
  • a Screen
  • a Mahogany fly table
  • a looking Glass cracked
  • a bed Stead and Curtains
  • a feather Bed Bolster and pillows
  • a Lanthorn

Lumber Room

  • An old Grate
  • a wheel and reel
  • a press Bed
  • an old table
  • a Chest and Bow [Box? Bowl?]


  • Seven pairs of Sheets
  • four table Cloths
  • Ten towels
  • five pillow Slips
  • a Copper and Grate

In the Stable Bed

  • three pair of Blankets and a half blanket

These furnishings were valued by “David Forrest auctioneer in Edinburgh” at “fifty pounds Seven Shillings and three pence Sterling”. The Ferriers also owned a pair of turkeys and a few chickens. The horses, cows, “labouring utensils”, and some dung were sold by roup (auction) a few months later and raised nearly fifty pounds, some of which went to settle bills with a local grocer and another merchant.

Unfamiliar Words

The spelling and (lack of) punctuation have been transcribed from the original inventory without alteration, though individual valuations have been omitted. Most of us will need this online Scots dictionary to help with unfamiliar words, as well as a good English dictionary. Puzzling items on the list are in italics. Comments are welcome. This book may be of interest:


The Irvings of Pennywell, Grange Loan

For nearly forty years the Irvings lived at Pennywell, Grange Loan, near Edinburgh. (In Edinburgh nowadays, of course.) Researching the land led to this outline of the family. James Irving’s background is not known, but his wife, Jacobina, came from fairly modest origins.  They were able to buy the Pennywell house and land when Jacobina was thirty, and lived there for nearly forty years. They seem to have been part of the 19th century story of a growing middle class, with some of their children ending up quite prosperous.

glass goblet engraved irving
“To Mr. Jas. Irving Pennywell 1823” – Was this glass given to James Irving? It has thistles and “The Land O’Cakes” engraved on it. Thanks to Keys Auctions.
  • James IRVING, of Bristo Street, married Jacobina Comb in 1790. There is no trade or profession given for him in the marriage record. From 1791-8 he paid tax on two “carriage or stable horses”. The first listing for him in a street directory was in 1797 calling him a “stabler”; later he was listed as a “chaise hirer” too. In 1800 he bought the Grange Loan property, and in 1804 bought “a piece of back Ground and houses thereon under the Castle Wall” on the north side of the Grassmarket, in the area where he conducted his business. (The previous owner was James Wright, pewterer.) His will calls him a “horse hirer”, who died at “Pennywell, Grange Loan”, on 26 Dec 1838. He had a license to run a private asylum at his house. By the later 1830s he was listed in directories as James Irving Esq., suggesting he had moved towards being considered a gentleman.
  • Jacobina COMB, also called Binnie or Bainnie, daughter of David Comb, heel maker of Crosscauseway, and Margaret Pillans, was born 12 May 1770. Witnesses to her baptism at Ratho were Alexander Comb and James Comb, both farmers in Upper Gogar, west of the city.[ref]There was a farm there called Combs Farm or Comb’s Farm.[/ref]She died 5 Nov 1839 at Grange Loan.

Their children:

