'A puzzled Welsh STICK correspondent writes'
I reached for my handy copy of ‘Calton Hill’ by Kirsten Carter McKee (2018) and particularly plates 3.1a and 3.1b of Playfair layouts of the Third New Town in 1819.
In the maps reproduced from 1813-1821 you can see that the competition entries for the Third New Town in 1813 give the name London or Great London Road to the route that is London Road today.
Then there was a revision of opinion brought about I think be the decision to build Regent Bridge -e.g. Robert Stevenson’s plan, 10 Feb 1814) has “Regent Road or Great London Road” taking that new heavily engineered route.
Kirkwood 1819 and 1821 also uses both names, and WH Playfair in April 1819 has “Regent or Great London Road” while Hillside Road follows the crescent, but in his revised design of December 1819 it is Great London Road again, and Regent Road is just that.
Once that Regent was King, “The Entry of George IV into Edinburgh from the Calton Hill” is a famous painting by JW Ewbank, 1822, and probably the only time it was used for such a ceremony. As the King disembarked in Leith he was not taking the most direct of routes, which would be up Leith Walk.
Regent Road was meant to be a picturesque and sinuous introduction to Edinburgh but it never took off as London Road/ the A1. Even today it’s not a bus route, is rarely walked its full length and is basically a parking area for touring coaches. Why? Answers tentatively suggested:
- A steep climb is needed at the Abbeyhill/ Montrose Terrace junction, beyond the capabilities of most horses and coachmen when they had the alternative fork presented by London Road.
- Lovers of the picturesque would always have their view blighted by the huge gasworks chimney, the prison (even if it was part of the improvement thinking of the time), assorted breweries and the smell and smoke of the old town around Canongate.
- London Road as a straight line into the New Town, presented the desire line for most traffic, and it was made by Playfair into a monumental gateway with giant Ionic columned and pilastered gateways at Leopold Place/ Elm Row. As a former resident of that block, built to Playfair designs in 1822, I believe it to be far from low key, even if the World Heritage site boundary chops that gateway in half.
London Road could not continue its grand procession without acquiring and smashing through built-up Edinburgh to London Street, so the Picardy Place roundabouts and top of Leith Walk make an appropriate starting/ finishing point.
On the Dean Bridge Queensferry Road question I defer to others.
Scottish Industrial Heritage Society
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