The thread about the Fifth Day of Christmas; A theme of Five and Golden but not rings

This thread was originally written and published in December 2019. It has been edited and corrected as applicable for this post.

This post in the Edinburgh and Leith themed Twelve Days of Christmas is preceded by a thread about Burdiehouse.

The part of the song that all children love to belt out with gusto; On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me; Fiveways and Goldenacre. I’m really quite pleased with this one, although it does mean there’s actually two places to describe, even if they are quite close together.

Fiveways might not be familiar if you if you aren’t a regular cyclist, stroller, jogger or dog walker on the North Edinburgh Path Network in the Trinity area of the city, but it’s a rather obvious placename for where five different paths converge.

“Fiveways” on the North Edinburgh path network  - all using former railway lines.
“Fiveways” on the North Edinburgh path network – embedded from the Flickr of Roy Calderwood

These paths are all old railway trackbeds, acquired by the then Lothian Regional Council in the 1980s and resurfaced for use as walking and cycling routes. There weren’t ever 5 railways here though, there was one railway crossing another which had a junction just north of the crossing.

Fiveways, the blue line of the Caledonian Railway crosses the olive green lines of the North British Railway

The first railway here was the Edinburgh, Leith & Newhaven which opened a route from Scotland Street in the north of the New Town to Trinity (to serve Newhaven) in 1842. This line was extended into the city at Canal Street Station via the Scotland Street Tunnel, but in 1868 this awkward approach was bypassed entirely and a new connection was made from Abbeyhill, under Easter Road and Leith Walk, through Powderhall and connecting with the line to Trinity and Granton at Trinity Junction. This new branch had to pass under the Caledonian Railway, which in 1864 had built a line to North Leith (a station usually referred to as Leith North!) around the north of the city from a junction at Dalry Road station.

Trinity Junction looking South, September, 1967. (Collection of W D Yuill)
Trinity Junction looking South, September, 1967. The line straight ahead to Scotland Street had closed that year, that of the Caledonian Railway on the bridge overhead closed the following year. The curve to the left to Abbeyhill remained open until 1986. Embedded from the Flickr of Kenneth G. Williamson

The lines from Scotland Street and Roseburn were closed and lifted in the 1960s, the diversionary route from Abbeyhill hung on for occasional traffic to an oil depot in Granton until 1984.

26032 Trinity Jct A_NEW
Trinity Junction, again looking south, in the early-1980s. The bridge and signal box has gone, but the foundations remain. The single line from Granton to Abbeyhill is still open at this time, with an oil train passing along it. Embedded from the Flickr of Alan Rintoul

When the trackbed was acquired by the council, it was landscaped into a level crossing, with the appearance of five distinct paths meeting here.

The five paths of Fiveways, left to right are; the North British line to Abbeyhill; the line to Scotland Street; the Caledonian line to Leith North, the line to Trinity and Granton; the Caledonian line to Dalry Road. CC-By-NC-ND 2.0, Chris Hill on Flickr

The fingerpost at the top of this post is a neat link to the Golden part of this thread as one of the signs is of course pointing to the nearby area of Goldenacre. As a place name, it is relatively modern; from the late 18th or early 19th century. Older forms go back to the later part of the 17th centurty as Goldenriggs or Goldenaikers. A rigg, an aiker or an acre all obviously referring to a unit of measurement for farmland. The “golden” part is either a colour reference; as is frequently used around the Lothians in reference to the wildflowers or crops that once grew here; or is a reference to the monetary productivity of the farmland at one time.

There were no structures at Goldenacre in a 1759 feuing plan of the lands of Wariston by Robinson. A house is marked, but not named, here on the 1804 town plan by Ainslie in a plot of land owned by the Duke of Buccleuch, which was at this time a salient of North Leith Parish on the south side of the Ferry Road. The principal house and name for the area at this time was Bangholm, with Goldenacre named and shown in the 1817 plan by Kirkwood.

Goldenacre and Bangholm(e), on either side of the Ferry Road, 1817 town plan by Kirkwood. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Villas, and later tenements, began to appear along Inverleith Row and the Ferry Road throughout the late 18th and into the 19th century, but Goldenacre remained a nursery and market garden along with most of the land in the district. The 1876 town plan shows it clearly, with a range of garden structures and planting to the south of the house.

1876 Ordnance Survey town plan. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
1876 Ordnance Survey town plan. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

A noteable resident of Goldenacre was Lieutenant General Sir William Crockat (or Crokat), who retired to No. 52 Inverleith Row in 1830 after a 23 year career in the army which had left him invalided. He defied expectations of the fever received at Walcheren and injuries received in Spain and from which he suffered for the rest of his life and spent a long 44 years retirement here. Crockat was the youngest son of John Crokat Esq. of Hawkfield in South Leith, a master slater. It was as Captain Crockat that he was the last officer who had been in charge of the imprisonment of Napoleon Bonaparte on St. Helena, who had been present at his death and who had arrived back in Britain with the despatches that brought news of his death. For his efforts, Crockhat was awarded £500 and a promotion. It is alleged that he cut a lock of hair from the head of the deceased and presented it to his sister as a keepsake. In his obituary it was noted that among his keepsakes from his time on St. Helena, he had in his possession a silver plate and knife used by Napoleon and which bore the Imperial eagle; a portrait of him as a boy, taken from his Imperial snuff box; a wooden spatula that he used to clean his gardening spade in exile; a cordon worn by him during the “100 days campaign”; his silk stocking and garter; and a carved spirits case of cocoa nut wood.

The death of Napoleon, by Charles Steuben. Crockat is the officer in the red jacket with his back to the artist on the far right © Rebecca Young/Fondation Napoléon

In 1887 the suburban tranquillity of Goldenacre changed when the Edinburgh & Northern Tramways cable hauled tramway reached here as its northern terminus. Suddenly this quiet patch of market gardens was a desirable development plot just a few minutes away from the city centre by tram car and inevitably it was soon feud for building. Within 2 years of the arrival of trams, the old house and its gardens and nursery were gone, and new streets of tenements had sprung up; Bowhill, Montague, Royston, Monmouth and Goldenacre Terraces. These other street names were all derived from family connections of the landowner, the Duke of Buccleuch.

Goldenacre has its place in Scottish rugby lore, the playing fields of George Heriot’s School being created from the old Banholm Nursery in 1899, the school trust having long been the feudal superior landowner of them. The centrepiece to the playing fields is the red brick 1901 sports pavilion.

The Pavilion at Goldenacre, CC-by-SA 2.0 Sandy Gemmill
The Pavilion at Goldenacre, CC-by-SA 2.0 Sandy Gemmill

The sports grounds were extended in 1926 with the opening of New Goldenacre, a senior rugby pitch for the Heriot’s FP team complete with a grandstand. At the time this was one of the finest rugby grounds in the country.

The Grandstand at New Goldenacre, CC-by-SA 2.0 Sandy Gemmill

The Edinburgh and Leith twelve days of Christmas thread continues with a post about the Guse Dub.

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These threads © 2017-2023, Andy Arthur


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