James Irving Jessie Gibson grave
Gravestone of the younger James Irving, tobacco manufacturer, and his second wife Jessie. In Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh
    • James IRVING – b. 12 Jan 1791, became a tobacconist and tobacco and snuff manufacturer in Leith, in Kirkgate. He married his first wife on 30 June 1815: Sarah Harper, daughter of William Harper, once a farmer in Beath, Fife. Their son James died in 1836, aged 20.[ref]The Scotsman[/ref] On 13 Dec 1850 he married Janet aka Jessie Gibson, born in Forfar 1810, a daughter of Adam Gibson, once Latin teacher at Tain Academy. In 1851 James, “retired tobacconist”, and Jessie Irving were living in Charles Street, Edinburgh. He died 18 March 1874, with no living children, and was buried in Grange Cemetery. Jessie, who died in March 1877, shares the grave. He still owned 105 Kirkgate, Leith at the time of his death. His will says he also owned two tenements in Charles Street, and mentions his books, pictures and silver plate.
David Irving in an 1834 street directory.
David Irving in an 1834 street directory.
  • David IRVING b. 6 June 1794. On 21 Dec.1832, when he married Margaret Muir at St. Cuthbert’s Parochial Chapel in Hope Park, he was a surgeon, of Grange Loan. She was daughter of the late Andrew Muir, victual dealer in Causewayside. David and Margaret were living at 34 Clerk St. in 1841 (both aged 45). He died at Corstorphine 28 Oct 1842, leaving £1290, a couple of flats, and shop premises in Clerk Street to his widow.
  • Margaret IRVING or STEWART, born 18 June 1802, married 29 May 1825 Alexander Stewart, hatter, of 7 Alison’s Square. They had daughters called Robina aka Binnie, and Mary.
  • Bainnie IRVING (Binnie?) baptised 25 Nov 1804, witnesses David Comb and William Douglas.
  • Jacobina IRVING, born 26 Sep 1806.
  • Robert IRVING b. 11 Oct 1807 bap. Old Greyfriars Parish. In 1836 he was a wright in Edinburgh. He married Margaret Ruthven. In 1871 he lived in Corstorphine. In 1859 Robert’s daughter Margaret, a lady’s companion, married Robert Ross, a butler, who went on to be a messman at Piershill Barracks.

    1851: Shotts foundry. new houses and gardens in Springfield and Orchardfield.OS map reproduced with permission from the Naional Library of Scotland.
    1851: Shotts foundry, new houses and gardens in Springfield and Orchardfield, alongside Leith Walk. OS map reproduced with permission from the National Library of Scotland.
  • Robina IRVING or SINCLAIR, aka Rabina or Binnie, baptised 23 Aug 1811, married Alexander Sinclair of the Shotts Iron Co. in 1833. In 1851 he was manager of Shotts Foundry, Leith Walk, living at 99 Springfield with children David, Alexander, Jemima, John. In 1872 he was described as engineer and iron founder at Bonnington. Jemima married George Stenhouse, brewer, and went to Australia.

Sources: parish registers, censuses, street directories, gravestone of the younger James Irving[ref]This was found thanks to the Southside Heritage Group who have put cemetery information online.[/ref], the wills of both James Irvings, a probate inventory for David Irving. Sometimes the surname is spelled Irvine.  A couple of documents seem to call Mrs Jacobina Irving Robina: perhaps a confusion around the shortened name Binnie.

The Hewits of Pennywell, Grange Loan

Thomas Hewit was an Edinburgh leather merchant, tanner and, in his early days, a shoemaker. He, his second wife, and three of his sons built up a substantial leather business, and acquired property over two generations. The last of them had a £100,000 fortune by the time of his death in 1887. Newspapers were impressed by his wealth, and commented on what a large proportion would go to charity. The Hewit leather business, which continues to this day, went to one of the descendants of the first marriage.[ref]George Lawson had been working in the business and was bequeathed first chance to own it, if he paid for the physical assets, valued without adding in the “good will” of a going concern. His uncle David left him and his brothers legacies of six thousand pounds each.[/ref]

First marriage and becoming a burgess

Through his first wife, Mary Moir, daughter of a burgess, Thomas Hewit got burgess status himself.[ref]Roll of Edinburgh Burgesses and Guild-brethren 1761 – 1841, ed. Charles Boog-Watson, Scottish Record Society 1933[/ref] This gave him civic responsibilities and rights, including the right to run a business in Edinburgh. The marriage record says that Thomas Hewit, shoemaker, of no. 20 Simon’s Square, married Mary, daughter of John Moir, shoemaker [of 39 Candlemaker Row], on 24th January 1822. Mary died in August 1828.

