Thursday, August 25, 2016

Edinburgh’s Underground City


A Colossal Though Basically Faulty Act of Engineering/Design

The Edinburgh Vaults or South Bridge Vault is said to be a chain of chambers which had been formed in the nineteen arches of the South Bridge in Edinburgh, Scotland, completed in 1788. The vaults had been utilised to house taverns, cobblers together with other tradesmen for about 30 years and as storage space for illicit material apparently the bodies of people who had been killed by serial killers, Burke and Hare for the purpose of medical experiments. Edinburgh’s South Bridge is a colossal though basically faulty act of engineering and design of the 18th century.

The city tends to link seven major hill where only two of these high points can be seen in the city centre presently namely Castle Hill over which is the Edinburgh Castle and Calton Hill warmly referred by the locals as Edinburgh’s disgrace. The unusual hills of this ancient city have now been masked by five bridges which tend to span the ensuing valleys and impeccably assimilate their swelling silhouettes in the landscape. A fascinating aspect of these five bridges, which was the second to be developed after the North Bridge, is the famous South Bridge of Edinburgh, a modern highway, built to link the High Street of the Old Town with the University buildings towards the south side of the city.

Bridge Comprises of 19 Stone Arches

The three closes namely Marlin’s Wynd, Peebles Wynd and Niddry’s Wynd had been demolished in the area of Cowgate in the city in order to make space for this scheme. These closes controlled an area which was said to be one of Edinburgh’s most run down and poorest quarter.

The crowded, winding streets had been knocked to the ground while the stone were then recycled. The building work had begun in 1785 and the bridge comprised of 19 stone arches which spanned a crevasse of over a 1000 feet long. Towards its highest point it stood 31 feet above the ground having a foundation that penetrated the bed rock of Edinburgh as far down as 22 feet.

But towards the turn of the 18th century, Edinburgh seemed to be a fearful as well as a superstitious location for real and also for imagined harm. The fright of what the unearthly as well as the supernatural could impose was aggravated by their inherent mistrust of the invading English that seemed to be a long held belief resulting in the construction of the defensive Flodden Wall after the disastrous Battle in 1513.

Locals Compelled to Live on Top of One Another

The man-made barrier surrounding the outskirts of the city together with the natural geography of Edinburgh, compelled the locals to live practically on top of one another and in some instances in houses of 14 storeys high instead of expanding outwards as in the case of several developing cities.

This form of atmosphere of claustrophobia, fear together with mistrust gave rise to a feeling of anxiety among the inhabitants. With the completion of the South Bridge in 1788, it was believed to be an suitable as well as fitting honour that the eldest resident of the Bridge, a well-known as well as respectable wife of the Judge should be the leading person to cross this fine architectural construction.

But sad to say, some days before the grand inaugural, the lady in question had passed away. As promised, the city fathers felt obliged to honour the original agreement and hence the first `body’ to cross the South Bridge was crossed in the coffin.

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