St Cuthbert’s Graveyard, Edinburgh – Gouache and Ink in a Watercolour Moleskine
This church stands near the west end of Princes Street a short distance up Lothian Road. This is an extremely busy junction and visitors are encouraged to seek the quiet and sanctuary of this ancient place.
There has been a church on this site since the year 850. In later years it became the place where the well to do worshipped and were buried. In the quiet graveyard rest a number of famous people including Charles Darwin – the uncle of the famous naturalist, Alex Naysmith – the famous Scottish portrait painter and George Meikle Kemp – the architect of Princes Street’s “Scott Monument”. This view is fitting for Kemp as his structure can be seen in the distance through the gap between Castle Rock and Princes Street. We wandered around here this morning enjoying the tranquillity of the place and viewing the splendid trees, including this elm which seems to have escaped the dreaded Dutch Elm Disease. There is a striking poignancy on many of the headstones. It seems that, for those living in the 1700s and 1800s, reaching the age of 50 must have been rare. I could only find one person from the 1700s aged 70 at the time of death. What is evident is these “old people” are often pre-deceased by most of their families and they are all buried together in the same lair. This includes many children aged 1, 2, 3 …… years often dying in fairly quick succession. Infant mortality and women dying in childbirth is well known but to actually see this “set in stone” is thought provoking There is an interesting building, in the shape of a tower, at the entrance to the churchyard.
This is the watchtower where relatives, of recently buried family members, kept a vigil to guard against resurrectionists (body snatchers) digging up the corpses to sell to members of the medical profession. Read about the deeds of Burke and Hare who took this trade to new levels.