Fleshmarket Close, Edinburgh’s Old Town – Ink/Inktense Pencils on a Watercolour Moleskine

The old town was built on a ridge running from Edinburgh Castle eastwards down to the Cannongate. Because of the limited space on either side of this ridge the only way to accommodate the ever increasing population was to build upwards and the first high rise dwellings became the norm. Some of these tenements reached seven stories high and they consisted of a maze of dire, cramped rooms. The only access to parts of these buildings was by through the narrow passageways, or closes, between them. Local traders used the closes for business – this is a drawing of Fleshmarket Close and would have had butchers selling mutton, beef and poultry to those who could afford such luxury. The drawing shows many downpipes to carry away waste and rain water. These would not have been in existence in the 1700s, waste and sewage was merely thrown out of the windows to be shovelled up the next day by the unfortunates employed for this task. To warn people against being covered in waste the tradition cry, “Gardyloo”, which was a corruption from the French “Gare de L’eau” – “beware of the water”, preceded the act of disposal. Needless to say disease was rife and was one of the main reasons why the city expended into the New Town to the north – again for those who could afford to move.
These walkways are really steep and can be exhausting. Visitors please bring oxygen and climbing shoes.