West Port, Edinburgh

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West Port
Main Point (composite).jpg
Main Point, the historic junction of the three roads (2nd l. to r.) to Biggar, Glasgow and Stirling
Former name(s)Wester Portsburgh
Length0.2 mi (0.3 km)
Coordinates 55°56′47″N3°12′00″W / 55.94639°N 3.20000°W / 55.94639; -3.20000
west endMain Point
east end Grassmarket

The West Port is a street in Edinburgh's Old Town, Scotland, located just south of Edinburgh Castle. It runs from Main Point (the junction of Bread Street, Lauriston Street, East Fountainbridge and High Riggs) down to the south west corner of the Grassmarket. It is named for the westernmost gate in the city walls, (the word for "gate" was "port" in old scots) named the West Port, which was the only westwards exit from the city when the city walls stood, [1] allowing passage through the Flodden Wall. The "Port" (gate) itself was demolished in 1786.


The history of the street

Chalmers' Free Church Experiment The-west-port-free-church-edinburgh.jpg
Chalmers' Free Church Experiment
The north side of the West Port West Port Edinburgh.jpg
The north side of the West Port

Historic names for the street and area

Wester Portsburgh, as the area around the West Port was formerly known, was the main street through the western part of the burgh of Portsburgh [2] - a burgh of barony from 1649 [3] to 1856. [4]

The name West Port originally referred only to the gate itself, but was used for the entire length of the street leading away from the gate in maps from around 1837 onwards. [5] Wester Portsburgh still appeared as the name of the street on maps as late as 1831. [6]

Portsburgh can also be seen as the name for the same street in a map from 1836. [7] However, this does not serve to distinguish it from the eastern part of Portsburgh (Easter Portsburgh), which was still part of the same burgh at that date, the two parts of Portsburgh having their own administrative systems and baillies. [8]

Historic events and famous residents

Recent history and the modern-day street

Former Salvation Army Hostel Former Salvation Army Hostel in the West Port, Edinburgh.JPG
Former Salvation Army Hostel

Notable buildings still in existence

Buildings built before the 21st Century

The Art Nouveau Salvation Army Women's Hostel at the corner of the Grassmarket, The Vennel [14] and the West Port was built in 1910 and is C Listed. [15] Edinburgh College of Art, purchased and used the Hostel, in addition to the next-door Portsburgh Church, entered via the Vennel. Planning permission was granted in October 2007 for the two buildings to be changed to serviced apartments. [16]

The name of Portsburgh Square [17] on the north side of West Port is a reminder of the area's former name.

21st Century developments

Argyle House in 2010 Argyle House 2010.JPG
Argyle House in 2010

Dominating the north side of the West Port at its junction with Lady Lawson Street is Argyle House, built in 1968 to designs by Michael Laird and Partners. [18] Long used as local and national government offices, it now houses CodeBase, the largest tech incubator in Scotland, University of Edinburgh offices, along with various other businesses.

Evolution House, the newest building of the Edinburgh College of Art stands on the south east corner of West Port and Lady Lawson Street. [19]

Westport 102 was constructed on the West Port side of the block between Lady Lawson Street and Lauriston Street [20] on the site of the old Post Office headquarters, which famously collapsed during demolition in 2007, leading to several roads being closed in the area for an extended period of time. [21]

See also

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  1. Edinburgh and The Lothians – Chapter IX – In and Near the Grassmarket
  2. 'Portree - Pulteney Town', A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland. 1846. pp. 388–396. Retrieved 17 May 2008.
  3. Parliamentary register of Portsburgh being declared a burgh in 1649
  4. Portsburgh Burgh Edinburgh through time | Administrative history of Scottish Burgh: hierarchies, boundaries
  5. Map of The City of Edinburgh, published in 1837
  6. Plan of the City of Edinburgh, including all the latest and intended improvements, 1831 imprint
  7. Kay's plan of Edinburgh, 1836 imprint
  8. [Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Saturday 17 November 1885, Issue 20636]
  9. Ch 38: Bristo and the Potterrow - Old and New Edinburgh by James Grant - Volume IV
  10. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner / Hogg, James, 1770-1835
  11. Coghill, Hamish (2004). Lost Edinburgh. Birlinn Ltd. ISBN   1-84158-309-X.
  12. The West Port Experiment, Newble.co.uk
  13. Trust targets six derelict properties it wants to see brought back to life - Edinburgh Evening News
  14. Photos and history of The Vennel
  15. Details of the architectural history of the Salvation Army Women's Hostel
  16. Permission granted for change of us for the Salvation Army Women's Hostel to serviced apartments
  17. An old photo of Portsburgh Square
  18. "Welcome to Edinburgh".
  19. Details of Evolution House, built on the corner of West Port and Lady Lawson Street
  20. New vision for post office HQ is unveiled - Scotsman.com Business
  21. BBC NEWS | Scotland | Edinburgh and East | Roads closed by building collapse