In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Portobello became a popular seaside resort.  It had:

Sands and sea  which featured in many old post card views.

The Beach

   Post Card  -  Portobello Beach  -  by Valentine - coloured


with Marlborough Mansions with their ornate iron balconies (built 1890s, demolished 1960s) and Windsor Mansions.  Several of Portobello's photographers had studios on the Promenade.


It was designed by Thomas Bouch, designer of the ill-fated Tay Rail Bridge.  It was 1,250 ft long with a pavilion, restaurant and concert hall at its head..  It opened 1871 and was  was demolished following storm damage in.1917.  Steamers sailed from the pier to Aberdour,  Elie, North Berwick, May Island, Bass Rock and other destinations.

The Pier

   Portobello Pier  -  photo by John Patrick


with helter skelter, amusements and  figure of eight railway (closed in 1957 after having been declared unsafe).  

Marine Gardens

a large complex  consisting of a theatre, Empress Ballroom and amusement park with mountain slide, royal mountain scenic railway, great joy wheel, katzenjammer castle and  'Figure Eight Railway' with its one-mile long track, each car holding twenty-eight passengers.

Marine Gardens

   J S & S, Edinburgh  -  Portobello Marine Gardens

The buildings at Marine Gardens were all transferred to Portobello after having formed part of the Scottish National Exhibition held at Soughtonhall Park in Edinburgh in 1908.

The Amusement Park

was taken over by the War Department in 1914. and used to billet troops.   Most of the buildings never re-opened following the War.  Empress Ballroom did re-open and continued to attract customers until 1939.  All has now gone from this site at the eastern end of Seafield Road.  A Lothian Region bus depot was built on the site in 1962.

Zoological Park and Bostock's zoo

with over sixty cages including elephants, lions, tigers, wolves hyenas and monkeys.

-  Open Air Bathing Pool

opened, 1936, built to accommodate 1300 bathers and 6,000 spectators.  It had a wave-making machine.  The pool finally closed in 1980.

Several photographic studios were established at Portobello, some with highland dress outfits or Newhaven Fishwives' costumes for their clients.




Carole Irwin

Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland

Portobello Open Air Bathing Pool

Wave-making Machine

Several people have sent me their memories of Portobello Open Air Bathing Pool.  Caroline Irwin wrote in the EdinPhoto guest book:

"I remember the famous announcement every hour..'


Carole Irwin, Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland:.   March 24, 2006




Anneke Dubash

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Anneke Dubash wrote:

"My mother, who is now aged 83 and emigrated from Scotland to Canada in 1950, tells me that it was her uncle, John Tocher, who designed the wave pool at Portobello."

Anneke Dubash, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada:  April 22, 2008




Anneke Dubash

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Thank you to Anneke Dubash who wrote again:

Anneke wrote

"I have just made contact with a cousin, Mags, who is the grand-daughter of John Tocher who designed the Portobello Wave Pool.

Mags has sent me this photo that includes 'Uncle John'.  He is the handsome fellow seated on the right.

I don't know the date or circumstances of this photo."

Portobello Wave Pool Designer, John Tocher, and others

Anneke Dubash, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada:  April 27, 2008


Portobello    -    More Pages

Portobello      Name      Industry     Transport      Holidays     Park + Golf Course

Pool    History     Churches     Potteries       Festival       Video     Victorian Dress