Audio Point Four – Lawnmarket and Gladstone’s Land.

A short sample from Edinburgh Audio Guide – Audio Point Four.


Located at the hilltop, near the castle, Lawnmarket is one of the oldest streets in Edinburgh and the very heart of the Old Town.

This ancient street dates back to the 12th century when King David I of Scotland founded the Royal Burgh and gave strips of land along the street to tradesmen to encourage growth of the trade in the city.

The town started to develop rapidly attracting craftsmen and merchants from all over Europe who were encouraged to build houses on strips of land along the Royal mile.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Lawnmarket became an affluent residential area, with many of Edinburgh’s wealthy citizens building grand houses along the street.

The winding passages and narrow alleyways between towering tenements were usually named after wealthy owners of the houses or tradesmen who lived there.

One of these houses is a restored 17h century house-museum Gladstone’s Land. The entrance to the house is on the north side of the street, decorated with a golden eagle.

Originally constructed in 1550 it was rebuilt and extended in 1617 by a wealthy merchant Thomas Gladstone. The building is a typical example of the type of housing that would have been occupied by the middle and upper classes in Edinburgh during the 17th century.

It has six floors and would have originally housed several families, each living in a single room. There was a tavern in the basement and a craftsman’s workshop on the ground floor.

If you have a closer look at the windows of the building, you’ll see that only the upper part of the windows is glazed. This is an original feature – glass was considered too expensive to cover the entire window – so only the upper half was glazed.

The house is a great example of the city’s tenement architecture, and it provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the people who lived in the city during the 17th century.

Deacon Brodie’s Tavern.

On the corner of Lawnmarket and Bank Street you’ll see Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. The pub is named after one of the city’s most famous characters and enduring legends.

By day, Deacon Brodie was a respectable citizen, deacon of a trade’s guild and a member of the town council. By night, he led an extravagant lifestyle of gambling and drinking.

To pay for his serious gambling habit and to support 2 mistresses and numerous children Deacon Brodie turned to crime.

He was a fine craftsman specialising in cupboards and cabinets and a talented locksmith. Through his work his had access to the houses of the rich and famous where he made wax impressions of the keys.

At night, Deacon Brodie would become a housebreaker. He would return to his clients’ houses to rob them.

For many years he was very careful and no-one suspected this respectable gentleman of the robberies in the houses of his clients.

His luck run out in 1786 when he was caught attempting his most daring crime yet – stealing from The Excise Office.

In 1788 Deacon Brodie’s was tried, convicted and hanged at the Old Tolbooth, near St Giles’ Cathedral.

His extraordinary story does not end here. Soon after the execution stories begun to circulate that he cheated the noose by bribing the hangman to ignore a steel collar he was wearing. He also arranged for his body to be cut down quickly so that he can be revived.

It is said that Deacon Brodie was seen in Paris 5 days after his execution.

The Hub.

The most prominent landmark towering over Lawnmarket and the Royal Mile is a dark building with a 72-meter gothic spire. The top of the spire is the highest point in Edinburgh.

This great example of gothic revival architecture is a product of collaboration between the Scottish architect James Gillespie Graham, and the English architect Augustus Pugin who played a significant role in designing the Palace of Westminster in London.

Constructed in 1845 the building served as a meeting hall for the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. In the 20th century the building was used as a church and now it is called the Hub – the home of the Edinburgh International Festival.