Children of Thomas and Mary Hewit:

  • Jane Gilchrist Hewit b. 27 Oct 1822,  m. Robert Lawson, corn merchant in the Grassmarket, in 1844. In 1851 they had 2 children: William 3 and John 1. A nurse for the children and a general servant lived with them in Lauriston Place. Other Lawson children were George (b.1862), Jane and Sarah.
  • John More/Moir Heriot Hewit b. 14 Sep 1826. In 1851 he was a journeyman optician living with wife Margaret (Caw) in Davie Street. He was “last heard of in New York”, according to David’s 1887 will.
  • Mary James Moir Hewit b. 2 July 1828

Second marriage and a move to Grange Loan

Thomas was already married to his second wife, Janet Murray, when he bought Pennywell House in Grange Loan. Their sons grew up there, and Janet’s sister, Ann Murray (see bottom of page), lived with them, and outlasted them all. They housed a few asylum patients there, as the previous owners had done. Janet’s sons Thomas, David, and Charles worked in the family leather business, with their mother playing a key role after she was widowed. The business was re-named J. Hewit and Sons after Thomas Senior’s death. Thomas, the oldest of Janet’s sons, was sixteen when his father died. Those three boys inherited equal shares of the family assets after their mother died, but Jane and John, Mary’s children, got nothing. Their father’s will said the children of his first marriage were already “amply and sufficiently” provided for.[ref] Possibly via their maternal grandparents whose children did not survive them.[/ref]

Janet’s will left her sister Ann a life interest in her house, which by this time was at number 7 Argyle Square, the “westmost lodging on the north row”. (Part of the site of today’s Chambers Street museum.) Ann stayed in Grange Loan till her death.

Janet had moved on from Pennywell, though she and her sons retained the ownership of all their Grange Loan property. In 1865 Janet Murray was owner of houses, workshops, and shops at 4, 6 and 8 Niddry St., houses at 191 Cowgate, 7 Argyle Square and 12-17 Grange Loan, and a garden at 17 Grange Loan.

Thomas Hewit, leather merchant, Niddry Street, married Janet Murray 21 June 1829, and died 30 December 1846. Janet Murray or Hewit died 20 May 1868, age 61, in Argyle Sq.. Her mother was Janet Murray or Gilchrist, and her father John Murray, broker, according to her death certificate. On her sister’s death certificate, John Murray’s profession was furniture dealer.

Children of Thomas and Janet Hewit:

Their three adult sons – Thomas, David, and Charles – expanded the business to London.

  • Thomas Hewit born 29 April 1830, died at Musselburgh in 1886. His will says he was a “tanner and currier, Edinburgh and London”, “residing at Langton Villa Grange Loan” and also occupier of Rosehall, Musselburgh.
  • Janet Gilchrist Hewit b. 22 Aug 1831
  • William Cox Hewit b. 19 Feb 1835
  • David Gavin Hewit  3 Dec 1836, In 1881 he was living in Bride Lane, London. He married Eliza Augustine Bourgois[ref]Daughter of the founder of the Bourgois Hotel, Fleshmarket Close[/ref] in Edinburgh in April 1886[ref]Scotsman 9 April 1886[/ref]. Their son, David Thomas, was born at Endsleigh, Highfield Hill, Upper Norwood in May 1887, but died on 24 August 1887 in Melville Street, Edinburgh. David Gavin Hewit died before his baby son, on 1st August 1887 at Upper Norwood, Surrey. He left about £100,000: a house and annuity to his widow, legacies to his nephews, aunt Ann Murray and other relatives, and the residue to a variety of hospitals and leather trades charities.[ref]Edinburgh Evening News, 24 September 1887[/ref]His nephew George Lawson, Jane’s son, was to be given first chance to buy the leather business.
  • Ann Murray Hewit b. 16 Mar 1838
  • Charles Murray Hewit  born 6 Aug 1842, died in 1875. His will says he was “residing at Langton Villa, Grange Loan, of Edinburgh”.

