The thread about the Tenth Day of Christmas; Lord Russell Place and why the City honoured this name

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

This part in the Edinburgh and Leith themed Twelve Days of Christmas thread is preceded by a post about Lady Fife’s House, Well and Brae.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me; Lord Russell. Why did I pick Lord Russell? Well, despite Edinburgh being the place to be for landed Lords for many a century, and despite there being an infinite number of streets named after the Lord of this or that, there’s actually only a single street address in the city that actually has the word “Lord” in it. That is Lord Russell Place in Sciennes.

Lord Russell Place
Lord Russell Place

Lord Russell refers to John Russell, 1st Earl Russell (1792-1878) who was British Prime Minister from 1846-52 and again from 1865-66. Russell was English but attended Edinburgh University between 1809-1812 (although he never graduated, being frequently in ill health).

Lord John Russell in 1861
Lord John Russell in 1861

In 1830, he was made the Paymaster of the Forces in the government of the Earl Grey. In this position he became a principal leader of the Great Reform Act of 1832. The building was named for Russell when it was built in 1833 as a mark of respect for this. He was not the only politician so commemorated by the city for this reason; Earl Grey, had a section of Lothian Road named for him as Earl Grey Street. Somewhat ironically, this was renamed from Wellington Street and it was the Duke of Wellington himself, hero of Waterloo, who had lead the opposition to the Reform Act. In 1834, Earl Grey was made a Free Burgess of the City and was treated to a celebratory dinner in a pavilion constructed the grounds of the High School. A similar honour was given to Lord Russell in 1845.

An 1831 cartoon of Russell as the man to treat the country’s ills. The men in the background are Tory MPs for “rotten boroughs”, requiring to be purged by Russell. “Grey’s Renovating Pills” in the tin between his legs refers to Prime Minister Earl Grey.

Notice that I’ve referred to Lord Russell Place as a “street address”; it is not a street in itself. Rather, it’s an example of the traditional Edinburgh practice of giving rows or blocks of buildings along the principal streets different addresses from the actual street (there’s a whole thread about that practice here if you are interested). Lord Russell Place forms only a short section on one side of Causewayside, with the block opposite being Summerhall Place. It was initially built as just the single building at the head of a gushet* of land where Causewayside met the ancient route from St. Giles Cathedral to the convent of St. Catherine of Sienna at Sciennes (* = Gushet, a Scots term for a triangular portion of land). This land is shown as being owned by a Mr Moodie in a town plan of 1817 and the building was expanded in 1859 in a similar style to complete a row as far as Sciennes Place.

Lord Russell Place highlighted on the 1893 OS Town Plan, Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Lord Russell Place highlighted on the 1893 OS Town Plan, Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Lord Russell Place would be an otherwise unremarkable Georgian block in a city of Georgian blocks, but its distinctive feature is the rounded bow window, appearing rather like a tower, on its northern façade. It is marred somewhat these days by the false windows – which were included to maintain a classical symmetry – in 2 of the 5 bays having lost their paint. The block was listed Category B in 1970.

The Edinburgh and Leith themed Twelve Days of Christmas thread continues in Portobello, with a post about Pipe Street.

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These threads © 2017-2023, Andy Arthur

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