Until the middle of the18th century,
Portobello remained an area of barren heath beside the Firth of
Forth, about five miles to the east of Edinburgh, on the King's
Highway to London.
The first house was
built by George Hamilton in 1755 (and demolished, 1862). It
was named Portobello House,
after Puerto Bello on the Isthmus of Panama. George Hamilton
was present when Puerto Bello was captured.
Some elegant houses were added between 1770 and 1830, and a short
distance inland, Piershill Barracks were built in 1795.
Early industries included a flax mill, a soap
works potteries and earthenware and stoneware works
Portobello Power Station was a prominent
building with a tall chimney at the western end of King's Road.
The first section of the Power Station was opened by King George V
in July 1923. The Power Station has now been
demolished. Eight five-a-side football pitches, an indoor
bowling centre and a pavilion have been built on the site.
bathing machines were reported at Portobello in 1795, and a Pier
with a camera obscura was built in 1871, designed by Thomas Bouch,
designer of the ill-fated Tay Railway Bridge. Tenements
along the promenade included Marlborough Mansions, featured on
many postcards, demolished in the 1960s.
There was an open air art deco swimming pool
with high boards and generating 3ft high waves, beside the power
station. The pool was built on the site of Rosebank
Potteries and opened on 30 May 1936. It was open from
7am to 9pm in the summer months - Admission: Adults
The pool closed for the duration of World War 2,
and was covered in grass as camouflage to avoid bombing of the
adjacent power station. It re-opened in June 1946 and
remained open until around the 1970s when both the power station
and the Open Air pool closed.
Beside the swimming pool was a 'Figure of Eight'
railway, closed in 1957 for 'health and safety' reasons.