Portobello, Edinburgh

Portobello, Edinburgh

Portobello is a beach resort located three miles (5 km) to the east of the city centre of Edinburgh, along the coast of the Firth of Forth, in Scotland. It is now a suburb of Edinburgh, with a promenade fronting on to the wide sand beach. For many years it was a popular resort with Glaswegians, particularly when the Glasgow Fair trades holiday signalled the start of the rainy season in the westFact|date=January 2008.


The area was originally known as Figgate and was used as pasture by the monks of Holyrood Abbey. The "Scots Magazine" in 1806 said the lands were "a perfect waste covered almost entirely with whins or furze." [ Gilbert, W.M., editor, "Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century", Edinburgh, 1901: 45]

By the 18th century it had become a haunt of seamen and smugglers, and around the middle of that century gained the name Portobello from a cottage built by a seaman who had served in the 1739 campaign at Puerto Bello in Panama.

In 1763, still officially called Figgate, the lands were sold by Lord Milton to Baron Mure for about £1500, and afterwards feued out by the latter to a Mr. Jameson at the rate of £3 per acre. Land values subsequently rose, and by the turn of the century some parts had been sold at a yearly feu-duty of £40 per annum for every acre. Portobello developed into a fashionable bathing resort, and in 1807 new salt-water baths were erected at a cost of £5000. [ Gilbert, W.M., editor, "Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century", Edinburgh, 1901: 45]

By 1801 Portobello Sands were being used for drill practice by the Edinburgh Light Horse. Walter Scott was kicked by a horse and, while recovering, he finished "The Lay of the Last Minstrel". In 1822, the Visit of King George IV to Scotland, organised by Scott, included a review of troops and Highlanders held on the sands, with spectators crowding the sand dunes.

During the 19th century Portobello also became an industrial town, manufacturing bottles, bricks, glass, lead, paper, pottery, soap, and mustard, as well as developing an oyster fishery.

In 1833 the town was made a burgh, then in 1896 it was incorporated into Edinburgh by Act of Parliament. [ Gilbert, W.M., editor, "Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century", Edinburgh, 1901: 176] A formidable red-brick power station was built in 1934 at the west end of the beach, which operated until 1977. It was demolished in the following 18 months. [ Gifford, John; McWilliam, Colin; Walker, David; Wilson, Christopher, editors, "The Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh", London, 1984: 650, ISBN 0-14-0710-68-X ,]

Between 1846 and 1964 a railway station provided ready access for visitors to the resort, whose facilities came to include a large open air heated swimming pool (where the actor Sean Connery had once worked as a life guard) which made use of the power station's spare heat. It was closed in 1984. There was also a lido (now closed) and there is a permanent fun-fair (Fun City - Amusement Emporium).

Bridge Street, Portobello, was the birthplace of vaudeville entertainer Sir Harry Lauder [ Lauder, Sir Harry, "Roamin' in the Gloamin" (autobiography) Hutchinson & Co., Ltd., London, 1928: 34] and the memorial garden beside the 'new' Town Hall (built between 1909 - 1912 by architect James A Williamson [ Gifford, John; McWilliam, Colin; Walker, David; Wilson, Christopher, editors, "The Buildings of Scotland - Edinburgh", London, 1984: 653, ISBN 0-14-0710-68-X ,] ) is named after him.The Celtic fiddle virtuoso Johnny Cunningham was also born in Portobello.

Portobello gave its name to the town of Portobello in New Zealand, which lies close to the city of Dunedin (itself named for Edinburgh).

Portobello is situated next to Joppa, Edinburgh, another suburb of Edinburgh


External links

* [http://porty.org.uk Portobello Community Website]

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