KING’S STABLES, CASTLE BARNS, AND CASTLE HILL. 141 brother, united with it the title of Earl of Stair; a combination of titles in one person, that afforded the wits of last century a favourite source of jest in the supposed recontres of the two noble Earls. The mansion appears to have passed into this nobleman’s possession very shortly after its erection, as among the titles there is a declaration by William Earl of Dumfries, of the date 20th March 1747, “that the back laigh door ol passage on the west side of the house, which enters to the garden and property belonging to Mr Charles Hamilton Gordon, advocate, is ane entry of mere tolerance given to me at the pleasure of the owner,” &c. The Earl was succeeded in it by his widow, who, exactly within year and day of his death, married the Honourable Alexander Gordon, son of the second Earl of Aberdeen, On his appointment as a Lord of Sesaion in 1784, he assumed the title of Lord Rockville, from his estate in East Lothian. He was the last titled occupant that inhabited this once patrician dwelling of the Old Town ; and the narrow alley that gives access to the court behind, accordingly retaina the name of Rockville Close. Within this close, towards the west, there is a plain substantial land now exposed to view by the Castle Road, originally possessed by Elizabeth, Countess Dowager of Hyndford, and sold by her in the year 1740, to Henry, the last Lord Holyroodhouse, who died at his house in the Canongate in 1755.l Various ancient closes, and very picturesque front lands that formed the continuation of the southern side of the Castle Hill, have been swept away to give place to the new western approach and the Assembly Hall. One of these, ROSS’SC ourt, contained ‘‘ The great Marquis of hgyle’s House in the Castlehill,” described by Creech, in his “ Fugitive Pieces,” as inhabited, at that degenerate period, by a hosier, at a rental of S12 per annum. Another of them, ‘Kennedy’s Close, though in its latter days a mean and dirty alley, possessed some interesting remains of earlier times. It probably derived its name from a recent occupant, a son of Sir Andrew Kennedy of Clowburn, Baronet ; but both Gom the antique character, and the remains of faded grandeur in some of its buildings, it had doubtless afforded residences for some of the old nobles of the Court of Holyrood. The front land was said to have been the town mansion of the Earls of Cassillis, whose family name is Kennedy. It was adorned, at the entrance to the close, with a handsome stone architrave, supported on two elegant spiral fluted pillars, and the rest of the building presented a picturesque wooden front to the street. Within the close there was another curious old wooden fronted land, which tradition reported a0 having been at one period a nonjurant Episcopal chapel. An inspection of this building during its demolition, served to show that, although the main fabric was substantial and elegant stone work, the wooden front was an integral part of the original design. It was found that the main beams of the ~ O U S ~ , of fine old oak, were continued forward through the stone wall, so as to support the wood work beyond, and this was further confirmed by the existence of a large fireplace on the outside of the stone wall; an arrangement which may still be seen in a similarly constructed land at the head of Lady Stair’s Close, and probably in others. Within this house there was one of the beautifully sculptured gothic niches, already alluded to, of which we furnish a view, in the state in which it existed when the house was taken down. This we presume * Douglk’s Peerage.
142 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. to have been the same that k n o t alludes to as one of the private oratories existing in hi8 time, in which ‘‘ The baptismal fonts are still remaining.” It is described by him as a building nigh the Weigh-house, on the south side of the Castle Hill, which has been set apart for devotion.’ This idea, first suggested by him, of these ornamental niches having been originally intended for baptismal fonts, has been repeated by some of the most careful writers on the antiquities of Edinburgh in our own day, although the fitness of such an appendage to a private oratory seems very questionable indeed. From our own observation, we are inclined to believe that, in the majority of cases, they were simply ornamental recesses or cupboards ; and this is the more confirmed, from their most common position being at the side of the fireplace, and the base in nearly all of them being a flat and generally projecting ledge, “We doubt not,” Arnot adds, “but that many more of the present dwelling-houses in Edinburgh have formerly been consecrated to religious purposes ; but to discover them would be much less material than difficult ! ” It may reasonably be regretted that one who professed to treat of our local antiquities, should have ‘dismissed, in so summary and contemptuous a manner, this interesting portion of his subject, for which, as he acknowledges, he possessed numerous facilities now beyond our reach. A house of a very different appearance from any yet described occupies a prominent position on the north Castle bank, and associates the surrounding district with the name of Scotland’s great pastoral poet, Allan Ramsay. The house is of a fantastic shape, but it occupies a position that, we may safely say, could not be surpassed in any city in Europe, as the site of a ‘( Poet’s Nest.” It is surrounded by a beautiful garden, and though now in the very heart of the city, it still commands a magnificent and varied prospect, bounded only on the distant horizon by the Highland hills. At the time of its erection, it was a suburban retreat, uniting the attractions of a country villa, with an easy access to the centre of the city. We have been told by a gentleman of antiquarian tastes, from information communicated to him nearly fifty years ago, that Ramsay applied to the Crown for as much ground from the Castle Hill as would serve him to build a cage for his hra?, meaning his wife, to whom he was warmly attached, and hence the octagon shape it assumed, not unlike an old parrot cage 1 If so, she did not live to share its comforts, her death having occurred in 1743. Here the poet retired in his sixtieth year, anticipating the enjoyment of its pleasing seclusion for many years to come ; and although he had already exhausted his energies in the diligent pursuit of business, he spent, in this lovely retreat, the chief portion of the last twelve years of his life in ease and tranquil enjoyment, though interrupted towards its close by a painful malady. He was remarkably cheerful and lively to the last, and his powers of conversation were such, that his company was eagerly‘courted by all ranks of society; yet he delighted in nothing so much as seeing himself surrounded by his own family and their juvenile companions, with whom he would join in their sports with the most hearty life and good-humour. * Amot, p. 245. .