The lodgers in the Pennywell House asylum:

According to the 1841 census of Public Institutions in the Parish of St Cuthbert, there were two patients, neither born in Midlothian:

  • Marion Brown, 55
  • Thomas Orchardson, painter, 40

Also recorded:

  • Thomas Hewit, 40,  proprietor and keeper
  • Janet Hewit, 30, matron
  • Ann Murray, 25, female servant [Janet’s sister]
  • Live-in servant, Mary Muir
  • Thomas 10
  • David  4

In 1851 the patients were:

  • Miss MB, 66, Minister’s daughter, born Fifeshire Largo
  • Miss JG, 61, Captain’s daughter, born Morayshire
  • MR WR, 51, Journeyman Compositor, born Lanarkshire Glasgow

One of the women was able to go out alone and “make small purchases”. The other was said to be dirty and was kept in a “ground floor room, which she made “offensive”. The other two slept in attic rooms with clean and comfortable beds, and they all had their meals separately. A medical attendant was paid £5 a year to visit once a week. The patients’ families each paid £40 a year for this arrangement.

Record-keeping did not meet the legal standards: at all asylums in the area, not just this one. A doctor reporting in 1855 felt this asylum was not adequate to cope with the ground-floor patient who got excited and violent at times, and was put in a strait-jacket.

Also listed in 1851:

  • Janet Hewit, 42, Mistress of the Establishment
  • Ann Murray, her sister, 36, Housekeeper. In 1881 she was a retired housekeeper living with Charles Hewit at no. 13 Grange Loan, where she stayed until her death in 1899. One census gave her birth parish as Canongate, Edinburgh.
  • Thomas, 21, Keeper
  • David, 14
  • Charles, 8
  • Servant Agnes Bell, 22, born Glasgow


Charles Murray – with Janet, a trustee of Thomas Hewit’s estate. Described as “sometime printer in Edinburgh and thereafter in Bombay, now residing in Edinburgh” (1850).

Sources: parish registers, statutory records, censuses, street directories, newspapers, the wills of Thomas Hewit Sr., Janet Hewit, and David Gavin Hewit, the Hewit leather website, report of parliamentary inquiry into asylums.

Some of the children presumably died before reaching adulthood.

Charles Jackson, Merchant Burgess of Edinburgh, c1650-1722

Money and power

17th century Edinburgh
Edinburgh around the time Jackson became a burgess.

Charles Jackson was a well-connected, well-to-do Edinburgh merchant. From this distance in time he might seem rather like all the other wealthy citizens who traded, litigated and inter-married, but for one distinguishing quirk. He believed he had a special connection with royalty. When he laid on an outdoor party to celebrate a royal anniversary, the unusual occasion was reported in the press. Read about it here.

Charles jackson merchant burgess
1671 entry for Charles Jackson in the Edinburgh Burgess Roll.

You could think of him as “Charles Jackson Merchant Burgess” since he is so often referred to that way. Born in Perth around 1650, he seems to have settled smoothly into the trading and civic elite of Edinburgh. Before he became a burgess around the age of twenty he was a “servitor” to James Currie, burgess, who later became Provost of Edinburgh. In his early twenties he married Rachel Wilkie, daughter of the Dean of Guild.[ref]There is no record of the marriage but records of christenings of their several children start in 1773.[/ref] Later, several prominent citizens were witnesses at the christening of his son, Andrew, by his second wife Isobell Wood, herself the daughter of a bailie.

Records of his dealings are patchy but it is clear that he lent money, chased debts, acquired property, and had funds to spend on an open-doors party, and on a “vanity” edition of a book to which he wished to add a foreword. (See below.) At one time he paid tax on sixteen hearths[ref]Late seventeenth-century Edinburgh: a demographic study, Helen M. Dingwall, Scolar Press, 1994, p.104[/ref], though there is no reason to assume these were all in his family home. He invested in the unlucky Darien scheme without apparently finding the £300 loss disastrous, was involved in various complex legal-financial proceedings, and when he died an inventory showed his heirs were due to collect £2000 (Scots pounds) from various debtors.

