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Edinburgh, Portobello, Harbour

Harbour (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Edinburgh, Portobello, Harbour

Classification Harbour (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Figgate Burn; Portobello Promenade; Harbour Street; Pipe Street; Portobello Harbour

Canmore ID 53826

Site Number NT37SW 173

NGR NT 3045 7425

NGR Description NT c. 3045 7425

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (Edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes

NT37SW 173.00 c. 3045 7425

NT37SW 173.01 NT 3047 7424 Trial Excavation

OS 6" map (1854), sheet 3.

(Undated) information in NMRS.

(Location cited as NT 305 744). Portobello, Edinburgh. This harbour has disappeared and its site has been largely built over, but it is fairly fully recorded. It was situated just E of the mouth of the Figgate Burn [NT c. 3040 7432], and was built in 1787-8 at the instance of William Jameson, an Edinburgh architect and builder. The contractor was Alexander Robertson. Its original purpose was to serve the industries that were being started in Portobello, particularly a brick, tile and earthernware factory which made use of clay from the burn. It seems to have comprised a substantial stone pier 'with a rough kind of breakwater in front of it', a sub-oval basin measuring about 110ft [33.5m] by 65ft [19.8m]. This is still commemorated by the name 'Harbour Street' [name centred NT 30382 74270], at the end of Pipe Street. What was probably the site of the pier-head, as figured by Baird, is marked today by a scatter of stones and boulders below the Promenade, which includes an interrupted line of dressed facing-blocks, while Baird's 'break-water' is probably represented by a rickle of large boulders, some 70ft [21.3m] long and with its E end returned, which lies lower down the beach.

[Sources and authorities cited].

A Graham 1971.

The location assigned to this record remains unverified.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 10 July 2006.


Field Visit (20 March 2015)

In March 2015, a member of the public made a request to RCAHMS through social media to survey the ruinous remains of part of the late-18th century harbour at Portobello. These had been recently exposed on the beach some 70m east of where the Figgate Burn debauches onto the beach and just a few meters north-east of the front face of the promenade wall (NT 3050 7430). The harbour was built in 1787-88 and the inner basin and the channel leading to it are no longer visible. However, the outer part of the breakwater which guarded the east side of the channel and is depicted on John Wood’s 1824 plan of Portobello still remains, albeit in a ruinous state. It now comprises the lower parts of a wall (averaging 2m in thickness over inner and outer wall-faces) which extends north for a distance of about 28m from the high water mark along the eastern side of the channel before arcing to the south-east and then south for a total distance of 32m. The west wall face comprises quarried facing stones and includes architectural fragments, such as a window sill and a broken window mullion. Immediately west of this wall are five quarried steps from a spiral stair case and a section of a window mullion. The steps appear to have been washed out from the wall facing. This wall was effectively a retaining wall as the space enclosed would have originally been filled with rubble to provide a flat, levelled surface to facilitate the servicing of boats that may well have used the west side of the breakwater as a quay. Wood’s plan indicates that the remains visible today represent part of a larger construction which extended further east along the high water mark.

Visited by RCAHMS (AGCH, GLB) 20 March 2015.


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