Jackson’s contacts with well-placed citizens may have helped with deals like this one in 1687:

Charles Jackson, merchant burgess of Edinburgh, is granted a tack [lease] of a piece of waste ground on the south side of Parliament House to  make a yard, free of duty, on his offering to keep it in a clean and handsome condition.[ref]Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh[/ref]

Charles Jackson and royalty

Jackson had a special interest in royalty. His sense of a personal connection to Charles II is partly explained in an introduction he wrote for a book about the king. He addressed himself to Queen Anne in a special extra edition published in 1709 and paid for by Jackson himself.[ref]The book was Boscobel: or The compleat history of Charles II. most miraculous preservation, after the Battle of Worcester, 3d September 1651. The fourth edition. Edinburgh: printed by James Watson, for Charles Jackson Merchant. 1709.[/ref]

The Design of my Re-printing this Book, was upon several Accounts; but chiefly, that I might have an Opportunity of Addressing Your Majesty, for Relief in an Affair of my Grand-father’s, who was a Faithful Subject to King Charles the Second, as may be seen by His Majesty’s Letter. I had the Honour to have His Majesty stand my god-father at Perth: also the King in his Troubles assumed the Name of Jackson.[ref]For part of his escape, Charles used the name William Jackson, according to the king’s own account dictated to Samuel Pepys.[/ref]

Queen Anne
Queen Anne

This “explanation”, disappointingly not accompanied by details of his grandfather’s story, came after a reference to the queen’s “Royal Unkle”, and many complimentary flourishes, as would have been expected then. It ended:

Your Majesty is of such a Gracious, Generous and Benign Temper, that I Hope and Pray, That You would be pleased to take my case into your Royal Consideration. That Your Royal Majesty may long Prosper and Reign to be a Continual Blessing to the World, is the Sincere Prayer, Great Madam, of Your Majesty’s most Dutiful and Loyal Subject and very Obedient Servant, Charles Jackson

Was he really Charles II’s godson?

Archibald Tod's tomb
Charles Jackson lies somewhere here at the foot of Tod’s tomb of 1656. To the right is part of the tomb of his first wife’s grandfather, John Jackson.

He died in 1722, according to Edinburgh parish records, which also say he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard in March, “at the foot of the north through stone of Tod’s Tomb”. He was said to be either 72 or in his 72nd year. His christening could possibly have overlapped with Charles II’s time in Scotland, which included stays at Scone Palace near Perth. One small reason to believe the king was at the christening is that several of the king’s godchildren were called Charles, or Charlotte. And would Jackson have published that message to Queen Anne unless he believed himself to be Charles’ godson?

The Perth connection[ref]Some reports say he was christened in Keith, but this must be a mistake, as his own edition of Boscobel says Perth.[/ref] is reinforced by written records showing connections between Charles Jackson and people from Perth,[ref]”David Jackson merchant in Perth” was a witness at Charles’ second son’s baptism. One chunk of Jackson’s investment in the Darien scheme was on behalf of John Threpland, merchant in Perth.[/ref] including his own “prentis” (apprentice), John Jackson, son of David Jackson, deceased bailie of Perth.

References and pictures

  • The Darien papers: being a selection of original letters and official documents relating to the establishment of a colony at Darien by the Company of Scotland trading to Africa and the Indies. 1695-1700. pub. Constable, 1849
  • Boscobel: or The compleat history of Charles II. most miraculous preservation, after the Battle of Worcester, 3d September 1651. The fourth edition. Edinburgh: printed by James Watson, for Charles Jackson Merchant. 1709.
  • Testament Dative and Inventory for Charles Jackson, 4 May 1726
  • Feu Charter by William Dick of Grange, with consent of Anna Seton, his spouse, to Charles Jackson, merchant in Edinburgh, March 1713
  • Late Seventeenth-century Edinburgh: A Demographic Study , Helen M. Dingwall, Scolar Press, 1994
  • Edinburgh Parish Records
  • Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh: 1681-1689, ed. Wood and Armet, Scottish Burgh Records Society, 1954
  • Roll of Edinburgh Burgesses 1426-1700, ed. Charles Boog Watson, Scottish Record Society, 1898
  • Register of Edinburgh Apprentices, 1666-1700, ed. Charles Boog Watson, Scottish Record Society, 1929
  • The Citie of Edinburgh from the South (detail) by Wenceslas Hollar (1670) – from Wikimedia
  • Portrait of Queen Anne by Charles Jervas, date approx. 1702-1714 – from Wikimedia